BLSA joins calls for axing of public protector Mkhwebane

Date: 30 August 2019 | Author: Karyn Maughan - Business Day Category: News

Business Leadership SA CEO Busisiwe Mavuso says protector uses her office for political shenanigans

The CEO of the business organisation that gained prominence over its public stance against corruption in the latter stages of Jacob Zuma’s presidency has accused public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane of political bias and called for her removal.

Business Leadership SA (BLSA) said Mkhwebane, who has been branded dishonest and incompetent by the Constitutional Court, uses her office for “political shenanigans”. This empowers those who want to distract the country from corruption disclosures at the Zondo commission, it said. BLSA’s members include some of the country’s largest companies,

“Because we have touched the untouchables, now they are using the public protector’s office,” BLSA CEO Busisiwe Mavuso said. “They are using the PP’s [public protector’s] office to derail the focus of this country on the things that we actually should be focusing on.”

Mkhwebane is involved in a high-stakes legal battle with President Cyril Ramaphosa over a donation by Gavin Watson, the CEO of the corruption accused facilities company Bosasa who died in a car crash this week.

The probe, initially prompted by a DA complaint that Ramaphosa had misled parliament about Watson’s contribution to the campaign that ended in him winning the ANC presidency, morphed into a broader probe of the campaign and led to her making the finding that there was “prima facie” evidence of money laundering.

Ramaphosa is seeking a review of her findings.

Mkhwebane’s credibility has been dented by various adverse judicial findings in key cases and she was ordered to personally pay a portion of the legal costs attached to her discredited SA Reserve Bank and Estina Dairy Project cases.

Her detractors have seized on her relentless efforts to pursue Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan to argue that she is part of a fightback campaign pursued by elements in the ANC linked to Zuma.

Mavuso’s comments, at Stellenbosch University’s inaugural Social Justice Summit, came hours before Mkhwebane’s office confirmed that she had withdrawn her Constitutional Court bid to appeal against a high court interdict staying her order that Ramaphosa take action against Gordhan over his involvement with the SA Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit” pending a review of that report.

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe did not comment on her reasons.

Mavuso, who was appointed in June to replace Bonang Mohale, said Mkhwebane’s findings against Gordhan had “nothing to do” with the “rogue unit” or the early retirement of then Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, another issue she probed.

“It’s precisely because whatever is coming out of the Zondo commission has to go to the National Prosecuting Authority, and people are going to have
to be prosecuted, and obviously these are the last kicks of a 
dying horse.”

Fightback campaign

Mavuso said Ramaphosa “is not captured by business”, and the accusations against him have “everything to do with the fightback campaign that is happening in this country”.

Her statements were supported by Nicky Newton-King, outgoing CEO of the JSE.

“This isn’t about protecting Cyril Ramaphosa or Pravin Gordhan. If they have done wrong, they must go to jail.

“This is about highlighting that what is happening in this country is actually a decoy, a deliberate attempt to derail the agenda from the issues that we should be focusing on,” Mavuso said.

“The reason why business wants the public protector to step down from office is because she’s incompetent, not because we say so, but because the courts say so.

“Her decisions have been found to be nonsensical. She has been found to have misdirected the facts. She has conflated 
legal principles.

“Her decisions are amounting to bad faith. I could go on and on and on.”

Thuli Madonsela, Mkhwebane’s predecessor, whose report on state capture sparked the formation of the Zondo commission, is a professor at Stellenbosch University and was one of the event’s organisers.