Africa

South Africa's anti-corruption chief Busisiwe Mkhwebane lied under oath

Busisiwe Mkhwebane speaks into a microphone. Image copyright Gallo Images
Image caption Critics of Ms Mkhwebane say she has become a participant in a fight-back by allies of ex-President Jacob Zuma

South Africa's highest court has ruled that a top state official charged with investigating corruption lied under oath and acted in bad faith.

It upheld a court ruling from last year that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had acted in bad faith while investigating a bank bailout.

It is the latest controversy to hit Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

She has been accused of undermining President Cyril Ramaphosa's war against high-level corruption.

Her critics say she is being used by supporters of former President Jacob Zuma, who is facing corruption charges.

Last week, Ms Mkhwebane ruled that Mr Ramaphosa had misled parliament over a campaign donation and should be investigated, following a complaint from the Democratic Alliance opposition party.

Mr Ramaphosa said on Sunday he would be mounting a legal challenge. He denied the allegations, saying her findings were "fundamentally and irretrievably flawed".

Ms Mkhwebane has defended her work, saying it is being done according to the law and the constitution.

Many of Ms Mkhwebane's recent reports have become swamped by scandal and led to claims she is siding with Mr Zuma's faction within the governing African National Congress (ANC), says the BBC's Andrew Harding in Johannesburg.

Mr Ramaphosa replaced Mr Zuma as party leader last year after the then-president became embroiled in numerous corruption scandals.

The courts overruled Ms Mkhwebane on several occasions recently.

Why was she convicted of lying under oath?

The Constitutional Court upheld a High Court ruling that ordered Ms Mkhwebane to pay $62,000 (£50,000) in legal fees in a dispute between her office and South Africa's Reserve Bank.

Ms Mkhwebane previously denied any wrongdoing.

Reacting to the judgement on Monday, she noted that the court had not been unanimous, our reporter says.

The devastating judgement by the Constitutional Court will, however, add weight to claims that Ms Mkhwebane is involved in a dirty tricks campaign to undermine President Ramaphosa and halt his campaign against high-level corruption, our reporter says.

A fight to restore the public protector's integrity

Busisiwe Mkhwebane was backed for the public protector's job by an overwhelming 263 MPs during a debate in the 400-member parliament.

She has only been in the job for less than three years but has already faced two attempts to remove her from office, accusations of political bias and, most scathing of all, a reprimand from the Constitutional Court.

Accusations that she is a spy and Zuma loyalist are not dissimilar to those levelled against her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, who was accused by allies of Mr Zuma of working for the CIA.

These claims have not been substantiated.

Ms Mkhwebane is not one to shy away from a fight. She is also not one to accept defeat, not even from the highest court, it seems.

She is determined to clear her name and restore the public's faith in her as their protector.

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