JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane may have lost the main argument on her subpoena powers, but she did enjoy a small victory in Tuesday's Constitutional Court judgment.
The court has unanimously overturned the High Court's order that she personally pay a portion of the costs of her litigation over former President Jacob Zuma's tax records.
The court says while personal costs orders must be granted when warranted; the emerging trend of seeking personal costs against the Public Protector is concerning.
Constitutional Court judge, Mbuyseli Madlanga said, "courts must be wary not to fall into the trap of thinking that the PP is fair game for automatic personal costs awards. Considering the chilling effect that these orders may have on the exercise of the PP's powers including litigating where necessary.
"The Public Protector's office is more important than any incumbent. Needless to say, as the judiciary, we must not be guilty of contributing to the weakening of that office by making indefensible personal costs awards.
"You weaken that office, you weaken our constitutional democracy."