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Controversial South African public protector clears deputy president David Mabuza of any wrongdoing

Controversial South African advocate cum Public Protector, Busisiwe Joyce Mkhwebane, has cleared deputy president David Mabuza of two complaints against him when he served as premier of Mpumalanga for nine years. However, the same cannot be said of his office of the premier which was found guilty of irregularity.

Mabuza was accused of being involved in the irregular procurement of four luxury vehicles worth R5million (about $346, 000) for his office when he was Mpumalanga premier from 2009-2018. He was also alleged to have appointed a service provider Carol Bouwer Productions to organise a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in 2013, paying a total of R70 million ($4.86 million) of which R40m ($2.78 million) was paid to Carol Bouwer. However, Public Protector Mkhwebane on Friday, May 24, found the office of the premier guilty.

According to Chapter 9 of the South African constitution, the public protector has the power, as regulated by national legislation: to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice.

Mkhwebane said the allegations that Mabuza procured three luxury vehicles – an Audi A8, a BMW X5 and a Range Rover – for personal use were not substantiated. She noted that while the vehicles were purchased irregularly, it was done by the office of the premier and not Mabuza himself. This ruling clears the deputy president of having violated the ethics code.

Prior to the elections earlier this May, the president noted that “we are determined that those found guilty of corruption or involvement in state capture will not be allowed to occupy positions of responsibility, either in the ANC, in parliament or in government.”

Although Mabuza has not been found guilty and is said not to have violated the ethics code, however, the public prosecutor has a trail of controversies regarding her previous judgements that was said to violate the code of ethics and this time may not be different.

In 2017, Mkhwebane consulted the former director of South African Reserve Bank director, Stephen Goodson, before drafting changes to the Constitution, to nationalize and remove the independence of the Reserve Bank and its mandate. However, she did not consult government economists or legal scholars before doing so.

That same year, Mkhwebane issued a report on her investigation into Absa Bank, ordering the bank to pay R1.125-billions to the government for the financial assistance bailout. Unfortunately, the Pretoria High Court set aside her order after it found that the public protector did not conduct herself in a manner which would be expected from a person occupying the office of the public protector, “She did not have regard thereto that her office requires her to be objective, honest and to deal with matters according to the law and that a higher standard is expected of her”.

This May, Mkhwebane’s report into the Vrede Dairy Project was declared unconstitutional and set aside, after the Gauteng High Court found out that Mkhwebane had failed in her duties to investigate the project.

In deputy president’s David Mabuza’s case, the public protector stated that “The allegation that the former premier was involved in the procurement of his official vehicles is not substantiated, there was, therefore, no violation of the code by the former premier in the procurement of the vehicles in this matter.”

With this ruling, David Mabuza, who was not sworn in as a member of the National Assembly, because he indicated that he would like to have an opportunity to address the ruling African National Congress’s (ANC) integrity commission report, may still be sworn in as South Africa’s deputy president. However, if the ANC and the president truly want to fight corruption in the country, it would need to through every sector of the country, including the judicial system.