Thuli Madonsela. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Thuli Madonsela. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

Few public figures have managed to bungle their duties more quickly after their appointment than public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. It didn’t help that she replaced the celebrated Thuli Madonsela — any misstep was always going to be put under the microscope and exhaustively dissected.

But this week’s judgment by Judge John Murphy in the high court in Pretoria was even more embarrassingly damning than she could have expected.

To recap: Mkhwebane directed parliament to amend the constitution, with a view to altering the Reserve Bank’s mandate. It was a staggering overreach.

Murphy agreed. In his ruling, he said Mkhwebane’s order encroached "unconstitutionally and irrationally on parliament’s exclusive authority". He said her argument, that it was simply a recommendation, was "disingenuous".

But if there was a central point to his ruling, it was that she had taken a "dismissive and procedurally unfair approach ... to important matters". This, he said, damaged the legitimacy of her office.

It shouldn’t be that the country’s judges have to lecture our public office bearers about their duties. Certainly, they never lectured Madonsela.

One gets the feeling, though, that this won’t be the last time Mkhwebane is hauled over the coals for messing up. More pain awaits.

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