'Public Protector is protector of something, but not protector of the public'

The North Gauteng High Court has declared the Public Protector’s report into the Estina dairy farm project in Vrede as unconstitutional and invalid and set it aside.

The application was brought by the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) who stated that Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report was a whitewash as implicated politicians were never interviewed.

At least R200 million in public funds meant for emerging black farmers in the Free State town allegedly flowed to Estina - a company with links to the Gupta family.

Bongani Bingwa talks to the Daily Mavericks's Scorpio's investigative journalist Pauli van Wyk.

The cows died and the farm was run into the ground.

Pauli van Wyk, Investigative journalist - Daily Maverick's Scorpio unit

She says the Public Protector made findings in which she disregarded the involvement of Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Ace Magashule.

The High Court on Monday said the Public Protector acted irrationally by neglecting a complaint laid in May 2016 regarding the project.

Judge Ronel Tolmay found that it was unconstitutional the Public Protector failed in her duties and was dangerously out of touch with her mandate and the Constitution.

Pauli van Wyk, Investigative journalist - Daily Maverick's Scorpio unit

The most blatant failure, the judge said, was she did not investigate the circumstances around the true beneficiaries, the black farmers, and this was disgraceful conduct.

Pauli van Wyk, Investigative journalist - Daily Maverick's Scorpio unit

Mkhwebane did not explain why she removed the findings by her predecessor Thuli Madonsela.

It seems like Public Protector is the protector of something, but not the protector of the public.

Pauli van Wyk, Investigative journalist - Daily Maverick's Scorpio unit

Independent legal and constitutional consultant Phephelaphi Dube talks to Bongani Bingwa about the implications.

The Public Protector's argument that the office cannot run parallel processes to the Zondo Commission does not hold much weight says Dube.

There is nothing in the law which precludes the office of the Public Protector from investigating issues which are already before the Zondo Commission because we need to understand that these are two separate bodies with two distinct mandates.

Phephelaphi Dube, Independent legal and constitutional consultant

The Public Protector's remedial recommendations are binding, she explains.

Her behaviour in this regard is worrying.

Phephelaphi Dube, Independent legal and constitutional consultant

It suggests she does not understand the mandate of the Public Protector's office.

Phephelaphi Dube, Independent legal and constitutional consultant

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