Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has defended her decision to include controversial political leaders in the guest list for her 50th birthday celebration over the weekend.
Controversial African National Congress (ANC) MPs Bongani Bongo and Mosebenzi Zwane were among those who attended the event.
Bongo is facing alleged attempted bribery charges, while Zwane is alleged to have been involved in the Estina dairy farm scandal when he was Agriculture MEC in the Free State.
‘Conflict of interest’
In a statement on Sunday, Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone slammed Mkhwebane for failing to appreciate the “staggering impropriety” and “glaring conflict” of interest caused by Zwane’s attendance.
She said, “Zwane’s huge and unmistakeable role in the criminal enterprise that was Estina was conspicuously absent in the first and very questionable report of this [Public Protector], later emerging via a whistleblower’s report to the Speaker of Parliament, that this [Public Protector], now so cosily socialising with Zwane, instructed the investigator to remove evidence implicating Zwane and [ANC Secretary General] Ace Magashule.”
Mazzone said Mkhwebane’s new investigation into Estina launched last year “must of necessity include the machinations of Zwane.”
“Yet he reportedly shamelessly cavorts at the birthday celebrations of the person who is investigating him,” she added.
‘Ramaphosa, Mabuza were invited’
However, Mkwehbane on Monday denied any impropriety or conflict of interest in including Bongo and Zwane in her guest list.
Writing on Twitter, she said, “Let me take this opportunity to thank the family, friends, legal fraternity, pastors, traditional leaders and colleagues who celebrated with me the golden jubilee.
“The President and Deputy President were also invited and could not attend. No conflict of interest will arise.
“I will continue to do my work without fear or prejudice irrespective of who attended the celebration.”
Mkhwebane accompanied her tweet with an apology letter from Deputy President David Mabuza’s office and an acknowledgement email from the Presidency.
Other prominent figures who attended the celebration were former Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) chairperson Dali Mpofu and African Transformation Movement (ATM) head of policy Mzwanele Manyi.
Ekurhuleni Mayor Mwandile Masina and former senior prosecutor at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Nomgcobo Jiba were also in attendance.