“Bye, Bye Busi”…not a moment too soon – Paul Hoffman SC “If I perish I perish” – Busisiwe Mkhwebane

South Africa’s incompetent Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane lasted 1700 days in office because she was protected by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).  Accountability Now director Paul Hoffman SC says she knew she was “royal game flying under the wing of Jacob Zuma and that the ANC dominated” in Parliament.  He speaks to BizNews following her formal sacking by President Cyril Ramaphosa today (Wednesday) – a month before her term was due to end – following her belated impeachment in Parliament. In her reaction, however, Advocate Mkhwebane posted on Twitter: “DA/ANC MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I wish we could see such ‘concomitant efficiency’ to end loadshedding? This injustice, sadly perpetrated on Steve Biko Day, will be legally challenged in review proceedings. The stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone. If I perish I perish. Ngiyathokoza Mzanzi and Africa”Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:09 – Introductions
  • 00:25 – What are Chapter 9 institutions and why do we have them
  • 03:52 – What are the characteristics of a good public protector
  • 05:12 – How impeached and sacked public protector Mkhwebane got the job in the first place
  • 07:52 – When it first become clear that she was not fit and proper for the job
  • 12:33 – How did she last in office for 1700 days
  • 14:13 – On the cost to get rid of her
  • 15:12 – What are the prospects for her anointed successor now
  • 19:12 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the Interview

South Africa’s incompetent Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane lasted 1700 days in office because she was protected by the ruling African National Congress (ANC). 

Accountability Now director Paul Hoffman SC says she knew she was “a royal game flying under the wing of Jacob Zuma and that the ANC dominated” in Parliament. 

He speaks to BizNews following her formal sacking by President Cyril Ramaphosa today (Wednesday) – a month before her term was due to end – following her belated impeachment in Parliament.

In her reaction, however, Advocate Mkhwebane posted on Twitter: “DA/ANC MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I wish we could see such ‘concomitant efficiency’ to end loadshedding? This injustice, sadly perpetrated on Steve Biko Day, will be legally challenged in review proceedings. The stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone. If I perish I perish. Ngiyathokoza Mzanzi and Africa”

Read more: Paul Hoffman unpacks the IDAC bill: Permanent solution or pre-election ploy?

Asked how she managed to last in office for 1,700 days, Hoffman says: “She was protected by the ANC. If the Justice Portfolio Committee had done its work properly, she would have been put on the carpet and asked to answer the questions that we posed in the letter we wrote to her in January 2017. And that would have exposed her as mendacious and incompetent. 

“But because she was protected by the ANC until it eventually became apparent even to the ANC that she was not a fit and proper person. The tide turned against her. But even up until fairly recently, there were members of the ANC who were defending her positions. And as recently as 2020, Jessie Duarte was saying, well, we haven’t really taken a position in relation to this.”

Hoffman points out that Mkhwebane was the candidate “favoured by President (Jacob) Zuma, who was the president at the time and who is the person, the president is the person who makes the appointment and as we see now with Mkhwebane dis-appoints the Public Protector when impeached. 

“So she was not universally seen as a fit and proper person for the job. The DA (Democratic Alliance) in fact voted against Busisiwe Mkhwebane. They felt that she had too much of a record of service in the public administration, which tended to suggest that she was just another deployed cadre of the ANC rather than an independent functionary who would be able to acquit herself of the task.

“And given that Zuma made the biggest mistake of his political career when he appointed Thuli Madonsela, who created the Zondo Commission for him and had him relieved of his post a year earlier than he should have been, he was not going to do that again. And he wanted a safe pair of hands, an executive minded person. And that is what he got in the form of Busisiwe Mkhwebane.”

Read more: Paul Hoffman: Lamola’s corruption counter-attack falls short of expectations

Asked when it first became clear that she was not fit and proper for the job, Hoffman says: “Well, I’m afraid to say that was within two months of her appointment. In January 2017, a long time ago, we had occasion to write to the Justice Portfolio Committee about her. 

Our complaint in January 2017 to the Justice Portfolio Committee, which is the oversight body of the Office of the Public Protector, was, look out, this woman has been caught lying to us.

“Now, there were signs of incompetence and there were signs of mendacity. And we gave her the opportunity to explain herself. We asked her a lot of questions, which she, if she had an innocent explanation, would have answered. And she said, I can’t investigate myself. Report me to Parliament, my oversight body. Now she did that because she knew that she was a royal game flying under the wing of Jacob Zuma and that the ANC dominated; the Parliamentary Committee was going to do nothing about it. And that is, in fact, what happened. 

“So it took a couple more years before the DA got sufficiently exercised about the matter for it to take up the cudgels in relation, not only to that matter, but to many more that gave evidence of her lack of appreciation of the legal principles involved, lack of competence in running her office properly – and her lack of integrity. 

“And that led to that very long process where a panel of parliamentarians looked into a report that she was indeed not a fit and proper person and eventually came to the conclusion that she should not be allowed to continue in office.”

As for the financial cost of her tenure and departure, Hoffman says: “…it cost 30 million to get rid of her. And the Office of the Public Protector has been lumbered with adverse costs awards to the tune of 160 million rand. So we are now pushing towards 200 million rand. And of course, in some of those costs awards, the courts were so disgusted with her behaviour that they made personal costs awards against her and those withstood appeal on every occasion.”

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