The terms inexplicable, irrational and reckless have come to be used by the courts in describing the Public Protector’s conduct in recent times. The North Gauteng High Court has once again used these terms in dismissing Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report findings on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign funding. This is not the first time that the courts have used such scathing remarks on Mkhwebane’s conduct in her investigations.
Predictably some of Mkhwebane’s allies have come to attack the courts for the manner in which they continue to label Mkhwebane’s conduct, notably the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Mkhwebane has also reacted to some of the harsh comments made by Gauteng North Court judge Ronel Tolmay. It is expected that the under-fire Public Protector will take the High Court ruling on review in her bid to salvage her already tainted image. Mkhwebane, whose future as the head of the Public Protector’s office is on the line, will once again use public funds to defend her report in court.
Already the High court had ordered her office to pay legal costs to Ramaphosa, Parliament and the National Prosecuting Authority. While the courts have previously ordered Mkhwebane to personally be held liable for certain costs of her many failed bids to make her findings stick, however, it is always the taxpayers’ money that is being abused by the office in many court challenges.
We should be worried that Mkhwebane’s office continues to waste taxpayers money in its many fruitless reviews of her lacklustre investigations. The Public Protector’s office is one chapter nine institution that continues to be less-funded and as such the financial assistance that the office gets should be directed to improve the lives of ordinary citizens and not fight the political battles of a certain faction of the ruling party.
While Mkhwebane’s future at the helm of the office is a matter that will be debated by Parliament in the upcoming inquiry on her fitness, which she will be challenging in court using taxpayers’ money. She should not leave the office bankrupt, should it happen that she is found not fit to hold office. At her current trajectory, one can easily assume that it is just a matter of time before she once again goes to Parliament and complains about having no funds to investigate cases.
The EFF, which have already indicated that they will take the CR17 report on the review, should also save their members’ fees in this regard as the next possible courts (Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court) will likely come to the same conclusion about this CR17 report.