Public protector lacks funds to charge minister, SANDF with contempt

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has a problem, according to City Press she doesn’t have the money to charge the Military Veterans’ Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) with contempt.

The whole issue relates to the case of  Lieutenant Colonel Babalo Mvithi, who was unlawfully fired from the air force in 2012.

He turned to the public protector who investigated and recommended that the military rehire him, but so far that hasn’t happened. The minister claims that the issue is before the courts for judicial review.

The thing is, when the Economic Freedom Fighters took the speaker of Parliament to court – the courts found that the public protector’s findings were binding until the court set them aside.

You can’t just tie the whole thing up in court forevermore.

Mkhwebane threatened to take the minister and the military to court for contempt, but she doesn’t have the money to actually do that.

My Take

Mkhwebane hasn’t exactly been as impressive as Thuli Madonsela was as Public Protector, but her office is incredibly important.

If she doesn’t have the money to actually enforce her findings – then that is a constitutional crisis, and has dire consequences for any claims Cyril Ramaphosa might have about fighting state capture.

If she can’t afford to charge ministers with contempt here, can she charge ministers with contempt for ignoring any findings she might make about corruption?

Bathabile Dlamini for years acted in complete contempt of court over the Sassa crisis. She was ordered by the courts basically to do her job when it came to the distribution of grants and yet she remained steadfast in her refusal to work – with the only real consequence being she is now Minister of Women.

You don’t have to like Mkhwebane to see that there is a deep problem here. It cuts to the core of everything Ramaphosa has said about this being a new dawn and Zuma era being over – how can we trust him when this is still happening?

  • Picture of Public Protector Advocate Joyce Busisiwe Mkhwebane courtesy of GCIS via Flickr.
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