The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, took her opportunity during an address and panel discussion at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) to defend herself from the barrage of criticism she has faced from the local media.
“I have had journalists calling me a moron,” said Mkhwebane whose credibility as a public protector has been intensely scrutinised after several of her rulings were overturned by the courts, one of which is the investigation into the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and ABSA where she was accused of lying under oath and eventually received a personal cost order to pay 15% (R900 000) of SARB’s legal fees.
Mkhwebane renounced allegations made against her that she is “captured by the Guptas” and is a “spy beholden to Zuma” all the while insisting that the media was partial and colluding against her.
“There was an article that called me a criminal and a servant of criminals,” said Mkhwebane, adding that journalists had interviewed her mother without her permission.
The panel included Right2Know’s Deputy National Co-ordinator, Ghalib Galant as well as journalist and political analyst Prince Mashele, who dug into Mkhwebane during the discussion.
“I don’t buy this projection of the public protector as a victim,” said Mashele.
In response, Mkhwebane described the threats she has received.
“Threats to silence me, poison me, because I am touching a nerve,” she said. “The people who we’ve found wanting are the ones who say we are targeting them.”
Some of the students present stood up to support Mkhwebane, during the question and answer session, with one student asking how the public protector has coped in a “white, racist, sexist office”.
“The woman block of the country, is faithfully behind you, because you are touching a nerve,” she said.
Another student accused, panellist Mashele of being a “white media puppet”.
“This is how you unclothe an agent,” he said, invoking an apartheid-era term to paint Mashele as a black person with an anti-black agenda.
Galant pointed out that the flood of negative news directed at Mkhwebane, could not have just appeared out of thin air.
“There may be some truth in what the media is saying,” said Galant, who also cautioned young audience members to practice discernment when presented with information.
“We need to read, analyse and from the facts make-up our minds.” DM