Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has said well-wishers who are fundraising for her personal costs order “understand that our democracy is in danger.”
Mkhwebane made the comment while presenting her office’s 2018/2019 annual report to Parliament’s portfolio committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Friday.
She said, “People who are raising money for the Public Protector understand that our democracy is in danger and if we allow the people who are occupying these positions, who are there for them, being threatened by personal cost orders, it will be a challenge.”
ConCourt upheld personal costs order
In July, the Constitutional Court upheld a high court ruling that imposed a personal costs order against Mkhwebane.
The matter related to her controversial 2017 report on the ABSA-South African Reserve Bank Bankorp bailout.
The Court ruled that Mkhwebane must personally pay 15 percent of the legal costs related to the case, translating to a reported R900,000.
Mhwebane criticised the ruling, saying it set a “bad precedent” because it risked undermining the principle of her office acting without fear or favour.
Democracy in Action, a civil society group, started the fundraising campaign for Mkhwebane to cover the personal costs order. In an update earlier this week, it said it has raised R161,000 so far.
Mkhwebane told the committee that her office had sought a legal opinion on whether it would be proper for her to accept the donations.
“It’s a question of availing the money in my personal space which will be declared. We have a legal opinion on this particular matter, and again, I was doing my work as the Public Protector,” she explained.
Mkhwebane further told MPs that she had “reported” some ministers to the Speaker of National Assembly Thandi Modise for their “blistering attack” on her office.
“…In contravention of sections 181(3) and (4) of the Constitution, my office has been at the receiving end of one blistering attack from senior members of the executive arm of government, who are also members of Parliament.
“Unsubstantiated accusations that I am beholden to a faction of the governing party have largely underpinned these attacks. We have reported these to the speaker,” she said.