Mkhwebane threatens legal action against Mapaila for 'hired gun' jibe
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has asked SACP deputy general-secretary Solly Mapaila to withdraw "provocative" comments he allegedly made against her - or face legal action.
In a scathing statement on Thursday, Mkhwebane said she was "in disbelief" after reading reports that quoted Mapaila as having called her a "hired gun of the fight back agenda", and accusing her of being "used by rogue elements of the intelligence".
Mkhwebane has challenged Mapaila to back up his claims or face being dragged to court.
Mapaila is alleged to have made the remarks during his address at the Nehawu policy conference held in Boksburg this week.
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At the conference, Mapaila said: "We want to call on the public protector to not allow that important office to be used as a hired gun of the corporate capture agenda. Unfortunately, the incumbent public protector, instead of being preoccupied with defending the poor and vulnerable against such has become an instrument of the better-off in society to fight political and other battles.
"It is for these reasons that the SACP had to express its serious concerns about the scathing court judgments against the current public protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane. On June 9 2019, the central committee of the party publicly communicated its decision that it was imperative for parliament to carry out an inquiry into her suitability to hold office."
However, the embattled Mkhwebane said she was not surprised at Mapaila's and the SACP's posture toward her, as they had been hostile to her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, during the Nkandla report debacle.
Mkhwebane went on to expose the SACP's history on hostility against the office of the public protector, with the Communist Party having also led the attack against Madonsela in defence of scandal-prone former president Jacob Zuma.
The public protector challenged Mapaila to "go read the Nkandla judgment, especially the part that refers to how the powers of the public protector are not meant to bow down to anybody".
Mkhwebane said she took "serious exception to this vitriol and challenges Mr Mapaila to produce evidence to support his claims or retract the statements and apologise, failing which [I] will take steps against him".
The statement went on: "It must be remembered that it was Mapaila’s party, the SACP, which, following the release of the Nkandla report in 2014, vilified the then public protector, saying she abused her power and played into 'anti-democratic regime-change agenda that seeks to portray the entirety of government as corrupt', with its youth wing saying that she was 'not God'.
"Mapaila himself wrote in a blog that the then public protector acted as though her office was above all other institutions supporting democracy.
"His latest attacks on the office, which must be seen in the context of his party’s deep-seated contempt for the office of the public protector, dating back to the Nkandla days, are premised on the tired and unproven narrative that Adv Mkhwebane is involved in factional battles of the governing party."
Mapaila was not immediately available for comment and had not responded to a text message at the time of publishing.
Responding to Mkhwebane's threat, however, SACP spokesman Alex Mashilo said that the organisation had not received any enquiry from the public protector "either asking for clarification or saying anything".
"As [Mapaila] said when addressing Nehawu, the SA Communist Party was the first political organisation that was banned in this country and deprived of the right to freedom of speech and other freedoms that we fought hard for and which are as a result now enshrined in our country's constitution. We will not allow any person to repeat that history by any measure whatsoever.
"We reiterate our statement that no organ of state, including a chapter 9 institution, is above the law, and that any person entrusted with constitutional authority must be held to account if that person is found by a court of law to have acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully. The incumbent public protector is no exception.
"We reiterate our call for parliament to hold an inquiry into her [Mkhwebane's] fitness to hold office. We will not allow any threat to reverse this decision," said Mashilo.