Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she won’t tolerate insults to her person and the office, and is prepared to take anyone who crosses the line to task.
On Friday, she gave Solly Mapaila, the deputy general secretary of the SA Communist Party (SACP) “five days” to provide evidence in support of allegations that she was “a hired gun of the ‘fight-back’ agenda”, as he had claimed, or face legal action for the comments, which are alleged to have been made at last week’s National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) policy conference in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.
Soon after serving Mapaila with a legal letter of demand, Mkhwebane told City Press that she would also be reporting Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to the president for “violating his oath of office”.
“He is a minister and the president must call him to order because he is violating his oath of office. The oath is that he will respect the Constitution, and the Public Protector is a constitutional body. And he should know better.”
This came after Mantashe, who was also at the Nehawu conference, told media on the sidelines that Mkhwebane’s investigation into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC election campaign had ventured into political terrain, according to reports.
Mantashe added that Mkhwebane would be subjected to formal processes if she behaved in a delinquent manner.
The SACP said Mapaila had five days – presumably working days, ending on Friday – to “either retract what is attributed to him in a media report or provide ‘evidence’, or … she will go to court on what she calls an ‘insult’”.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said: “We reiterate our decision that Parliament must hold an inquiry into her fitness to hold office, and that we will not allow anything whatsoever to coerce us to reverse the just decision. Regarding the letter, we will give our legal team instructions to proceed legally.”
Questions had been asked regarding why Ramaphosa was the only ANC presidential candidate in Mkhwebane’s sights, when at some point at least seven candidates were vying for the post.
However, Mkhwebane said on Friday that her probe was focused on his behaviour as the then deputy president and that the complaint against him had to do with violating the Executive Members’ Ethics Act.
The complaint, filed by DA leader Mmusi Maimane in November regarding a R500 000 payment, came about after Ramaphosa told Parliament that his son had a business arrangement with controversial facilities’ company Bosasa.
Ramaphosa later retracted his statement, saying he had subsequently learnt that the money had been a donation for his ANC election campaign.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said on Friday that the party “respects freedom of expression, but believes that this freedom must be exercised with greater responsibility”.
“The position of the ANC on chapter 9 institutions and other constitutional bodies is consistent with what is enshrined in the Constitution.”
On Saturday, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) said there was no basis for the allegations made against Mkhwebane.
“These attacks are often initiated by parties who are under investigation by the Public Protector, or by the supporters of those who are under investigation,” said MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe.
Maphatsoe said Mkhwebane’s critics had “a vested interest in trying to undermine the integrity of the Public Protector in person, as well as her high office in general”.
He said the “deliberate and malicious public attacks” were undermining the constitutional protection of every citizen, adding: “This is nothing short of treasonous.”