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Protector must fall on her sword

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The incumbent has made a mess of things that the only honourable thing left to do is for her to fall on her sword

Jacob Zuma

ANYONE who was given the task of succeeding former public protector advocate Thuli Madonsela was always going to find it hard to emulate her achievements.

Taking over from Lawrence Mushwana, Madonsela is credited for a number of groundbreaking investigations against politicians, including that of former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

Who could ever forget the historic Constitutional Court judgment which found that remedial action directed by the public protector was binding, unless set aside by a court of law?

But the incumbent, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has made such a mess of things that the only honourable thing left to do is for her to fall on her sword.

Mkhwebane has made a series of blunders that downgraded the status of her once highly regarded office, almost immediately. Several of her findings have been taken on judicial review, and it will be extremely difficult for any of her reports to be taken seriously ever again.

Just like the Bankorp/Absa and Vrede Estina Dairy reports, it looks like Mkhwebane’s findings on Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s colonialism tweets have again raised questions about her suitability for the position.

In her report released this week, Mkhwebane found that Zille had violated the constitution and was guilty of misconduct.

Her report stated that while Zille’s tweets were in principle protected in terms of section 16 of the constitution, which deals with freedom of expression, it was offensive to a section of the public.

For the record, Zille’s tweets on colonialism and its benefits were offensive and racist. The DA should have taken a hard line in dealing with its former leader.

However, we believe that Mkhwebane did not have the power to investigate infringements of human rights. We are of the view that this investigation should have been conducted by the SA Human Rights Commission.

The DA is currently behind calls for Parliament to remove Mkhwebane as public protector, and we wonder if her findings on Zille were a desperate attempt to get back at the party.

What is particularly interesting is that calls for Mkhwebane to go are growing.

Even the ANC, which has previously been her vociferous supporter, seems to have turned its back on her.

The only honourable thing for her to do is to resign.