South Africa’s highest court has ruled that the public protector – the state official in charge of investigating corruption – lied under oath and acted in bad faith.
In a devastating judgment the constitutional court said the public protector, Busisiwe Mkwebane, should pay a fine for her dishonesty.
For a young and fractious democracy, this is a significant moment.
Mrs Mkhwebani must pay some £50,000 ($62,000) in legal fees from her own pocket. A fine, in other words.
This particular case involves a complicated dispute between the public protector and South Africa’s Reserve Bank.
But many of Mrs Mkhwebani’s recent anti-graft reports have become swamped by scandal – and led to claims that she’s siding with a corrupt and marginalised faction within the governing ANC.
The courts have repeatedly overruled her, and President Cyril Ramaphosa is now challenging another of her reports, which found he had lied to parliament.
The public protector is supposed to be politically neutral. But the Constitutional Court’s devastating judgement will add weight to claims that Busisiwe Mkhwebani is involved in a dirty-tricks campaign to undermine the president and halt his campaign against high-level corruption.
Mrs Mkhwebane has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Reacting to the judgement today, she noted that the court had not been unanimous.