Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane rejects with contempt the claims contained in a report by donor-funded non-profit organisation, Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), that she was “flagged” by international banking institution, HSBC, as having financial links to the Gupta family.
Adv. Mkhwebane would like to place on the record the fact that she heard for the first time from the OCCRP last Thursday that she had been “flagged”. HSBC has never brought this “flagging” to her attention and she has absolutely no links with the Guptas.
It is important to highlight that by the OCCRP’s own admission in their written request to the Public Protector for comment, “there is no indication that the source of the funds were from the Gupta network, simply that she was flagged as part of it by the bank.” It is strange that, today, the organisation reports that she was “flagged” as having financial ties to the Guptas.
Adv. Mkhwebane said in a speech delivered at an event hosted by an organisation of sheriffs in Mpumalanga last month that ever since she started investigating the conduct of certain powerful people, she has been the target of dirty tricks from some figures and their allies in civil society, political circles and in the media. This is yet another example of the onslaught.
In April, information came to her attention that a certain politician was pushing for her arrest on the false claims that she was involved in the passing of her husband and money laundering. This came in a form of an enquiry by a Sunday newspaper. It was explained to the paper that Adv. Mkhwebane’s late husband had suffered from depression and took his own life and the involvement in money laundering was denied.
A source subsequently indicated to Adv. Mkhwebane that foreign expertise had been brought into the country to look into her bank accounts and the circumstances surrounding the passing of her husband.
In the same month, two publications were approached by an informer, who claimed that Adv. Mkhwebane had presented former North West Premier, Supra Mahumapelo, with a wrist watch. The publications demanded to know the make of the watch, the value and the reason for the “gift”. They said they were in possession of a copy of a gift register in which Mr. Mahumapelo declared the gift.
It was subsequently explained to them that the Public Protector presents all visiting dignitaries with Public Protector-branded promotional material, which includes stationery, caps, umbrellas and wall clocks, one of which is the watch that was referred to by the informer who sold the information to the publications in question as proof of impropriety on the part of Adv. Mkhwebane.
In June, another informer peddled a claim that Adv. Mkhwebane was seen at a flower shop said to be owned by the wife of former SARS Commissioner, Tom Moyane, received a bouquet of flowers and held talks with Mr. Moyane. Two publications enquired, demanding to know the value of the flowers, where the “gift” had been declared and whether the visit was appropriate given the Public Protector’s investigation of the “Rogue Unit” matter. It was explained to them that the Public Protector did not know the flower shop in question, did not know Mr. Moyane’s wife, did not meet with Mr. Moyane and was certainly nowhere near the vicinity of the shop on the day in question.
In the same month, an online publication published a story that the Public Protector was sitting on an investigation in which former State Security Minister Bongani Bongo was implicated. The publication indicated that Democratic Alliance Chief Whip John Steenhuisen said he had lodged the complaint and was unhappy that the case had gone cold.
The inference was that Adv. Mkhwebane was protecting Mr. Bongo as they, according to the publication, enjoyed a close relationship. It was explained twice to the publication that the Public Protector did not have such a complaint. It later turned out that Mr. Steenhuisen had in fact lodged the matter with a parliamentary committee and not the Public Protector. The publication refused to apologise.
This month, a picture of a politician who appeared to be in a meeting with an unidentified woman did the rounds on social media. Again, one publication, which was involved in the three cases above, approached the Public Protector with a request for comment. The request was premised on the false conclusion that the person in the image concerned was indeed Adv. Mkhwebane. It was indicated to the publication that Adv. Mkhwebane has never in her life met the politician in the image. The politician himself identified the woman in the picture on his Twitter page. However, the publication still went ahead and published the story.
Adv. Mkhwebane sees all of these events as part of an orchestrated campaign and concerted efforts in political circles, civil society and the media to discredit her merely because she has been able to muster enough courage to hold those seen as “untouchable” to account. She will not be discouraged. Instead, these attacks give her strength to discharge her functions with renewed vigour, without fear, favour or prejudice.