5 of the public protector's findings that made headlines in 2018

20 December 2018 - 08:06 By Odwa Mjo
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has not had an easy time since her appointment in 2016, when she replaced Thuli Madonsela - but she certainly has been kept busy, probing numerous allegations of misconduct within government structures.

From expensive cakes to lying under oath, here are five of the public protector's findings that got people talking this year.

1. Cake scandal

Mkhwebane cleared DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela of any wrongdoing after an investigation into the ANC's complaint that he failed to declare gifts he received at his lavish birthday party last year. The party was held at the flashy One&Only hotel in Cape Town, where a contractor paid R3,000 for the birthday cake. 

The Western Cape ANC said not declaring the gifts was a violation of the ethics code.

In her findings, Mkhwebane said it did not appear that Madikizela had solicited any gifts "or that he received a gift that constituted an improper influence on him or attempts to do so". 

2. Reserve Bank

Mkhwebane's investigation into the South African Reserve Bank had serious consequences for her reputation.

TimesLIVE previously reported the public protector was forced to admit that she was incorrect when she ordered that the Bank's constitutional mandate be changed to no longer focus on protecting the value of the rand. This was part of the remedial action suggested in a report investigating the apartheid era bailout given by the Bank to Bankorp.

The Bank wants Mkhwebane to personally pay the costs of her appeal. Judgement in the matter was reserved in November, with Mkhwebane's advocate arguing that she did not "act in bad faith" and the "errors" in the investigation "should not be the basis of an adverse costs order against her."

*CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that judgement by the Constitutional Court has been reserved. It was previously reported that judgement had been passed.

3. Lindiwe Zulu

In October, Mkhwebane found that minister of small business development Lindiwe Zulu did not lie to parliament about the amount paid for cars purchased by the department for her and her deputy minister. 

This was after DA MP Toby Chance claimed the department had bought Zulu cars worth R3.5m, including a Mercedes-Benz E400 for the minister, a Lexus GS350 for the deputy and a BMW 5-Series. 

Zulu told parliament that she only drove a Lexus worth R580,000. In March she revealed that the department had purchased cars worth R1.8m, not the R3.5m alleged by Chance.

4. Malusi Gigaba

In November, Mkhwebane recommended that President Ramaphosa take appropriate disciplinary action against then minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba for violating the constitution. 

This was after DA MP John Steenhuisen lodged a complaint that Gigaba had lied under oath and violated the executive ethics code in a court battle between Gigaba and Fireblade Aviation. Mkhwebane found Steenhuisen's complaints to be substantiated. 

5. Nathi Nhleko 

In October, Mkhwebane found that former police minister Nathi Nhleko did not unduly award a R30m contract to an NGO run by his partner Dr Nomcebo Mthembu in 2014. 

The public protector was asked by DA MP Zakhele Mbhele to investigate the allegations. In her report, Mkhwebane said Nhleko had not yet been appointed minister at the time Mthembu's NGO signed a memorandum with the department and he was therefore not involved in the administrative or payment processes.