Public Protector signals she won’t go quietly if lawmakers press ahead with plans to fire her

By Nkululeko Ncana and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s controversial anti-graft ombudsman Busisiwe Mkhwebane signalled she won’t go quietly if lawmakers press ahead with plans to fire her.Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise last week approved a motion submitted by the main opposition Democratic Alliance to establish an inquiry into whether Mkhwebane should be removed on the grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. The probe is likely to be the precursor to a vote on whether she should be replaced – a decision that would require the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers.

Mkhwebane said rules adopted by the legislature that set out the process for her removal were unlawful and unconstitutional, and didn’t allow for people who had conflicting interests to recuse themselves. While she said she hoped to resolve the matter amicably, she didn’t rule out a court challenge if the probe goes ahead.

“I am a law-abiding citizen,” Mkhwebane told reporters Tuesday in Pretoria, the capital. “I have nothing to hide.”

Appointed as Public Protector for a seven-year term in 2016, Mkhwebane has been accused of taking sides in factional battles within the ruling party – an allegation she denies.

The courts have overturned several of her rulings and rebuked her for failing to stick to her constitutional mandate. Her removal would be a major boost for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who she has probed in connection with allegedly illicit campaign contributions. He denies wrongdoing.