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Mkhwebane ‘missed opportunity’ to probe apartheid-era economic crimes

Absa, the Reserve Bank and Treasury challenged Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into the apartheid-era bailout.

FILE: Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - While some lobby groups say the High Court’s decision to set aside the Public Protector’s CIEX report brings into question her ability, others say Busisiwe Mkhwebane missed the opportunity to investigate apartheid economic crimes.

Absa, the Reserve Bank and Treasury challenged Mkhwebane’s report into the apartheid-era bailout, claiming it was procedurally unfair and rested on material errors of fact and law.

The Public Protector says she’s noted, with shock, the judgement.

Independent non-profit organisation Open Secrets says it’s a negative finding and South African’s should be wary of not concluding from these findings the real investigations into apartheid-era economic crimes.

Director of the organisation Hennie van Vuuren says the Public Protector’s focus was very narrow because there’s a far bigger crime which took place during apartheid.

“The way the story has been reported… it’s been reduced to the story of economic crimes during apartheid. The actual amount involved is relatively small compared to many other acts who profited probably to a far greater extent.”

Van Vuuren says he doesn’t suggest that anyone should be let off the hook but the focus on Absa alone has proved to be difficult to argue clearly.

Meanwhile, Corruption Watch says the scathing indictment by the High Court in Pretoria brings into question whether Mkhwebane can continue to hold the office or not.

The lobby group says Mkhwebane should have known that her findings are not merely recommendations but are binding.

Corruption Watch says while the Public Protector’s actions could place her in the so-called “Zuma camp”, the incompetence of her decisions and naked bias are more questionable.

“Even if he [Cyril Ramaphosa] wanted to, the president can’t fire her. There’s a parliamentary process that has to adhered to and maybe even required a 60% majority of the Assembly to remove her from office.”