Leon slams protector's 'mad' Zille tweet ruling
Ex-DA leader says Mkhwebane doesn't understand her jurisdiction after she recommends action over colonialism tweet
Former Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon has criticised a finding by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane against Helen Zille, again raising questions of her understanding of her own jurisdiction.
Mkhwebane released her findings on a number of reports on Monday afternoon, including a ruling that action should be taken against Leon's successor, Zille, for a controversial colonialism tweet which landed her in hot water with the party’s top brass last year.
Leon took to social media, saying Mkhwebane had erred in her findings.“The ruling on the Zille tweet is both bad and mad in law and offends in terms of her even understanding her own jurisdiction let alone the Constitution,” Leon said.
“If she now trawls Twitter for ‘persons of influence’ making ‘offensive’ comments there is no end to it but her end must be nigh,” he added.
Last year, Mkhwebane was criticised in court by the SA Reserve Bank, which said she had no jurisdiction to make a ruling on a matter involving Absa and Bankorp.
Absa‚ the Treasury and the Reserve Bank approached the court to set aside a report Mkhwebane released last June‚ in which she ordered Absa to repay R1.125-billion in loans provided to forerunner Bankorp by the Reserve Bank (SARB) during the apartheid era in what became known as the “lifeboat scandal”. A court eventually set aside her report.In March 2017, Zille posted on Twitter: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative‚ think of our independent judiciary‚ transport infrastructure‚ piped water.”
Her tweet caused outrage, resulting in the leadership of the DA announcing her suspension.
The ANC lodged an official complaint against her with the public protector, saying she had failed to act in good faith and in the best interest of good governance by making such statements.
“The premier’s actions did not comply with what was expected from a person holding the office of the premier of the province,” the party stated, saying she had failed to act with integrity.
Commenting on Zille’s tweet on Monday, Mkhwebane said “the conduct of the premier constitutes improper conduct”, and recommended that the provincial legislature take appropriate action against her.
She highlighted that Zille’s apology for the tweet could be interpreted as recognition of the negative impact the tweet had on the dignity of a section of South Africans.
Mkhwebane said Zille maintained that she saw nothing wrong in the tweet.
“The premier felt that it was within her rights to tweet like that because, according to the Constitution, she has freedom of expression. That was her view – that there is nothing wrong she has done,” she said.
Shortly after Mkhwebane’s report was released, Zille indicated that she intended to take Mkhwebane’s report under review.
Last year, she indicated that she felt the party had acted harshly against her because she is white.
“Given that so many black South Africans have expressed exactly the same views on the legacy of colonialism as I have (only in more forceful terms), and given that the DA has never raised any concerns about these views‚ let alone repudiated them‚ and has no written policy on the matter‚ I drew the conclusion that a contributing reason to my being charged is the fact that I am not black‚” said Zille.Zille’s report was one of seven released by Mkhwebane on Monday.
Another concerned the R125,000 cellphone bill incurred by the deputy speaker of the Limpopo legislature, Lehlogonolo Masoga, while on a trip to the US.
Mkhwebane found that Masoga had abused financial resources and recommended that he pay back a portion of the money.
“The allegation that the amount spent by the deputy speaker whilst on an official trip to the USA was exorbitant or unreasonable is substantiated,” she said.
The other reports she released touched on the alleged improper appointments of officials in the Dawid Kruiper municipality in the Northern Cape, alleged maladministration by the City of Tshwane surrounding the non-payment of one of its paramedics, and complaints by ex-employees of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), who claimed to have incurred medical conditions as a result for working for the company's Pelindaba site where they were allegedly exposed to radiation.
During the briefing, Mkhwebane also revealed that her probe into whether former Finance minister Malusi Gigaba had been fit to hold office was “progressing well”.
However, she was not ready to make a pronouncement on her findings, saying only they had received a response from Gigaba amid the ongoing probe.
“We are analysing his response to determine whether there is any irregular conduct we can make a finding on,” Mkhwebane said.Gigaba's fitness to hold office was cast in the spotlight after a reshuffle by former president Jacob Zuma resulted in him being placed at the helm of the Finance portfolio.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa took over, he removed Gigaba from the position, returning him to the position of minister of Home Affairs, which he held before.
But even his stint as Home Affairs minister has not been without controversy.
Gigaba's office was found to have issued permanent residency to one of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, without following proper protocol.
As questions surrounding the Guptas' residency surfaced, the Sunday Times reported that Gigaba had instructed his director-general, Mkuseli Apleni, to investigate how Ajay obtained the residency permit and to seek legal advice about how to withdraw it.
Mkhwebane told reporters that in her 20 months in office, her office had received over 25,200 complaints.
More than 21,000 of those complaints had been finalised.
“Some of these are matters that should not be coming to the Public Protector,” Mkhwebane said, adding that they could be dealt with in the different state organs.
Only complex issues, which amounted to 50, received formal reports, she said.