South African President Cyril Ramaphosa Thursday defeated Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in a court case concerning his ally Pravin Gordhan.
A high court judge found that Ramaphosa had acted reasonably in not immediately disciplining Gordhan, the Public Enterprises minister, over a decision regarding the retirement of a tax official.
The president secured an “interdict” from the court, meaning he does not have to implement disciplinary action against Gordhan while Gordhan appeals against the finding by Mkhwebane.
Thursday’s ruling was the third high-profile court defeat for Mkhwebane in as many weeks, and she has come under public scrutiny for her investigations.
By targeting President Ramaphosa and Gordhan, the president’s supporters say, Mkhwebane is acting as a proxy for a faction in the ruling African National Congress party that is aligned with former president Jacob Zuma and opposes Ramaphosa’s agenda.
Mkhwebane denies playing politics, saying she is simply holding senior officials to account.
The judge criticized Mkhwebane for pushing for the disciplinary action against Gordhan to be implemented before his appeal of the public protector’s findings could be heard.
Mkhwebane also accuses Ramaphosa of deliberately misleading parliament over a 2017 donation to his campaign for the governing African National Congress party.
Ramaphosa has said he will urgently challenge the findings, which he says are flawed.
However, the investigation is still a headache for a president who has staked his reputation on cleaning up deep-rooted corruption and reviving Africa’s most developed economy.