Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
- The National Assembly will decide on 16 March whether it will go ahead with an inquiry into Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness as Public Protector.
- The EFF was the only party that didn’t agree to the date.
- Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise said the process must be fair.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, explained how she wants Parliament to handle the independent panel’s report into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane: “We don’t want to be clumsy with this, we don’t want to be over-hasty, we don’t want to drag our feet. We want to be fair.”
The panel’s report was released on Monday.
The panel, consisting of Justice Bess Nkabinde, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza and advocate Johan de Waal, found “substantial information that constitutes prima facie evidence of incompetence”, and “repeated errors” and “sufficient information” that constitutes prima facie evidence of misconduct.
It recommended that Parliament institute an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold her office.
The next step in the process is for the National Assembly to consider the report and then decide whether it wants to proceed with the inquiry.
At Thursday’s meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee, ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina proposed that the National Assembly considers the panel’s report on 16 March, the last week before Parliament breaks for a recess.
There was general support for this date, with the EFF the exception.
“There is no need for us to rush,” said EFF MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi. “Rushing things is not going to help us.”
After secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso, explained the process, several MPs spoke of the need not to delve into the merits of the prima facie case against Mkhwebane.
“We need to be very careful not to prejudge,” said ACDP MP Steve Swart.
He also warned that, if the National Assembly gave the go-ahead for the inquiry, members who have been involved with the Public Protector – for instance, those serving on the Portfolio Committee on Justice – should serve on the committee that will conduct the inquiry.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone, who brought the motion for Mkhwebane’s removal, said Parliament should be applauded for following the rules.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone.
She advised that Parliament make use of “incredibly senior counsel”, so that the process can’t be questioned.
“Parliament has an obligation to act with haste because of the importance of the Chapter 9 institution,” she said, adding that acting with haste doesn’t equate to acting without responsibility.
Modise said it will be the first time that Parliament goes through this process and it should be very careful.
“We don’t want to be clumsy with this, we don’t want to be over-hasty, we don’t want to drag our feet. We want to be fair.”
She said the longer Parliament takes, the more unfair it would be to the Office of the Public Protector.
“It would be a very sad day, though, I must say it upfront, that with the report that all of you party leaders have in our hands, we say we don’t want a committee stage. Because then we would really be putting democracy in this country to shame,” said Modise.
“I think we owe it to the country, to the institution, to the individuals involved, to go through a process which, in the end, all of us can live with. For me, that is very important.”
After the report’s release, the Office of the Public Protector said, in a statement, that Mkhwebane believed she will be cleared of all wrongdoing.