The Gauteng RET President Zuma Support Group denounces the vicious attacks on the public protector and calls on our liberation movement, the ANC, to protect the Office of the Public Protector, all Chapter Nine Institutions, and the Constitution
25 March 2020
The relentless attacks on the Office of the Public Protector (PP), and the person of Advocate BusisiweMkhwebane, are reason for grave concern. Over the past months we have seen these attacks increasing manifold, and on all fronts. What is especially disturbing is the personal, and vindictive, nature of the attacks.
In some mainstream media reports, and especially in the social media, Advocate Mkhwebane, is insulted, and in fact abused, for being a woman. Her ability to do her very important job, as the Public Protector of all of us, is questioned because she is a woman, and the use of the most shocking sexist descriptions and expletives have become common cause on social media platforms by her detractors. The silence of prominent South Africans, and leaders, who have been under investigation by the Public Protector to outright condemn such misogynist, patriarchal and sexist behavior, because it apparently serves their cause in their perpetual litigious battles to challenge the reports and findings of the Public Protector, screams to the heavens. They should be ashamed of themselves!
As a society that is torn apart by deep fault lines of sexism and patriarchy, and suffers from endemic Gender Based Violence (GBV), we need to acknowledge that violence against women is not only physical, but also verbal, and that verbal violence leads to physical violence. To be selective in one’s condemnation of such violence (including the written and spoken word), because you have beef with a specific woman, and it is in support of your disagreements and battles with her, is not only disingenuous and self-serving, but also morally bankrupt.
The silence of fellow women, and women rights organizations, about the gender based abuse and violence that the Public Protector is subjected, just because they disagree with findings made by her, and because they are determined to protect certain leaders and causes, that they have aligned themselves to, is even more outrageous for the wanton betrayal of their own womanhood.
As members of the ANC we call on our Movement to publically condemn this growing abuse that Advocate Mkhwebane is being subjected to, without any ambiguity. We similarly call on the Leagues and Associations (especially, and specifically the ANC Women’s League [ANCWL]), that are part of our ANC family, to do so loud and clear. It is important that both the important Office of the Public Protector, as well as the person of Advocate Mkhwebane, must be protected and treated with dignity and respect.
The manner, and scale, in which the findings and remedial action rulings by the Public Protector have been challenged are unprecedented, not only in their scope but also for the aggressive and derisive tone in which the Public Protector is addressed and referred to. Of serious concern is the vindictive manner in which the mainstream media report about the rulings of the Public Protector, and the vitriolic personal attacks that they lodge against her. One can come to no other conclusion that this is a witch-hunt (and we use the word with due consideration, and deliberately, with all the negative connotations associated with it).
Sadly, this is also true for the intemperate language of the judgements that have recently been handed down against the Public Protector, especially by the Pretoria High Court. In reading these judgements the distinct impression arises that there is something more personal, petty, and vindictive, at play, than just the careful and even handed interpretation and application of the law.
The several rulings that the Public Protector is liable for her own, and other parties’, legal costs in her personal capacity, seem to be calculated to cause her severe financial distress, and possibly bankrupt her. The question arises whether such rulings are not designed to force the Public Protector to refrain to make adverse rulings in certain matters, and against certain powerful persons, or even force her hand to totally refrain from investigating certain matters and complaints. Such a situation is tantamount to intimidation, and undermines the institution of the very Office of the Public Protector, a critical Chapter Nine Institution, and is a direct frontal attack on our Constitution.
All of these concerns raise serious questions about the continuing independence, and integrity, of our judiciary. It must be noted that with regards to both the last two matters that the Pretoria High Court ruled against the Public Protector, there are among the legal fraternity contrary views about the correctness of these rulings. One such issue is the matter of the Public Protector’s right to subpoena for access tax payers’ confidential information, especially in the context where a particular tax payer (as is the case with President Zuma), has no objection to the information being made available to the Public Protector.
We therefore urge the Public Protector to lodge appeals against these judgements. We do so in the interest of protecting the independence of our judiciary which we fear are under attack, and their integrity is becoming increasingly questionable. In this regard we havealso taken note of the concerns that had, on several occasions, been expressed by Chief Justice MogoengMogoeng.
We are aware that in making this call to the Public Protector we ask her to subject herself to further vicious attacks, and also to the danger of more vindictive legal cost rulings, with as a consequence possible personal financial ruin. In backing-up our call to her, we will engage with fellow progressive organizations, and individual South Africans, to establish a well-administered fund, to which contributions can be made in order to contribute to the legal costs that the Public Protector is forced to carry personally.
The action that the Democratic Alliance (DA) lodged in parliament to try and dislodge Advocate Mkhwebane from her position as the Public Protector, is opportunistic in the extreme, and cannot he seen separately from the general, overall, broad front of attacks that are being launched against the Office of the Public Protector.
It is our strong belief that our party, the African National Congress, as the governing party, cannot allow itself to be taken on tow by the whims of any opposition party. The ANC is the leader of society, and as such it must always be seen to lead, also in the protection of our Chapter Nine Institutions, and our Constitution. We therefore call on all our ANC Members of Parliament, and the ANC Caucus - as the collective that represent our ANC parliamentary representatives whom we have sent to parliament through our democratic vote - to refrain from participating in this ill advised and opportunistic action in any way whatsoever.
The ANC should refrain from dirtying our hands, at the behest of an opposition party that does not have our interests, nor the interests of our people, at heart. If we do so terrible damage will be inflicted, specifically on our Chapter Nine Institutions, but also overall to our Constitution. We will live to regret it. This is indeed a scenario too ghastly to contemplate, and therefore clear instructions to avoid such a calamity should come from the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC to all our ANC Members of Parliament.
Issued by Carl Niehaus on the Gauteng RET President Zuma Support Group, 25 March 2020