Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says her office is going through the most testing times. Addressing a South African Sheriff Society event in Mpumalanga, the under fire Mkhwebane said the institution was faced with attacks raining down on it from every angle, including being subjected to the most unfair reporting in the media."Things have reached a point where even my comment - solicited ahead of the publication of predetermined negative news stories - is not incorporated due to, I am told, word count considerations," she said.
Labelled "incompetent" by a ministerShe added that in the 20 months she had been in office, she had been labelled "incompetent" by a minister, while another one said she was ngiyaphapha (forward).
"A minister said I have a problem and suggested that perhaps I should sit down, presumably so that he could supervise me. I have had a director general call me an idiot, journalists calling me a moron. Another journalist took it further and brazenly used the f-word in a social rant aimed at me."This is in addition to being labelled a Zuptoid or a Zupta Protector among many other derogatory terms."
Mkhwebane said she had laid a case against those who insulted her, in terms of Section 9 of the Public Protector Act.
Mkhwebane's recent report, which was criticised for being baseless, found that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan had violated the Constitution when he granted former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay early retirement with full benefits in 2010.
Gordhan has since filed a review application in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria seeking to have the report's findings set aside. The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Freedom Under Law, Outa, Cosatu and SACP have all called for Mkhwebane to resign.
EFF leader Julius Malema has vigorously defended Mkhwebane, and his party said it would not support any call for her removal.
"Neither myself nor my investigation team have encountered violence during the performance of our duties, we have, however, faced untold hostility.
"Our institution is a creature of the Constitution along with others established in terms of Section 181 of the Constitution to strengthen and support constitutional democracy," she said.
"In terms of the Public Protector Act, I am empowered to investigate undue delays, unfair, capricious or discourteous behaviour; abuse of power; abuse of state resources; dishonesty or improper dealings in respect of public money and improper enrichment.
"I relied on the provisions of the act when I investigated allegations of maladministration and irregular appointments against the City of Tshwane and former executive mayor Solly Msimanga.
"I further have powers to enforce executive ethics under the Executive Members' Ethics Act [EMEA]. It is under this piece of legislation that I'm relying on in the investigation that the President [Cyril Ramaphosa] misled Parliament in contravention of the executive code of ethics when was answering questions about his Bosasa donation."
Mkhwebane said it was under this law that she found that former ministers Lynne Brown, Des van Rooyen and Malusi Gigaba misled Parliament and thus breached the executive code of ethics.
"These findings eventually led to them being culled from the Cabinet."
Obligated to investigate
"Complaints under the EMEA can only be received from members of the executive, Members of Parliament and Members of the Provincial Legislature on suspected breaches of the executive code of ethics.
"On receipt of such complaints, I am obligated to investigate, and such investigations ought to be concluded within 30 days, failing which, I must write to the President or premier to inform them of the failure to meet that deadline."
Mkhwebane said her office was a safe haven for whistleblowers under the Protected Disclosures Act.
"Our services are free of charge and can be accessed through various means including e-mail, online, telephone or in person at any of our 19 walk-in offices across the country.
"Everything we do in the service of the people of this country is informed by an elaborate plan we call Vision 2023.
"I sympathise with you when you say the work of your members is becoming increasingly demanding and that the environment within which they operate tends to be violent. I am sympathising with you because I know too well what they are up against," she told the South African Sheriff Society.