Public Protector saddened by distortions in The Star newspaper
Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane is saddened by the distortions published in the Wednesday edition of The Star newspaper, alleging an admission on her part that a meeting with President Jacob Zuma influenced her final CIEX report.
The newspaper made the outrageous claim in a front page story that purports to be based on an answering affidavit that Adv. Mkhwebane filed on Friday in the North Gauteng High Court as part of review proceedings on the report.
Adv. Mkhwebane would like to bring to the attention of the public the fact that section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994 requires her to afford any person to respond, in any manner that may be expedient under the circumstances, if it appears that such person is being implicated in the matter being investigated.
To comply with this legal requirement, a Section 7(9) notice is issued. The notice effectively gives parties an opportunity to make representations (either in writing or through a meeting) and such representations or responses are taken into account in completing an investigation.
For instance, the investigation in question was about the failure of the South African Government and the South African Reserve Bank to recover an amount of R3.2 billion, cited in the CIEX report. However, after receiving the representations from Absa Bank and the South African Reserve Bank, the amount recoverable was revised to R1.125 billion. Therefore, the Public Protector also took into account the representation from ABSA and SARB, hence the amount to be recovered was revised from R3.2 billion to R1.125 billion.
Regarding the meeting, it was only the Presidency that requested it in addition to their written response. The meeting was duly granted as the Public Protector Act provides that the opportunity to respond shall be afforded in any manner that may be expedient under the circumstances. In this instance, a meeting was the most expedient approach.
“This has been the standard practice even prior to my tenure as the Public Protector. To now suggest that complying with a legal requirement that is line with principles of procedural fairness and rule of law amounts to a compromise of one’s independence is nothing short of mischief,” said Adv. Mkhwebane.
She called on media practitioners to familiarise themselves with her office’s investigation processes so that they may be in a position to supply the public with accurate information.