Public Protector Wins Colonialism Case Against Helen Zille

PUBLIC PROTECTOR Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane has welcomed the decision of the North Gauteng High Court to dismiss former Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille’s application to have Adv. Mkhwebane’s report on Ms. Zille’s controversial colonialism tweets reviewed and set aside. 

Adv. Mkhwebane found in June 2018 that Ms. Zille’s tweet that “for those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative think of our independent judiciary, transport, infrastructure, piped water etc.” was in violation of the Executive Code of Ethics.  

The finding followed an investigation occasioned by an Executive Members Ethics Act (EMEA) complaint by Hon. Khaya Magaxa of the Western Cape Provincial Legislature, who had alleged, among other things, that, in tweeting the statement in question, Ms. Zille had failed to act in a manner that was consistent with the integrity of the high office she occupied.

On Tuesday, acting Judge Malebo Habedi dismissed Ms. Zille’s application with costs—to be paid up to the point she vacated office as Premier. Handing down judgment, the judge found that the application and determination of issues were moot and academic since the Public Protector’s remedial action had directed the provincial legislature to take action against Ms. Zille while she was still Premier. 

Judge Habedi noted that, at the time the matter was argued in court, it was already obvious that Ms. Zille was no longer Premier. Having concluded that the matter had been overtaken by events, Judge Habedi still found that Ms. Zille failed to establish sufficient grounds for the review and that the Public Protector had properly reasoned her findings and remedial action and that those reasons were sufficient to substantiate the findings.

“I’m pleased with the judgment. I continue to call on Members of the Executive, both at national and provincial levels, to take time and understand the provisions of the EMEA and the Code of Ethics,” said Adv. Mkhwebane, who is incidentally on a countrywide roadshow to workshop Provincial Executive Councils on the provisions of EMEA to avoid complaints similar to Ms. Zille’s colonial tweets and other conduct outlawed by this piece of legislation. 

Since June 2019, she has conducted such workshops in Limpopo, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape. Tomorrow is turn of the Free State Provincial Cabinet. 

Tuesday’s judgment marks the third time the Public Protector successfully defended her investigation reports in court. Before the latest case, she had her Nelson Mandela funeral report and her findings on Limpopo Head of the Transport Department, Ms. Hanli du Plessis, in a matter involving former MEC Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana, affirmed by the High Court. 

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