Protector's probe was veil for hit on Reserve Bank

13 September 2017 - 05:40 By Sam Mkokeli
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu

The public protector used a probe into an apartheid-era matter to attack the Reserve Bank and failed to disclose a meeting with lawyers in President Jacob Zuma's office to discuss the investigation, the central bank has said.

The public ombudsman also discussed the Reserve Bank with state intelligence agents, court papers say.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane instructed MPs in a June 19 report to amend the constitution to make the bank focus on "socioeconomic well-being of the citizens".

This followed her probe into CIEX consultancy's report on the Bank's bailout of Bankorp, which Absa bought in 1992.

She told Absa to repay R1.125-billion.

The High Court set aside her instruction to change the central bank's mandate last month.

Mkhwebane's investigation was turned into "an attack on the Reserve Bank", Johann de Jager SC said in court papers filed on September 11.

"This attack is evidence of bias or at least a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the public protector. It also shows that her remedial action had an ulterior purpose."

Mkhwebane's records were "woefully incomplete" and did not disclose a June 7 meeting with the presidency to discuss her report, De Jager said.

A document in the record about a meeting with "SSA" - which De Jager took to refer to the State Security Agency - contains a note about the Reserve Bank with the question "how are they vulnerable?"

"It is unclear on what basis the vulnerability of the Reserve Bank was relevant to the public protector's investigation into the CIEX report," De Jager said.

- Bloomberg