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Molifi Msheroza Tshabalala

Author of the book: The thoughts of an ordinary citizen. An independent political writer.

Can we trust new Public Protector – Busisiwe Mkhwebane?

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Busisiwe-Mkhwebane

Barely a week in her new position, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, raises fears that she may be captured, which essentially feeds into the DA’s allegation that she was a spy closed to President Jacob Zuma.

In her first interview as the Public Protector, Mkhwebane said an investigation into allegations that the Gupta brothers, who have roped in Zuma’s son, Duduzane, as their business partner, have captured the state is not her priority. Instead, she said she would focus on a grassroots level. In all fairness to her, any form of corruption or maladministration, deserves attention. However, a scope of corruption or maladministration should determine which cases deserve more attention than others and she should prioritise them. She cannot prioritise a petty corruption such as a bribery at a traffic department over the alleged grotesque administrative corruption by the Gupta brothers whose close relationship with Zuma is a licence to print money.

As if her statement that the state capture investigation is not her priority was not enough to raise fears that she may be captured, Zuma and Des Van Rooyen interdicted former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela from releasing her state capture report and wanted her to refer the work to Mkhwebane. This raises eyebrows. More so, given a report in the Business Day that Mkhwebane disagrees with some parts of the report and how Madonsela had undertaken the investigation. As to how Madonsela had undertaken the investigation has little, if not nothing, to do with her. If Zuma or the Gupta brothers are not happy with her predecessor’s findings, they can take her report on a court review. Hers is to release the report and let us make sense of it.

A few unprofessional things that Mkhwebane has said about her predecessor, or how she had conducted herself in her first week in office also raise fears that she may be captured. For example, in her first appearance in Parliamentary, Mkhwebane said she would not use consultants. Needless to guess that she was referring to Madonsela, who used consultants for the state capture investigation. Incidentally, I also detest the PP’s usage of consultants because it comes at an exorbitant price.

Madonsela explained that, due to her unlimited time in office, she could not undertake the investigation on her own. Hence, she requested money from the Treasury to rope in the consultants.

I also detest the PP or any governmental agency’s usage of foreign donors. Speaking on PowerFM, Madonsela refuted her successor’s claim that she used a US$500,000 donation from USAID. ‘It’s a blatant lie that we used USAID money, ever,’ she said. Weighing in on the same issue, US Embassy spokesperson Cynthia Harvey said, after discussions with Justice Department and the Treasury, the USAID donated the money donated to help the PP’s long-term strategic plan to investigate corruption.

It was an ill-conceived move by Mkhwebane to appear before Parliament in her first week in office. She should have requested more time to familiarise herself with the state of affairs, or let Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga to brief the Parliament while she assumed an observer status. This brings me to her statement that Madonsela did not do a proper handover. Her predecessor’s term of office ended on 15 October and she assume her role the following week. I would understand if she had taken up her role before Madonsela’s departure. Needless, though, she has Malunga to do the handover.

Most disappointingly, Mkhwebane said the staff morale is low. This is also unprofessional of her, the least I can say. Two reasons might have dampened the staff morale, if indeed the staff morale is low. First, Madonsela’s departure might have affected the staff members. She has worked with some of them for seven years and they developed a special relationship. Therefore, her departure might have dampened their morale.

Second, if the foregoing report in the Business Day that Mkhwebane changed a television channel in the office reception from eNCA to ANN7, a state-propagandist 24-hour channel owned by the Gupta brothers, and that she has redeployed staff members who were closed to Madonsela are anything to go by, then the staff morale low would be at a low ebb. More than anything else, it exacerbates a perception that she may be captured.

Throughout her interviews, I have not heard Mkhwebane praising Madonsela. She has been at pains to stress out that she would do things different from her predecessor. Does she have a beef with her? Perhaps, we should not have shrugged off the DA’s allegation that she had been an SAA spy with close ties to Zuma. I cannot trust her. In fact, we need an inquiry into the allegation that she was a spy. 

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