Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office insisted on Wednesday that she was not backing down after she decided not to oppose President Cyril Ramaphosa’s application to interdict her Bosasa report, which found the President misled Parliament about campaign finance donations and may have engaged in money laundering.
“She is not ‘backing down’ as suggested by some media. The non-opposition is based on the fact that the review will be conducted on expedited basis,” said Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe on Wednesday.
Mkhwebane had planned to oppose Ramaphosa’s interdict application to postpone her remedial action regarding the NPA.
Mkhwebane instructed NPA boss Shamila Batohi to submit, within 30 days, a plan for Mkhwebane’s approval, on how she would investigate the money laundering findings and “conduct further investigation into the prima facie evidence of money laundering as uncovered during my investigation, and deal with it accordingly”.
Mail & Guardian reported that Mkhwebane told Ramaphosa’s lawyers she would not oppose the interdict, on the same day that she received a letter from Batohi expressing her concern that the NPA instructions “appear to record the exercise of a power which you perhaps never meant to exercise”.
While Mkhwebane can notify authorities such as the NPA of her findings for potential investigation, she has been criticised on multiple occasions for instructing independent institutions such as the NPA on how to act.
Ramaphosa has called Mkhwebane’s Bosasa report into donations to the president’s 2017 ANC leadership campaign “fundamentally and irretrievably flawed”. Yet the issue continues to dent the president’s reputation after leaked emails suggest his claims to have been kept at arm’s length from fundraising were false.
The public protector faces her own challenges after Accountability Now’s Paul Hoffman SC laid criminal charges of perjury and defeating the ends of justice against her on Monday. The charges stem from the Constitutional Court’s finding that Mkhwebane acted in bad faith and presented “a number of falsehoods” regarding her investigation into the SA Reserve Bank’s loan to Bankorp.
Hawks head General Seswantsho Lebeya on Wednesday confirmed his unit would investigate the complaint. Mkhwebane, who is embroiled in multiple legal battles with Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, has maintained she never lied under oath and that she is the target of a media “dirty tricks” campaign from civil society, media and politicians because she is holding the powerful to account.
“Regarding the frivolous criminal charges, Adv. Mkhwebane — as a law-abiding citizen — will co-operate with the police as best as she can,” said the public protector’s spokesperson on Wednesday.
Hoffman also submitted a complaint to the public protector’s office calling for Mkhwebane’s deputy Kevin Malunga to investigate her for maladministration.
“The complaint to the office to investigate Adv. Mkhwebane is strange as she does not account to her deputy nor does she answer to her staff. It’s the other way round. Someone needs to advise Adv. Hoffman SC to go to the National Assembly, where Adv. Mkhwebane accounts,” said Segalwe. DM