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Mkhwebane marks 3 years in office, vows to act without fear or favour

The Public Protector has faced criticism for some of her high-profile reports and claims that she is unfit to hold office following adverse court findings against her.

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: @PublicProtector/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Tuesday marked exactly three years since her appointment as the head of the Chapter Nine institution.

Mkhwebane has faced criticism for some of her high-profile reports and claims that she is unfit to hold office following adverse court findings against her. But, in a statement, her office said the last three years had been challenging and rewarding for her.

“For Advocate Mkhwebane, it has been a challenging and yet rewarding journey to see the lives of people at the grassroots being changed for the better after contending with the effects of maladministration,” the statement read.

Mkhwebane undertook that her office would “continue to do our work without fear, favour, and prejudice, ensuring that the people of South Africa are treated fairly.”

The Office of the Public Protector said it had dealt with more than 50,000 complaints from South Africans, with about 70% of these finalised.

“Over 150 investigation reports have been issued, entrenching a culture of quality public service delivery and good governance in state affairs. The reports covered various themes, including executive ethics, maladministration, procurement irregularities, irregularities in the appointment of staff and the plight of whistleblowers, among other things.”

Despite the accomplishments mentioned by her office, the High Court in Pretoria was expected this month to rule on pressure group Accountability Now’s urgent bid to have Mkhwebane declared unfit to hold office.

Last month, the nongovernmental organisation approached the High Court after the Constitutional Court ruled in July that Mkhwebane should personally pay 15% of the South African Reserve Bank’s legal fees in the Absa/Bankorp matter. The ConCourt also found that she had misled the courts under oath.

“The Pretoria high court has now been approached to grant declaratory and mandatory relief in respect of her conduct and her competence by declaring that the public protector is no longer fit for office,” Accountability Now said in a statement at the time.

The matter was expected to be heard on 22 October.

At the same time, the National Assembly’s rules committee resolved last month that it would come up with a specific process for the removal of heads of Chapter Nine institutions like the Office of the Public Protector. This followed the Democratic Alliance’s request for a parliamentary inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

At present, Parliament didn’t have rules in place that governed the process of removing the Public Protector. Any move on an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office had to wait until rules were put in place for the process.

Additional reporting by Gaye Davis.

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