Pravin Gordhan and Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Alon Skuy/Simphiwe Nkwali
Pravin Gordhan and Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Alon Skuy/Simphiwe Nkwali

One of the by-products of the "wasted years" under Jacob Zuma was the erosion of trust in SA’s political fail-safe mechanisms. Another was the appointment of the incompetent, unsuitable, or, in some cases, unethical, to public office.

In Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the two come together.

The public protector has bulldozed her way into territory beyond her jurisdiction; her decisions have been found wanting in court; she’s been accused of failing to properly investigate some issues, while zealously pursuing others. It’s not entirely clear whom she serves, but it seems safe to say it’s not always the public.

With her investigation into the SA Revenue Service "rogue unit", and Pravin Gordhan’s hand in it while he was tax commissioner, Mkhwebane stands accused, again, of playing a factional game. She’s going to struggle to disprove that.

In fact, she’s going to struggle to prove anything to the public, thanks in large part to the opacity around her evidence. Redaction and information "at my disposal" won’t satisfy a public desperate for truth, and finality, in this divisive issue.

The matter is headed for the courts — and that’s a good thing. Mkhwebane will, one presumes, be compelled to share her evidence with a court. Which means an impartial arbiter may, at last, shine some light on the sordid saga.