Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has seemingly cast doubt on South Africa’s justice system after appearing in court on perjury charges on Thursday.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decided to prosecute her in December following an initial charge laid by Paul Hoffman, the head of civil society organisation Accountability Now.
‘Fair and objective justice system’
“Thanks to all for support. Hopefully I will live to witness a democratic South Africa with a fair and objective justice system,” Mkhwebane, who is currently on sabbatical leave, tweeted shortly after her appearance.
“Thanks again to the [Public Protector] staff, family [and] friends for your encouraging messages. We defeated apartheid; this cruel system shall pass too one day.”
The matter is related to court litigation stemming from her infamous ABSA/Bankorp investigative report released in 2017. In a statement, NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said Mkhwebane faces three counts of perjury.
He wrote, “It is alleged that Adv Mkhwebane lied under oath in November 2017 when she unlawfully and intentionally deposed to an answering affidavit under oath in a Gauteng High Court review application.
“In the affidavit she declared that she only had one meeting with [then] President Jacob Zuma which was on 25 April, 2017, whilst knowing that the declaration was false.”
Ngwema added that in April 2018, Mkhwebane deposed another affidavit at the Constitutional Court. In it, she declared that the purpose of her second meeting with Zuma in June 2017 was to clarify his response to the provisional report “whilst knowing that the declared purpose was false.”
In yet another affidavit in June 2018, Mkhwebane “declared that she did not discuss the final report/new remedial action with President Zuma on 7 June, 2017 whilst knowing that it was not true,” Ngwema said.
Advocate Dali Mpofu represented Mkhwebane in court. The matter was postponed to 25 March, 2021 “for the management and resolution of pre-trial issues,” with the NPA emphasising that it is ready for trial.
Mpofu sought the postponement to make representations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to have the charges dropped.
He told the court that the charges are “frivolous and contrived,” adding that the Public Protector may approach the high court should her representations be unsuccessful.