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Busisiwe Mkhwebane's Turbulent First 100 Days In Office — Undoing Her Predecessor's Work

The new Public Protector used her first 100 days to hog the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

24/01/2017 12:54 SAST | Updated 24/01/2017 14:23 SAST
(Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

As advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane marks 100 days as South Africa's Public Protector, one can safely say it's been a bumpy ride.

Mkhwebane started on October 15 and marked her first 100 days on Monday.

Her tenure started off with the removal of staff members perceived to be loyal and close to Thuli Madonsela. The first report we have seen under her leadership, into Absa and Bankorp, was leaked to the media.

It's quite difficult to honestly critique her work because the office has gone into stealth mode and shut out the media. Inquiries are not responded to and no explanation is given for failure to respond.

Political parties have criticised Mkhwebane with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema saying they regretted supporting her. During a press briefing on Monday, Malema said Mkhwebane was a Gupta puppet.

"We just took a Gupta puppet from the Guptas' kitchen and went to plant her there. She is proving without fail that she was sent there to destroy that office. From today we must stop calling her public protector, we must call her state protector," said Malema.

The Congress of the People (Cope) said Mkhwebane's first 100 days in office have produced nothing tangible. Spokesperson Dennis Bloem said Mkhwebane has been trying to undo the work done by Madonsela.

Bloem had advice for Mkhwebane: Be yourself.

"What we can say is that in 100 days in office she has done nothing. She has just tried to rubbish the work of Thuli Madonsela. She must be herself and not want to change the good work done by Thuli Madonsela," said Bloem.

Unsurprisingly, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which did not support her appointment in Parliament, said she had proved the party right. dA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said the first 100 days have been resoundingly disappointing.

"We didn't have high expectations for her. Nothing has changed to prove us wrong. Proving us wrong would have won public support. She has not covered anyone in glory," said Breytenbach.

Here are some of Mkhwebane's actions in office:

1) One of the first things she did when she took office was to change the channel on the office TVs from eNCA to the Gupta-owned ANN7.

2) Shortly after Madonsela's explosive State of Capture report was released and the then Eskom CEO Brian Molefe — who was heavily fingered in it — resigned, Mkhwebane said that his departure was a great loss for the public sector. "I mean honestly it's a loss for the country."

3) Mkhwebane lodged a criminal complaint against Madonsela. She said the move was to "protect the credibility" of her office. The charge related to the leaking of recorded interviews including that of Madonsela and President Jacob Zuma.

4) She was accused of lying. Yep, former ANC Member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor called out Mkhwebane for claiming that she had laid a complaint against Madonsela. "I was a whistle-blower. I was the first person to be interviewed by Thuli [Madonsela]. I have also been defending her on my Facebook wall. Why would I lay a complaint against her?" said Mentor.

5) She sent Madonsela's chief of staff packing and he was marched out of the building over claims he was a threat to her security. Bonginkosi Dhlamini said the new Public Protector sent her bouncers to usher him out. Dhlamini was shifted from his position when Mkhwebane took over and was temporarily moved to the office of the CEO as the senior manager: strategy support. His employment was then terminated in December and Mkhwebane offered to settle the rest of the months on his contract. She said that new heads wanted to appoint their own people.

6) She fired a former special advisor who in turn took her to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). She lost the case and was ordered to pay Janine Hicks for the duration of her contract for unfairly dismissing her. Hicks worked on contract in the private office of then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela until Mkhwebane took over.

7) Mkhwebane threatened to withdraw South Africa's hosting of an African ombuds' conference if her predecessor was invited. She allegedly told the secretariat of the African Ombudsman and Mediators' Association (Aoma) that the country — along with the African Ombudsman Research Centre, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal — would not host the organisation's conference if it invited Madonsela.

She, however, refuted the report saying it was baseless.

8) Mkhwebane faces more legal trouble as Dhlamini heads to the CCMA to challenge the termination of his contract.

9) She cancelled a staffer's trip leaving her stranded, in Durban after ordering the cancellation of her accommodation and return flight. Former journalist Belinda Moses, a member of the Public Protector's office's communications team, had accommodation booked for a week so she could work at the Aoma general assembly in Durban, but it is believed that Mkhwebane was not happy with her presence there.

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