Mkhwebane impeachment: Personal costs have ‘chilling’ effect


As the impeachment inquiry into the suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office continued yesterday, personal costs brought against her were still seen as a major issue.

Mkhwebane’s senior counsel, Dali Mpofu, reiterated that the courts have overburdened her with personal costs.

‘No one to protect Mkhwebane’

He said there was no one to protect the public protector. Mkhwebane’s witness, her Zambian counterpart Caroline Zulu-Sokoni, agreed personal cost orders had a “chilling effect” on investigations, saying it also eroded the respect for the office.

“There is just no respect for the office any more,” said Zulu-Sokoni, who was cross-examined by evidence leader advocate Nazreen Bawa.

She served as the Southern Africa regional coordinator of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association, Africa president of the International Ombudsman Institute and is its current treasurer.

Zulu-Sokoni testified that parliament should have protected Mkhwebane from suspension and not use court rulings against her.

READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: ConCourt hears appeal applications over Mkhwebane’s suspension

Unfair for court to impose costs

She also noted it was unfair for the courts to impose personal costs orders Mkhwebane, who was bearing the blame on behalf of an entire office.

“I don’t think the executive arm of government should be allowed to get back at the ombudsman using the court system because these are the costs which are supposed to be borne by the respondent institution and then they are cast upon the public protector personally,” she said.

Bawa emphasised the South African constitution required a higher standard for the removal of judges, requiring gross misconduct and gross incompetence, while the grounds for the public protector were misconduct and incompetence. Zulu-Sokoni said there should be other ways to punish Mkhwebane.

“But I have no problem with the reasoning of the court,” she said.

READ MORE: Mkhwebane’s suspension ‘could be in conflict’ with international conventions