Our Public Protector (PP), Busisiwe Mkwebane, sees herself as a latter-day Winnie Madikizela Mandela, maintaining that there is a concerted campaign to denigrate her and undermine her office because she, "has the courage to hold the untouchables to account."
Remarkably, someone sworn to uphold the law places herself in the same category as a person who was convicted of kidnapping and who was fortunate indeed to escape without a lengthy-term in jail, who had to make serious admissions at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and whose involvement in several criminal matters, some of them serious, narrowly avoided prosecution. Mkwebane was naturally not referring to that aspect of Winnie; she was comparing herself to the Winnie projected as a heroine of the masses. The PP sees herself in that light and seeks our sympathy for her media and public reputation – created according to her as a result of a conspiracy. If she wants to know who is responsible for that reputation, she should look in the mirror.
I am indebted to Professor Omphemetse S Sibanda who wrote recently in the Daily Maverick, "the public protector's decisions, as we all know…have been found to be: ‘vague and nonsensical; making no sense; a misdirection on the facts and a conflation of the legal principles; amounting to bad faith or grossly negligent conduct; product of dishonest engagements and flawed investigation; suspect and contradictory intextuality; unintelligible (-that is, incoherent, inarticulate, incomprehensible); thrown together, with no discernible order.'
It seems to me that this is not the product of a conspiracy unless the PP is suggesting – surely not – that judges of the High Court and the Constitutional Court itself are party to such a conspiracy? The damage is self-inflicted and only the PP, the EFF and Julius Malema, and the Zuma faction of the ANC are blind enough or self-deluded enough to fail to recognise that the PP is the architect of her troubles. She is incompetent and way out of her depth and she has created something of a constitutional crisis by persisting in conduct that harms her, her office and the state. Instead of promoting and protecting one of our most important constitutional safeguards, her office is plagued by ineptitude, controversy, and speculation of political partisanship.
When the PP was appointed, the whole of parliament, except for the DA, supported her. The DA opposed her because of doubts about her impartiality and her previous links to State Security. Her appointment went ahead and at the time she inherited an office whose reputation for integrity, courage and excellence was sky-high. She pats herself on the back about her courage in having a go at the "untouchables" but conveniently forgets that her esteemed predecessor dared to face down the greatest untouchable of them all: President Jacob Zuma and do so with impeccable legal findings upheld all the way to the Constitutional Court.
The only aspect where the PP deserves public sympathy is the fact that her family is suffering from denigration and threats. This is unconscionable and must be stopped. She has access to the SAPS and her friends in the security establishment; they must be instructed to protect her and her family.
It is clear parliament will move to end the PP's term of office. Why does she not do the honourable thing now and save herself and the country the pain and embarrassment of a long-drawn-out procedure that will culminate in the ejection from the office of someone too ignorant of the law and the constitution, too inept and too lacking in judgment to fill the important post of PP? She should resign now.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand.
This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.