Home South African Mkhwebane inquiry: Zambian public protector says executive is greatest threat to office

Mkhwebane inquiry: Zambian public protector says executive is greatest threat to office

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Zambian Public Protector Caroline Zulu-Sokoni says the greatest threat to the independence of the office of the public protector comes from the executive.

Screenshot of Zambian Public Protector Caroline Zulu-Sokoni testifying at Parliament’s Committee for Section 194 Inquiry into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

CAPE TOWN – Zambian Public Protector Caroline Zulu-Sokoni says the greatest threat to the independence of the office of the public protector comes from the executive.

Testifying at Parliament’s Committee for Section 194 Inquiry into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, Zulu-Sokoni said it was because the ombudsman or public protector investigates the executive.

She said: “The executive is the branch that is most likely to erect barriers to the work of the ombudsman to ensure that the ombudsman does not work effectively.”

Zulu-Sokoni, who was being led in her evidence by senior counsel Dali Mpofu, said Parliament was the arm of government that was meant to protect the public protector.

To this, Mpofu said in South Africa when the issue of the suspension of the public protector was raised in Parliament it had behaved like “Pontius Pilate” in its approach.

Zulu-Sokoni said the position of the ombudsman was unique in that it is a creature of political will and the government of the day has to allow for the institution to be created.

She said this was because the ombudsman investigates the very office which created it, and the very office which funds it and the very office which is supposed to pay the salaries of all the members of staff as well as the ombudsman.

“If the government does not accord the ombudsman the appropriate status, you will find that the ombudsman is in the civil service salary scale, and the head of the civil service is his boss.

Referring to Mkhwebane’s matter, Mpofu said in South Africa a member of the executive had the power to suspend the public protector in a situation where she was investigating him.

At this point the committee’s evidence leader, Nazreen Bawa, stepped in to say it was not just any member of the executive who had done so, but the president, to which Mpofu replied: “Even worse, the president is the most powerful member of the executive.”

Earlier, committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi told the committee that Mpofu would only have the one day to lead Zulu-Sokoni’s evidence.

He said Tuesday, would be the turn of the evidence leaders followed by the MPs on the committee after which they would move to the next witness on Wednesday.

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