Cosatu hits out at 'ill-qualified' Mkwebane, asks Ramaphosa to halt acting on her reports for now

President Cyril Ramaphosa should set aside all Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane reports until her competency and trustworthiness has been ascertained, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said in a statement issued late on Friday evening.

Cosatu said it has noted the Public Protector's reports regarding a number of investigations that her office has been conducting.

"The Federation, while not taking an easy path of proclaiming anyone found guilty by the Public Protector to be a shining innocent, feels that she is ill-qualified to make any judgements against anyone," the union said. In its view, the Pretoria High court ruling on the Estina matter that said that she failed in her duties under both the Public Protector Act and under the Constitution in investigating and reporting on the dairy farm project, was "a harsh indictment" on her.

"This has called into question her competency and credibility... (and) her very disappointing standards in doing her job," Cosatu continued.

It appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to be fair-minded and not to act on any of her reports until the High Court ruling has been scrutinised and dealt with.

In the meantime, the union does not believe the office of the Public Protector is in any position to decide whether someone is guilty or not.

"There is a lot a stake in the country's fight against state capture and corruption and the Public Protector needs to prove that she has the credibility and the brain muscle to do the heavy lifting that her office requires," said Cosatu.

"We need to hold all South Africans accountable for their actions using believable and upright people and institutions."

Mkhwebane announced earlier on Friday that she has found Gordhan guilty of "improper conduct" over his approval of then-deputy SA Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Ivan Pillay's early retirement and pay out.

In her remedial findings, Mkhwebane urged Ramaphosa to take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan for what she deemed to have been a violation of the Constitution. She also said steps had to be taken to recover the money.

Gordhan and Pillay, on the other hand, have since indicated that they intend to take Mkhwebane's report and findings on review.

The Public Protector also cleared Deputy President David Mabuza from any involvement in the irregular procurement of four luxury vehicles and irregular payments for the Nelson Mandela memorial service in the province while he was Mpumalanga premier.

In the report released on Friday, Mkhwebane said the purchase of a BMW X5, Audi A8, a Lexus and a Range Rover Vogue for Mabuza, worth R5m, was irregular, while R70m was irregularly spent in the irregular appointment of Carol Bouwer Productions to manage the memorial, reported Fin24 sister publication, News24.

It was, however, his Director-General at the time Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, whom Mkhwebane has found to be culpable.

Mkhwebane recommended the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, where Mkhize now works, should be informed about the outcome of the investigation and that appropriate action be taken.

She added the Mpumalanga Provincial Treasury and the Hawks should investigate Mkhize.