A panel of South African lawmakers recommended that the nation’s controversial graft ombudsman be dismissed, an eventuality that would mean she’d lose out on any benefits on the completion of her seven-year term.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been mired in controversy since she took office in 2016, making a number of politically charged findings that have been overturned in the courts.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, petitioned parliament to impeach her in 2019, and President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended her in mid-2022 while legislators determined her fitness to continue in office.
The panel adopted a report recommending Mkhwebane’s dismissal at a meeting on Friday. She will be asked for comment before a final decision is taken by the National Assembly.
“Our process was more than fair,” said Doris Dlakude, the deputy chief whip of the governing African National Congress who sat on the panel. “There was no mandate to remove her. Our decision is made on the evidence presented before us.”
Nompilo Gcaleka has been standing in for Mkhwebane during her suspension and is one of eight candidates who’ve been shortlisted to replace her when her term ends in October.
The Office of the Public Protector is one of six constitutionally enshrined institutions that are tasked with supporting and defending democracy in South Africa.
Its main brief is to protect the public from government maladministration and improper conduct by officials.
Former President Jacob Zuma appointed Mkhwebane to her post, in line with a recommendation from parliament. She replaced Thuli Madonsela, who gained widespread public trust after making a series of finding against Zuma and several other senior politicians implicated in graft and the misuse of public funds.
Mkhwebane instigated an investigation into Ramaphosa’s conduct after South Africa’s former chief spy alleged that he tried to cover up the theft of at least $4 million hidden in a couch on his game farm.
The president denied that he had broken the law, and Gcaleka and lawmakers cleared him of wrongdoing.
Mkhwebane has objected to her suspension and the impeachment proceedings against her, but the courts rejected all her attempts to halt both processes.