SECTION 194 INQUIRY
Alternate History Inc: Biblical Busisiwe Mkhwebane tearfully summons spirits of Winnie, Rosa Parks and Esther
Any ‘objective, fair and reasonable analysis’ of her tenure and what occurred led to one conclusion only: she was ‘not guilty’, Busisiwe Mkhwebane told the Section 194 committee on Wednesday.
In what has essentially become a political platform, suspended Public Protector (PP) Busisiwe Mkhwebane told the parliamentary Section 194 inquiry into her fitness to hold office that she was “not guilty” of charges that she alleged had been concocted by Ms [Natasha] Mazzone, DA, and supported by the ANC majority.
“On the contrary, I have taken the office of the PP to greater and unprecedented performance and governance issues pertaining to proper accountability.”
This was Mkhwebane’s moment in the spotlight, one she had said earlier she had been looking forward to. She has sat through nine months of testimony from more than 20 witnesses.
From the start she aimed her cannon, accusing the Democratic Alliance and the ANC of colluding to get rid of her, essentially, “for doing my work”.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Busisiwe Mkhwebane claims probe nothing more than ANC and DA political witch-hunt for touching ‘untouchables’ ”
Addressing committee members as well as the public on online platforms and TV, Mkhwebane and her legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, hammered the point that she was a victim.
She was the target of a political campaign because she had dared to “touch the untouchables”, “capital”, said Mkhwebane, no doubt an oblique reference to her stealth-bomb Reserve Bank/CIEX report.
As a servant of the people, she had come across “raw state power” and “people with deep pockets” when she dared to investigate President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While she was being charged with “incompetence”, the country was dealing with up to eight hours a day of load shedding, to which Mpofu quipped: “Maybe you could go to Eskom?”
“I could make a difference,” she shot back, both possibly unaware of the tone-impaired in-joke.
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About witnesses called to the inquiry — “disgruntled” employees whose evidence belonged in the labour court, according to Mpofu — they had “exonerated me of any impeachable wrongdoing in respect of any single one of the charges”.
It was like being in a parallel universe, as mounds of evidence, none of which was engaged with during the entire day, had been presented to the committee. But we leave that to the formidable evidence leader, advocate Nazreen Bawa, when she gets to bite the cherry in the coming days.
“No court of law can possibly uphold a contrary finding which will inevitably be made by the current DA-ANC overwhelming majority in the committee,” said Mkhwebane on Wednesday.
“The impeachment effort is therefore doomed to fail if subjected to any fair judicial scrutiny,” she said, appearing to pre-empt the findings of the committee.
Biblical visions and Winnie Mandela
What had sustained her throughout the process, Mkhwebane told the inquiry, was her belief that she could not “betray my beliefs and my people because of the evil deeds and intentions of my detractors which requires me to stand firm in the face of adversity, guided by the spirit and ethos of other prosecuted women who came before me, including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Esther of biblical times, who famously stated that she would not look back on her mission to face the all-earthly ruler and powerful king”.
Quoting from the Book of Esther, Mkhwebane intimated that she too would “face the powerful face to face, only because the new land compels me to do so”.
The verse ends rather dramatically: “and if I perish, I perish. It is an essential requirement of my current office to conduct myself without fear, favour or prejudice. Therefore, I am not scared of anything or anybody.”
The State Security Agency (SSA) was treated like an “outcast”, she said, while it was “a constitutional institution” when asked about her employment there.
However, the High-Level Review Panel into the SSA, and the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, have found the agency was key to former president Jacob Zuma’s ability to capture the state.
But that is in the parallel universe called reality.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “SSA’s off-the-books projects — capturing media, making R54m a year for Zuma, and much more”
In her affidavit, Mkhwebane explained her time at the SSA from June 2016 where she had worked as a senior analyst. Her responsibilities included “advising the Director of the Domestic Branch on compliance to constitutional provisions whilst protecting the state actors, which are people, government, values, territory, legislation, and stakeholder relations”.
She held the post for three months before her appointment as Public Protector, which did not warrant the “slur” by the DA that she was a “spy”.
Tears for the country
Mpofu said that Mkhwebane, like her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, had faced a barrage of insults and abuse, but that he only witnessed her “breaking down” twice, while she had remained calm “when all the other people” had insulted her.
Mkhwebane struggled to hold back tears when stating that she felt she was facing impeachment for simply “doing my work” and that she “went all out for this country”.
Later, she said things were so bad that, “I used to joke sometimes, maybe I must apply for asylum in another country”, when all she was doing was “helping people”. For this, she charged, she had found herself “treated like this, maybe because of my colour”.
“It does make a difference that you are of a particular colour and of a particular gender,” Mpofu said.
An entire day passed without Mkhwebane or Mpofu speaking directly to any of the evidence given in relation to the misconduct charges.
Instead, it was one long emotional download.
“With all this persecution, I have been labelled an enemy of the state by the Financial Mail,” said Mkhwebane.
“This, when you are trying to uplift people when after generations and generations we still face the same challenges. Should you excel in your work, you will be vilified, you will be treated badly.”
“A lot” of black professionals who were trying to “change the living conditions of the people” were being treated this way, she added.
Mkhwebane quoted former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng — he has often been conjured up during this inquiry — who stated that the PP was “the embodiment of a biblical David, that the public is, who fights the most powerful and very well-resourced Goliath, that impropriety and corruption by government officials are”.
The PP was “one of the true crusaders” and “champions of anti-corruption”. Her powers were so wide that “no level of government escaped scrutiny”.
The inquiry is set to continue at 10m on Thursday. DM