Renewed Public Protector inquiry discussions delayed after Mkhwebane no-show

2018-06-06 15:08
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (File, Netwerk24)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (File, Netwerk24)

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Parliament's justice portfolio committee has agreed to wait until next week before deciding whether to accede to renewed calls for an inquiry into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Mkhwebane was due to appear before the committee on Wednesday to explain to MPs the policy around appointing a special adviser to her office.

Also on the agenda was a renewed call by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen for the committee to consider establishing an inquiry into Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office.

Mkhwebane, however, indicated that she could not attend the meeting to explain the first item due to a "family emergency".

MPs did not take kindly to the late hour at which Mkhwebane notified the committee, having sent the letter at 17:00 on Tuesday.

READ: MPs fume as Mkhwebane requests late postponement of meeting

Mkhwebane's no-show also delayed the committee's discussions on Steenhuisen's request, which was referred to the committee by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete.

Committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga explained that the committee, using the information already available to it, would put questions to Mkhwebane on her fitness to hold office.

In the interests of natural justice, the MPs should wait until she reappears next week to answer for both issues, before deciding if an inquiry is warranted, he suggested.

"Next week, we are asking her to appear before the committee to determine whether or not we proceed with the inquiry," Motshekga said.

"If the committee decides it is proceeding, we will determine a process, and identify complainants who must appear before us."

'No grasp of mandate'

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach once again urged members to institute the inquiry promptly, saying Mkhwebane had "no grasp of her mandate, at all", and was "unfit" to hold office.

Breytenbach said Mkhwebane had demonstrated repeated incompetence following various High Court judgments made against her, including the setting aside of her report into the ABSA/CIEX report.

Breytenbach initially took issue with Motshekga not alerting Steenhuisen to the fact that his letter would be discussed on Wednesday. Steenhuisen had indicated his desire to speak to the committee about his letter.

ALSO READ: Fresh row over Busi's hiring of Mahlangu

Motshekga countered, saying Steenhuisen was not the "sole witness" to the issues at hand. He said if the committee, after giving Mkhwebane the opportunity to respond, decides to hold an inquiry, then all parties, including Steenhuisen, would be given a chance to speak.

"At the moment, there is no inquiry against the Public Protector. There is only a need for the committee to consider whether or not an inquiry will be held," he said.

"Once that determination has been made, the complaints of Steenhuisen, court decisions, other complaints... those people will be called to testify."

Meeting rescheduled for next Wednesday

The committee resolved to write to Mkhwebane asking her to explain her absence in more detail on Wednesday.

It will also ask her to prepare for a meeting next week Wednesday where she will be expected to give answers on both the issues of her special adviser and why the committee should or should not consider holding an inquiry into her competence.

Motshekga, however, cast doubt on the committee's ability to hold any sort of inquiry before or during the two-month parliamentary recess, to begin mid-June.

ALSO READ: Public Protector spends R15m defending reports taken on judicial review

The programme meant many MPs were busy with other ad hoc committee business during the recess, such as the Constitutional Review Committee looking at land expropriation.

This is not the first time the committee has been asked to consider holding an inquiry into Mkhwebane's term as Public Protector.

Having initially agreed to "look into the matter" in the portfolio committee in October last year, ANC MPs backtracked and pulled the plug on a proposed inquiry two weeks later.

The ANC at the time labelled the calls for an inquiry a "witch-hunt", and said Mkhwebane should be allowed to continue her term.

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Read more on:    public protector  |  parliament  |  busisiwe mkhwebane  |  cape town

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