COSATU condemns the offensive attacks against the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
12 March 2019
The Congress of South African Trade Unions is deeply concerned by the concerted and distasteful attacks that are directed at the office of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Recently the Public Protector has been publicly attacked by Minister Tito Mboweni and Intelligence Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba to protect some few individuals who do not want to be held accountable and subjected to the same level of scrutiny like all South Africans. The National Treasury Director General, Dondo Mogajane and Minister Pravin Gordhan are not above the law and if they have a case to answer to the Public Protector, they should account like all citizens.
The public protector is one of the chapter 9 state institutions supporting constitutional democracy. It is independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, and they must be impartial and must exercise their powers and perform their functions without fear, favour or prejudice. Other organs of state, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect these institutions to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of these institutions. No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of these institutions (section 181 of the constitution).
The public protector has the powers to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice and to report on that conduct (section 182).
The allegations of a rogue intelligence unit at the SA Revenue Service (Sars) need to be explained and, especially at a time when the country is dealing with revelations that state institutions have been used to settle political scores. It is not advisable to intimidate the PP by requiring that she hand over a report without investigating the veracity of the claims contained in that document. It does not matter whether the document is classified or not. If there are allegations of corruption these must be investigated. It is for this reason that COSATU has opposed the secrecy bill because of the fear that it may be used to shield certain individuals from being investigated.
Everyone including the PP has the right of access to “any information held by the state” or “held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights”. This reflects a major departure from our repressive past. Secrecy should not be used as a cover for corrupt activities. It is in the interests of justice that all corrupt activities are investigated whether they are contained in an illegal or legally obtained or classified document.
The PP is empowered to investigate any claim of corruption including corruption that is alleged in any illegal document. If the said document may prejudice the security of the state the court has to rule on this issue. It is not up to the SSA and the Minister to intimidate the PP. They should apply to the court to force the PP to hand over the report. This is important because the office of the PP is independent.
If the Public Protector is acting outside her mandate, people have a right to challenge her recommendations and actions in a court of law instead of publicly undermining her office. It is also unacceptable that the Public Protector has been forced to name and shame state organs and remind them that her remedial action is binding and not optional. This happened because many of these state organs are ignoring her recommendations and some of them are attacking her in public.
COSATU has noted that those who do not agree with her reports tend to accuse her of having political motives. They do this without providing any proof to substantiate their allegations and conspiracy theories. The federation’s position is that what is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 12 March 2019