Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has indicated that she will not follow in the footsteps of former president Jacob Zuma by resigning, saying she remains committed to serving the country in her current post. 

Mkhwebane faced a grilling from MPs in Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Tuesday after being summoned to discuss criticism of her work in recent weeks, most notably the Vrede dairy farm report.

Mkhwebane’s report was criticised for not probing key players in the failed dairy project, including the Gupta brothers and Free State Premier and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule.

During a round of questions, Economic Freedom Fighters MP Sam Matiase said Mkhwebane should do the honourable thing and follow Zuma’s example by handing in her resignation.

“Honourable Matiase indicated I should do a good thing and resign like the former president,” she responded.

“I must indicate, I committed to serve South Africans in this particular aspect, and the process was a transparent process to appoint a Public Protector.

“The National Assembly recommended to the then president for the appointment, and I don’t think he had anything to do with my appointment.”

‘I did not meet with Zuma’

MPs also discussed the setting aside of her CIEX report by the North Gauteng High Court last month. Mkhwebane denied reports that she met with Zuma in the run-up to the report’s publishing, which recommended among other things that the South African Reserve Bank be nationalised.

“I didn’t meet with the president.
I met with the legal adviser of the Presidency… and it was disclosed in the report,” she said.

Mkhwebane explained that in the process of an investigation, when a “section 79” notice is issued, subjects of investigations have the right to make submissions or raise issues on matters they are implicated in.

A similar instance occurred with a reported meeting with the State Security Agency (SSA), in the same CIEX report.

The meeting was to find out from the SSA if it was aware that a contract had been signed with CIEX on behalf of the government, and to ask if it was still obligated to uphold the contract.

She said that both Absa and the Reserve Bank opted not to meet with her despite being sent the same section 79 notices.

‘I was not hiding anything’

“My conduct was based on sincerity. I did the investigation in good faith,” she responded to ACDP MP Steve Swart on the CIEX report.

“I didn’t have any other secretive or whatever meetings. The only meeting I had was with the legal adviser of the Presidency, because they wanted to clarify their response to the remedial action.”

A meeting with Black First Land First (BLF) had also been blown out of proportion.

The BLF requested a meeting with Mkhwebane to discuss issues related to Absa, Alexandra Construction and Bapo ba Mogale.

“This was a by-the-way issue. It was not the [case] that they came specifically to discuss this. The records are there.”

Committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga asked her to confirm that she had been an SSA employee before she took on her current post. 

She confirmed that she was employed by the agency for three months, and resigned in October 2016 when she took up her post as public protector. 

Motshekga wrapped up the meeting by saying Mkhwebane had not been invited to Parliament to be put on trial. 

The committee had invited her to protect and uphold the office of the Public Protector, and to give her a chance to respond to the allegations.

Earlier on Tuesday BLF members disrupted proceedings by staging a silent protest.Some of them held up placards saying MPs who protected white monopoly capital should be fired. —News24