South Africa: The Public Protector's Call to Be Accorded the Status of a Judge Is Nonsensical - to a Certain Degree

Left: Hawks cars. Right: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane has reportedly likened her standing -- as a public protector -- to that of a judge. But performing 'quasi-judicial functions' does not necessarily make one an ordinary judge.

A Sunday newspaper has reported that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane believes a personal costs order issued against her by the Constitutional Court sets a dangerous precedent. Mkhwebane told the Sunday Times that she "shouldn't have to pay for mere legal errors" as that would weaken her office. Moreover, she likened herself to having the status of the judges of ordinary courts because she performs "quasi-judicial" functions, thus she should have full decisional independence.

According to defenders of the public protector, the series of judicial reviews to suspend the implementation of her remedial actions are generally designed to erode the judicial integrity and independence of her office.

In light of the Sunday report on the public protector questions we must ask:

What is the significance of the claim for the status of a judge by the public protector? and

What is decisional independence in the context of the public protector?

With regard to the first question, the significance lies in the murky relationship between the Chapter 9 institutions and the ordinary...

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