Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is one step away from being named as South Africa’s new public protector. Last night the National Assembly gave her the 60% majority yes vote that she needed to make her appointment all but permanent. Her nomination was officially approved with 263 votes in favour to 79 against and one abstention.

President Jacob Zuma now only has to sign her into office. He may object, but it seems unlikely as Mkhwebane received the unequivocal support of the ANC, as well as most other political parties. In the case of Zuma objecting, the ad hoc committee will again deliberate to choose a name from the four remaining final nominees, and the vote process will happen again.

The DA was the only party to oppose the nomination, saying it had reason to believe Mkhwebane was a “spy”. To date the party does not appear to have produced proof of their allegations.

However, the overwhelming sentiment was that Mkhwebane deserves a chance to prove herself.

Transparency and public participation

The selection process was characterised by transparency and public participation, said ad hoc committee member Prof Christian Msimang, speaking on behalf of the Inkatha Freedom Party. “Chairperson Dr Makhosi Khoza guided us in the principles of openness and objectivity.”

Other parties praised the contribution outgoing public protector Thuli Madonsela had made in furthering adherence to the Constitution and holding perpetrators of wrongdoing to account. “She cast the net of accountability wider than it has been before,” said committee member Sibusiso Mncwabe of the National Freedom Party.

Several parties, as well as Khoza, praised the role of civil society organisations in the process, singling out Corruption Watch for its part.

Deidre Carter of Cope said: “We commend Corruption Watch who sensitised the public to the importance of the process.” The party abstained in the vote.

“We commend Dr Khoza and civil society, Corruption Watch especially, for their contribution,” said committee member Steve Swart of the African Christian Democratic Party.

He said that there is ample oversight in the form of Public Protector staff, the courts, civil society, and others. “There are allegations against Advocate Mkhwebane, which if proven will be serious, but there is recourse to the court.” Swart reminded those present that there were similar concerns about Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who has shone in his role as the head of the judiciary, as well as Madonsela herself initially.

The EFF’s Floyd Shivambu, who also sat on the ad hoc committee, said that if Mkhwebane failed to act independently the party would seek a judicial review.