Suspended Public Protector accuses Ramaphosa of intimidation

South Africa’s suspended Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of “intimidation” and trying to “instil fear.”

Mkhwebane made the accusations in a supplementary affidavit challenging her suspension and the parliamentary impeachment inquiry against her.

City Press reports that her comments follow parliamentary investigators arriving at Mkhwebane’s office on the night she was suspended.

Staff working after-hours were told to leave and not take anything from the office with them.

Some employees claimed the raid included several black cars transporting black-clad individuals who seemed to be bodyguards.

However, Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe has said the office was not aware of, nor did it sanction any operation involving black cars or black-clad people.

He also said the Public Protector’s office would not interfere in the Parliamentary committee’s work.

“To this end, the office of the Public Protector reiterates the call to staff to focus on putting the interests of the public first and upholding the rule of law.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa

Mkhwebane’s claims

Mkhwebane’s affidavit claims that Ramaphosa’s rushed decision is in contempt of court since there was already a judgement pending regarding the legality of her suspension.

She added that Ramaphosa had tried to keep her away from the ongoing investigations about him involving offences she believes could be impeachable.

The President was also retaliating after she announced new investigations into him regarding Glencore and the Phala Phala farm scandal, Mkhwebane stated.

She said that her suspension substantiates fears that the relevant state agencies will not get to the bottom of the allegations against Ramaphosa while he is in office.

“Indeed, as the first occupant of one of those offices to announce an investigation and to send questions to the president, I was met with an almost immediate retaliatory response of an immediate, inexplicable and clearly irrational suspension,” said Mkhwebane.

“The message and example sent to the other agencies, whether advertently or otherwise, must clearly be one of intimidation and instilling fear.”

“For various reasons, it is widely and generally considered unlikely that, in the present atmosphere, the NPA or the police will fearlessly and impartially investigate the president while he is in office,” said Mkhwebane.

Controversy surrounding Mkhwebane

Mkhwebane has a poor track record of accusing Ramaphosa of wrongdoing and having her findings challenged and struck down in court.

In 2019, she claimed Ramaphosa had deceived Parliament regarding a payment of R500,000 by former Bosasa CEO, the late Gavin Watson, to Ramaphosa’s campaign to win control of the ANC in late 2017.

She also told legislators to censure Ramaphosa for violating the constitution and the executive ethics code.

However, the High Court overturned her findings, and acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo didn’t deem it necessary to look into her allegations during his state capture commission.

MPs have also not been impressed with Mkhwebane’s conduct in the past.

In 2016, MPs were unhappy with her response to a request to appear before Parliament’s ad-hoc committee looking into the SABC.

She reportedly said it was her decision whether she should appear in Parliament, and that three of her staff members could speak on her behalf.

However, the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said she shouldn’t have a choice, as Parliament was effectively her boss.

“That’s very disrespectful. I’m worried about a Public Protector that speaks like that. Which public is she protecting?” said Ndlozi.

Former DA MP Phumzile van Damme added she was “very worried” about Mkhwebane’s response, and IFP Chief Whip Narend Singh agreed.

“This committee has been set up by Parliament, and all evidence presented before us must be done publicly,” said Singh.

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Suspended Public Protector accuses Ramaphosa of intimidation