JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – To allies of President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog is a wrecking ball who is abusing her office and could derail efforts to clean up government and turn the economy around. To Ramaphosa’s opponents, she is holding the country’s top officials to account without fear or favor.
Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who was plucked from relative obscurity when she was appointed public protector in 2016, denies playing politics. She says some of her most attention-grabbing investigations were the result of complaints raised by members of the opposition, which she has a duty to scrutinize.
Recommendations - Action - Ramaphosa - Allies - Enterprises
But her recommendations for disciplinary action against Ramaphosa and one of his closest allies, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, have placed her at the center of a bitter power rivalry in the governing African National Congress (ANC) between supporters of the president and his scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Political analysts warn that the powers of Mkhwebane’s office, which played an important role in keeping Zuma in check, can just as easily be used to settle political scores.
Protector - Authority - Constitution - Wrongdoing - Officials
The public protector has authority enshrined in the constitution to investigate alleged wrongdoing by public officials and demand remedial action.
Because Ramaphosa and others are bound to comply, the consequences of her investigations can be far-reaching. One danger, analysts say, is that Mkhwebane will tie up Ramaphosa and his allies with questionable investigations, which will take them months to fight in the courts.
Protector - Politics - Factionalism - ANC - Ebrahim
“The public protector is polarising politics and exacerbating factionalism in the ANC,” said Ebrahim Fakir, an analyst at the Johannesburg-based Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute. “She could distract Ramaphosa from critical tasks like creating jobs and attracting investment.”
Mkhwebane - Questions - Reuters - Week - Figure
Mkhwebane, who did not respond to questions submitted by Reuters last week, remains an enigmatic figure to many South Africans.
A former security analyst and mid-level bureaucrat, she worked in the public protector’s office...
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