President Cyril Ramaphosa might have given Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane 10 days to justify why she should not be suspended throughout the duration of her impeachment process, but it is likely that her reasons will not be enough to save her this time around.
This is according to Law Society of SA vice-president Mvuzo Notyesi, who says Ramaphosa is procedurally correct to suggest that she temporarily step down.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa wrote to Mkhwebane informing her of his intentions and asking her to give reasons why she should not be suspended. In a statement late that evening, her spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, indicated that she would consult her legal team on Friday morning before announcing a course of action.
“Since Parliament has decided that the impeachment proceedings will ensue, that means the president may suspend her because he’s the appointing authority. In my view, the president is likely to suspend the Public Protector and in such an instance, she may challenge her suspension on various grounds.
“I think the Public Protector will say that Ramaphosa isn’t the right person to suspend her because there’s an investigation she’s [undertaking] about him. This [suspension could] be seen as an attempt to circumvent that investigation,” said Notyesi.
University of Johannesburg professor of public international law, Hennie Strydom, said Mkhwebane should allow due processes to unfold. He also explained that her case was that of someone who looked good on paper, but had been unable to deliver accordingly.
Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana, who has been openly advocating that this process go ahead, says the fact that Mkhwebane has roughly 18 months left in office does not mean that the process should not continue.
“She’s raised a middle finger to the public and she doesn’t give a damn any more. Her public statements and photographs on Instagram have been downright disdainful towards the president, so – ordinarily – any who cared about their reputation would step down.
Concerns about Mkhwebane’s capabilities have been at the centre of her tenure because of several court rulings that have been made against her.
The DA tried unsuccessfully to initiate her removal on several occasions. However, in February 2020, that party finally managed to persuade Parliament to initiate action against her.
Earlier this week, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula informed the president in writing about the decision made by the section 194 committee to continue with its consideration of the motion for the removal of the Public Protector.
Ramaphosa then asked Mkhwebane to explain why he should not suspend her in terms of section 194(3)(a) of the Constitution.
POLITICAL PARTIES REACT
The EFF believes the letter demanding that Mkhwebane plead her case is a “veiled threat”, and that her suspension would be an implementation of the “factional and undemocratic step-aside policy of the ruling party”.
“It’s an objective fact that Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been unwavering in her mandate to hold those in power accountable – and she’s done so indiscriminately, implicating Ramaphosa and his allies. Suspending her is therefore a measure to strip the office of the Public Protector of its teeth.
“It’s premature, rushed and leads us to conclude that it was a decision taken out of fear, rather than being based on rationality,” said the red berets.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said that the process instituted against Mkhwebane was “necessary and urgent, given the numerous negative judgments expressed against the Public Protector”.