The Section 194 Committee’s adoption of a report that not only found suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane guilty of misconduct and incompetence, but also recommends her removal from office, is an important victory for accountability. The committee’s findings also validate OUTA's concerns and our persistent pressure to investigate her conduct and competence.  It underlines that our petitioning of Parliament, laying perjury charges and submitting several reports to ensure Mkhwebane is held accountable for her misconduct and ineptitude, paid off.  

More than four years ago, in June 2019, OUTA formally appealed to the Speaker of the National Assembly to investigate Mkhwebane's conduct and her competence to hold the important position of Public Protector.  The foundation of OUTA's initial plea was the belief that Mkhwebane had failed in her constitutional obligations to the citizens of South Africa. Her series of negative court verdicts had, in OUTA's view, tarnished the reputation of this vital Chapter 9 Institution.

We also filed perjury charges against Mkhwebane, based on the Constitutional Court's findings against her when she appealed a personal costs order arising from her report on the SA Reserve Bank. The Concourt found that she had misled the court, presenting “a number of falsehoods”, including misrepresentations, under oath. (Perjury involves the unlawful and intentional making of a false statement during legal proceedings.)

Judge Elias Matojane of the Pretoria High Court went even further in a ruling, declaring that Mkhwebane not only displayed a "material misdirection in her legal approach" but also reached an "irrational and unlawful conclusion on the facts before her."

OUTA maintained the pressure to show how Mkhwebane's dubious legal approach undermined the credibility of the Public Protector’s office by subsequently making multiple submissions to Parliament regarding her conduct on findings related to the Estina Dairy Project, Phumelela Gaming and Leisure and ABSA, amongst others.  We also filed an application to demand access to documents the she used in a report exonerating former deputy president David Mabuza of procurement irregularities while he was premier of Mpumalanga.  

In our view, the approval of the report finding Mkhwebane guilty on all charges underscores the urgency for action to preserve South Africa's constitutional values. The protracted investigation into her conduct all but eroded the credibility of a fundamental Chapter 9 Institution, and OUTA calls on the National Assembly to swiftly finalise Mkhwebane’s removal to ensure that accountability and faith in our democratic systems prevail.

It is of utmost importance that Chapter 9 Institutions fulfil their mandate to serve the people. 

The OUTA team wants to again reiterate our unwavering commitment to holding public officials accountable. We will closely monitor next steps in this process and will continue advocating for a transparent and fair resolution to this matter. South Africans have paid dearly for the Public Protector’s legal mistakes – we cannot be expected to pay her a R10 million gratuity as well upon completion of her term. She needs to be removed from office now!

For an overview of OUTA’s work on this project, read here.