South Africa


Mkhwebane bares her soul, tells interviewer spying is not a crime and corporate world won’t touch her

Mkhwebane bares her soul, tells interviewer spying is not a crime and corporate world won’t touch her
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during impeachment proceedings in Parliament on 1 March 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane worked for the State Security Agency (SSA) for three months and believes there is no sin in ‘spying for your country’.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane revealed her thoughts and future plans — which clearly do not include impeachment — in a “sweetheart” vodcast interview with Bongani Mahlangu recorded on 3 March. 

“They [the Democratic Alliance] labelled me a spy. My being at the SSA is constitutionally provided for. As if there is anything wrong with being a spy for the country,” she opined.

Accusing anyone of being a spy was “reckless” she said, as there are “those who are still working undercover”. 

Mkhwebane added she had wanted to sue the DA for the comments but that acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka had “decided to withdraw that matter”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Spies instructed public protector on SARB report” 

Mkhwebane told Mahlangu she hoped she could still be of service in the public sector, “but with this treatment I have received [at the Section 194 inquiry], I am not sure.

“I would like to contribute to the betterment in the public sector. I have worked in the human rights space, I have worked in community farming spaces … I am looking at how I can do that outside of the public sector.”

She said she could forget about employment in the corporate world as she was viewed “as this person who was touching the banks”.

If you “googled” her, you would find, “all the lies that will be told, all the negative things. They manufacture consent.” 

Apart from the “naysayers”, said Mkhwebane, “There are a lot of women looking up to me and who penetrate the profession of being leaders or lawyers.

“If I was a person who is incompetent we would not have achieved three clean audits assisting so many communities.” 

She told Mahlangu when he asked: “I have never been a member of the ANC.” 

The Nazis pop up again

Mkhwebane’s not-too-subtle anti-Semitism also surfaced when she discussed her discredited CIEX report, which she weaponised in an attempt to illegally alter the Constitution.

The courts saw that one coming a mile away and set it aside. It is one of the reasons she finds herself facing the Section 194 inquiry.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Damage and waste – the fallout from Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s real life and fantasy

She had “touched the banks” and “messed with the programme” by exploring the role of central banks. 

She was open about her reliance on conspiracy theorist and Holocaust-denier Stephen Goodson, who had been “normally” attacked, according to Mkhwebane, for his views on the Nazi mass murder of Jews during World War 2.

“Normally he is being attacked and apparently being said to be attacking a certain nation that you must not touch in the world,” quipped Mkhwebane.

There were people in the world, she told Mahlangu, for whom she felt “sad”, as “you know who is this Tubman as well, who freed so many slaves. Some don’t realise they are slaves.” 

Mahlangu was keen to drag in a conspiracy theorist of his own, David Icke, another anti-Semite, into the conversation, but Mkhwebane spoke over him.

With regard to the CIEX report, Mkhwebane said she had admitted she had made “mistakes” and “the way we crafted the remedial action, especially the amendment to the Constitution”. 

With regard to the investigation into the Gupta family’s Vrede Dairy cash milking project, Mkhwebane again stated that this “was completed by my predecessor”.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela this week denied vehemently to the Section 194 inquiry that she had left any preliminary report on the matter.

With regard to the number of court judgments against her, as well as personal cost orders, Mkhwebane momentarily appeared to overlook the fact that the Public Protector is a Chapter 9, independent, institution overseeing the executive, and equated the office with a ministry.

“How many people are losing cases? SAPS are being used. You will never hear that [Police Minister Bheki] Cele must pay personal costs,” she put it to Mahlangu.

Mpofu and Mkhwebane score own goal by calling Madonsela to impeachment inquiry

I have not killed anyone 

She added that of the “60,000-something” complaints finalised during her tenure, “only a few of those matters were taken to court. Not all matters were set aside. 

“Setting aside judgments does not mean you do not know the law. Are they also facing impeachment for that? Are they paying personal costs? 

“Let them say that. Either themselves or their children will suffer the consequences, especially if they want leaders who do not want to account; they will continue with impunity and spend resources.

“What impact does it do to them as ordinary South Africans? I have not stolen; I have not killed anyone.”

On the horns of Phala Phala 

Her suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa, said Mkhwebane, had most certainly been “vindictive”, considering its timing, which coincided with her Phala Phala investigation. 

“Yes, it was vindictive; a full Bench of the Western Cape High Court — if you read the judgment it is very clear, there was an ulterior motive, he was vindictive, he did not want to come and account.” 

She continued: “Why suspend me? You are in the office wena and where you are appointed there is a prima facie case to answer. They don’t want you to take them to account. You don’t want to answer but you are still in office.”

Read more in Daily Maverick:Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal – a timeline of what we know (and don’t know) so far

Born-again Christian 

Mahlangu asked Mkhwebane if she was a religious person. She replied: “I am very much, spiritual. The difference is it is about the inner being. I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

It was prayer that had got her through the past six years at the helm of a Chapter 9 institution meant to hold government officials to account at the peak of State Capture.

She faces possible impeachment for this now as various court judgments, up until the Constitutional Court, have trashed her reports as weak in law and logic.

Early influences

Mkhwebane was born in the farming town of Bethal in Mpumalanga, but grew up in Kwaggafontein in what was the former homeland of KwaNdebele.

It was here she went to school, got pregnant at 17, finished matric and got married. 

She said while most teen mothers were suspended from school, she was not dismissed and had learnt “added responsibilities” during this time, over and above her sports and community activities.

“I was a participator, not a bencher.” 

The University of Turfloop beckoned as did the maintenance courts, which Mkhwebane said had exposed her “at a young age to issues”.

“I wanted maintenance for my son. I was successful, one of the few women that time. I managed then to understand how the law operates,” she said.

She had wanted to go into social work but there had only been a bursary for law — “my second choice”.

Mkhwebane began her career in 1994 when she joined the Department of Justice as a public prosecutor. From 1996, she was a legal administrative officer in the International Affairs Directorate and, in 1998, she became a senior researcher at the South African Human Rights Commission. 

A year later, she became a senior investigator and acting provincial representative in the Office of the Public Protector. 

She left in 2005 to join the Department of Home Affairs as the director of refugee affairs and was based in China. In 2009, she became acting chief director of asylum-seekers management.

Her stint with the SSA, as mentioned, came three months before her appointment as Public Protector in 2016.

It was clear from Mkhwebane’s sanguine mood throughout the interview that an impeachment hearing is not on her bucket list. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “If I was a person who is incompetent we would not have achieved three clean audits assisting so many communities.”

    😀 how low have we sunk that management 101 is touted as an meamingful indicator of PP success :D:D 😩

  • Alley Cat says:

    Corporate world won’t touch her? Wonder why? Yet people were falling over themselves to appoint her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela after she left, wonder why?
    I think she has difficulty understanding that she is not super human and above the law? She “equated the office with a ministry” says it all! ZERO understanding of her role!
    She has worked in a lot of spaces, perhaps outer space should be her next assignment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    She should try applying at Ayo, Regiments, Tongaat, Steinhoff or Glencore : they would definitely find a spot for her.

  • Mike Meyer says:

    ” I have worked in community farming spaces …”. I’m not sure that spouting BS really falls under the definition of “community farming”

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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