Public protector's office defends call for constitutional amendment

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office has defended her recommendation that the constitution be amended to expand the mandate of the Reserve Bank.

Her spokesperson‚ Cleopatra Mosana‚ said Mkhwebane’s remedial action refers the chairperson of parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services to the parliamentary process.

“The remedial action taken by (Mkhwebane) is that the chairperson of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services must initiate the process of amending the constitution in the National Assembly in accordance with section 74(5) and 74(6) of the constitution‚” she said.

Mkhwebane has elicited a barrage of criticism after her shock recommendation on Monday to change the constitutional mandate of the central bank‚ with rating agencies‚ economists and even the ruling party warning of disastrous consequences.

Mosana said section 74(5) and 74(6) of the constitution prescribed the process to be followed when intending to amend the constitution‚ saying this process included publishing the particulars of the proposed amendment in the National Government Gazette for public comment.

She said upon receipt of written comments from the public and the provincial legislatures‚ the chairperson of the committee must then introduce the bill in the National Assembly in terms of section 73(2) of the constitution.

“When a bill amending the constitution is introduced‚ the person or committee introducing the bill must submit any written comments received from the public and the provincial legislatures to the Speaker for tabling in the National Assembly. Lastly‚ the Public Protector is empowered‚ by section 182(1)(c) of the constitution‚ to take appropriate remedial action with regard to any improper conduct in the state affairs or conduct in the state affairs which may result in any impropriety or prejudice‚” Mosana said.

Mkhwebane has proposed changing the bank’s focus from implementing monetary policy and targeting inflation to focusing on the socio-economic well-being of citizens.

The proposal forms part of a report on a bailout that the Reserve Bank granted to Bankorp‚ which was later bought by Absa‚ in the 1990s.

The report said the bailout was unlawful and said the government had failed to recover the money from Absa.

The Reserve Bank announced it would take the recommendation on legal review‚ while credit ratings firm S& P Global said any move against the institution could cause South Africa’s rating to dive deeper into junk territory. The ANC also denounced the move.

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