Mkhwebane decries ‘unwarranted’ attack on her integrity

06 December 2017 - 14:53
By Sipho Mabena
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has‚ through her lawyers‚ decried an attack on her integrity‚ saying such an attack was designed to pave the way for her removal from office.

Her lawyer‚ Advocate Paul Kennedy‚ implored the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday not to be part of this ploy and to take a dim view of this approach.

He took particular issue with the SA Reserve Bank’s “most unbecoming and seriously disturbing approach”‚ saying the personal attack on Mkhwebane’s integrity was unwarranted.

Kennedy said this “unwarranted and most unfortunate‚ inappropriate attack” was not only an attack on her personally but an attack on the office that she occupies‚ saying this would have serious consequences on the public’s confidence in the office.

“What we would submit is that the court should not be part of the game‚ strategy or approach‚” he said.

Kennedy said what was particularly serious and disturbing was that an institution of state that itself was required to be impartial‚ the SA Reserve Bank‚ was “acting in such a partisan manner… we submit that the court should take a dim view of that and certainly not accede this strategic relief that they now seek”.

The SA Reserve Bank is seeking a declaratory order that Mkhwebane abused her office and breached the principles of independence and impartiality in her handling of her probe into ABSA/Bankorp “lifeboat” saga.

Of concern to the Reserve Bank were several undisclosed and scantly recorded meetings that Mkhwebane had with the Presidency and the State Security Agency during the course of her investigation.

The Reserve Bank’s Advocate‚ Katie Hofmeyr‚ told the court on Tuesday that there were at least two meetings that Mkhwebane had‚ in the period between her provisional and the final report‚ with the Presidency and the SSA.

She noted that no other party was afforded the same treatment and that there was no proper recording of these seemingly clandestine meetings.

But Kennedy argued that the declaratory order would undermine the office of the Public Protector and that even if the court found her conduct raised a reasonable apprehension of bias‚ this did not justify the court finding that she abused her office or breached the constitution.

He said in a real world mistakes do happen‚ saying Mkhwebane did not deliberately mislead the court.

Kennedy said non-disclosure of these meetings may be grounds for a review but not for a declaratory order that she abused her office and was dishonest.

ABSA‚ Treasury and the Reserve Bank approached the court to set aside a report Mkhwebane released in June‚ in which Mkhwebane ordered ABSA to repay R1.125bn in loans provided to forerunner Bankorp by the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) during the apartheid era in what became known as the ‘lifeboat scandal’.