EFF stands by Public Protector after earlier misgivings

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Madelene Cronje/M&G)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Madelene Cronje/M&G)

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party has thrown its weight behind Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, saying anybody who disagrees with her report on a pension-related decision by Pravin Gordhan when he was finance minister, should take it to court on review.

The party was initially unconvinced by her suitability for the post, but its latest statement was to “stand up for the principle of taking disputed reports on review”.

It also laid into the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation for sticking up for Gordhan by calling for Mkhwebane’s recall.

Last week, Mkhwebane recommended that Gordhan be investigated over an early retirement pension payment agreement for former South African Revenue Services (Sars) deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.

Since then the EFF has told President Cyril Ramaphosa that he should not include Gordhan in his new Cabinet, expected to be announced later this week.

Only the Democratic Alliance voted against her when Mkhwebane was appointed as Public Protector in 2016, but it was not long after that when EFF leader Julius Malema said they had made a mistake by supporting her.

He resurrected claims that she was allegedly “a spy” and said at a press conference in January 2017 that the party had thought “why deny an African child an opportunity”, and “let’s give her [the] benefit of a doubt”.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” said Malema at the time of Mkhwebane being appointed. “Now we regret that thing…She is going to collapse that office,” he said in the interview published by TimesLive.

He had said Mkhwebane would not do anything in defence of the public purse and the people of South Africa.

He complained that Mkhwebane had changed the television channel in her office to the now defunct ANN7, owned by the Gupta family.
He also called her an “embarrassment”.

READ MORE: Public Protector: You’re welcome to take me to court

The party’s relationship with the Public Protector’s office was also different after it won a case at the Constitutional Court, relating to Mkhwebane’s predecessor Thuli Madonsela’s recommendation that former president Jacob Zuma pay back some of the money spent on upgrades to his home in Nkandla.

In Monday’s statement regarding the Gordhan findings, the EFF said the Constitutional Court had ruled that disputes over the public protector’s findings should be resolved by approaching a court for a review of the findings.

“The EFF rejects calls for the removal of the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane from office, simply because she found against Pravin Gordhan,” the EFF stated on Monday.

READ MORE: Public Protector’s report ‘wrong’ in fact and in law — Gordhan lawyer

“We reject the calls as a direct attack on a Chapter 9 constitutional institution. They are also reactionary and steeped in the politics of personality cult as they [the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation] portray Pravin Gordhan above the law and not subject to a Chapter 9 institution,” the EFF said. — News24

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