South Africa’s top court ruled that the nation’s graft ombudsman was personally liable for a portion of the legal fees incurred by the central bank when it sought a review of her findings against it that questioned its mandate.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane should pay 15% of the Reserve Bank’s costs, the Constitutional Court ruled in Johannesburg on Monday, upholding an earlier finding by the High Court that Mkhwebane had appealed.
The ruling read by Judge Sisi Khampepe adds to legal woes for Mkhwebane after President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday he will seek an urgent judicial review of her findings that he violated the constitution and executive ethics code when he misled lawmakers about a campaign donation. Since she took over the office in 2016, she’s been accused of bias by the High Court, and almost a third of the reports issued during her tenure are facing legal challenges.
The cost order relates to a 2017 report in which Mkhwebane said Absa owed the state more than R1 billion ($72 million) after it unduly benefited from government support when it bought Bankorp from Sanlam after the central bank helped keep the lender afloat in the days before apartheid ended. The public protector also proposed changing the Reserve Bank’s inflation-targeting mandate, a bid scrapped by the High Court in August of that year.
The court ordered Mkhwebane’s office to pay Absa’s legal costs for the application and said she should cover a portion of the central bank’s expenses personally.
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