South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has suspended the country’s top watchdog head with immediate effect.
The suspension is to pave way for an inquiry by a parliamentary group into Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s ability to hold office, the government said Thursday.
Appointed as the country’s anti-corruption boss in 2016 by Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma, Mkhwebane has been dogged by accusations of political bias.
The Public Protector is seen as allied to Zuma’s faction within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which is opposed to Ramaphosa’s faction, a claim she has denied.
Her tenure has been marred by allegations she drove an anti-Ramaphosa campaign and she has been widely criticised for losing several high-profile court judgments.
In 2019, the country’s highest court ruled that she lied under oath and had acted in bad faith while carrying out some of her investigations.
A number of her major investigations have in the past been overruled by the courts, raising questions about her fitness to hold office.
The development comes after the president asked Mkhwebane in March to provide him with reasons not to suspend her, after a parliamentary committee decided to continue with its motion to remove her.
On Wednesday, a statement issued by the Public Protector said Mkhwebane had received unfair criticism and has also been accused by the media and politicians of “targeting” certain members of the executive branch of government and getting involved in party politics.
The South African parliament had in 2020 begun proceedings to oust her amid criticism of her record in office.
A statement released by Ramaphosa’s spokesperson stated that the absence of Mkhwebane from office would not “impede the progress of any investigations that are pending or underway” and that she would be suspended until an impeachment process had been completed by parliament.
The hearings are expected to start next month.