DA calls on Zuma to suspend Mkhwebane while Parliament holds inquiry

Public Protector Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Jan Gerber, News24)
Public Protector Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Cape Town - The DA has piled the pressure on the ANC and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, calling on President Jacob Zuma to suspend her now that Parliament has agreed to hold an inquiry into her conduct.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Tuesday agreed to hold an inquiry into the under-fire Mkhwebane and her deputy Kevin Malunga's conduct over the past year.

Five ANC MPs agreed to hold a portfolio committee inquiry after rejecting a proposal by committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga that an ad hoc committee was best suited to deliberate, which was supported by opposition parties.

Both ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa and ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu came down hard on their MPs for agreeing to an inquiry.

- Read more: ANC caucus slams Public Protector inquiry despite agreeing to it

The DA has now called on Zuma to suspend Mkhwebane, as allowed for by section 194 of the Constitution.

"President Zuma is empowered to suspend Advocate Mkhwebane, now that the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services has agreed to our request to initiate proceedings to remove her," DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said on Wednesday.

"Advocate Mkhwebane has demonstrated numerous times that she is not fit to hold the office of the Public Protector, and the DA has opposed her appointment from the start."

The section in question says the president may suspend a person from office at any time after the start of proceedings of a committee of the National Assembly for that person's removal.

Bizarrely, both Kodwa and Mthembu seemed unhappy with the decision to hold an inquiry. Kodwa blamed the committee as a whole, calling the proceedings a "witch-hunt", while Mthembu blamed the DA for their "frivolous" motion.

- Read more: Public Protector inquiry a 'witch hunt' - ANC

"The fractures in the ANC caucus has once again come to the fore, with their members serving on the portfolio committee... voting in favour of an inquiry into Advocate Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, only for a subsequent press release to slam it.

A 'publicity stunt'

"Once again, the work of Parliament is undermined by ANC infighting," Breytenbach said.

Mkhwebane was not the person to lead the fight against corruption, she added.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled against Mkhwebane, following a controversial report she published on the ABSA/Bankorp bailout.

In the report, she had directed Parliament to amend the Constitution by taking away the clause compelling the Reserve Bank to protect the rand, a move the DA labelled as gross overreach.

Mthembu, though, said previous Public Protectors have had their reports taken on judicial review, without resulting in an inquiry.

"A report being taken on review does not reflect negatively on the Public Protector, in fact that is part of our jurisprudence," he said on Wednesday.

Mthembu also said the requested inquiry into Malunga had no grounds. The DA requested an inquiry into Malunga for allegedly calling off a probe into alleged municipal fraud in the Ekurhuleni Municipality.

"This investigation is not closed, as the false narrative that is being bandied in the media suggests. This call for an inquiry is, therefore, a ridiculous attempt to get publicity."

He called on the portfolio committee to reject the DA's "publicity stunt", despite it already being voted on by five ANC MPs.

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