Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane lives to fight another day – Parliament’s justice committee voted against the DA’s request to fast-track the process of her removal.
The DA and EFF faced off with the ANC and NFP in this morning’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, with the latter group coming out on top. The meeting had convened to discuss the request made by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen for the committee to begin the process of removing Mkhwebane, whose appointment the party had opposed.
Sibusiso Mncwabe argued that the EFF and DA, who were in favour of Mkhwebane’s removal, had not done enough to convince him that she was incompetent and that the matter between the Public Protector and the DA was a personal one.
The DA raised the matter of the Estina dairy farm as proof of Mkhwebane’s incompetence, but Mncwabe said that it was unfair to chalk that report down to her incompetence.
“On the issue of Estina, I asked myself when I saw on television that the court withdrew the charges on those people. And then later the NPA withdrew the matter. I am asking myself what is this evidence that the Hawks, the NPA, and the police couldn’t find that the Public Protector was supposed to find. I find that very unfair.
“All law enforcement agencies investigated. We can’t then call her incompetent for failing to come up with a different conclusion. My submission from my party is that we will not support the removal of the Public Protector. We are not convinced that there is enough evidence that constitutes her removal and we have not been convinced as to what constitutes gross misconduct in this matter,” Mncwabe said.
Both the DA’s James Selfe and the EFF’s advocate Thilivhali Mulaudzi’s arguments weighed heavily on the Gauteng high court judgments made involving Mkhwebane.
“The issue of her fitness to hold office was highlighted in the Gauteng high court, case number 48123/2017. If you check as stated at paragraph 85 of the judgment, the court says: ‘The Public Protector’s aim was to amend the Constitution to deprive the Reserve Bank of its independent power to protect the value of the currency.’ That is cited on the judgment and paragraph 101. The court said: “We are of the view that a reasonable, objective and informed person, taking into account all these facts, would reasonably have an apprehension that the Public Protector would not have brought an impartial mind to bear on these issues before her. We therefore conclude that it has been proven that the Public Protector is reasonably suspected of bias as contemplated in section 6(2)(a)(iii) of [the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act],” Mulaudzi said, quoting the judgment.
“Those allegations are not allegations. They were entertained in the court. It is a court decision and it is a court order. The Public Protector was here before this committee when we were entertaining the case of Estina and the question was asked why, in her report, she only entertained the government officials and the farmworkers without touching politicians. She agreed that she would investigate. The case has been withdrawn as we speak now. Her report subjected the country to a miscarriage of justice. Her decisions cannot always be the subject of a legal challenge.”
The ANC’s Moloko Maila moved that the committee agree that it was too premature to give Mkhwebane the boot.
Five MPs from the ANC and NFP voted in favour of Maila’s motion. Selfe voted against it, but Mulaudzi abstained, saying he had not yet been given a mandate from his party.