Parliament to consider request to remove Public Protector on Tuesday

Busisiwe Mkhwebane (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)
Busisiwe Mkhwebane (File, Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Parliament's constitutional process to set up an inquiry into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office will get underway this week, earlier than expected.

Initially, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services would have had their hands full with former Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba this week, but this process has been stalled after Parliament agreed not to proceed with it, pending Jiba's court application to review the Mokgoro report and President Cyril Ramaphosa's subsequent firing her.

The Public Protector's matter was initially set down for next week, but on Monday morning it appeared on the list of committee meetings for Tuesday and, later in the day, the committee released a statement confirming that they would deal with the matter.

The committee will also receive a briefing on the appointment process of the Deputy Public Protector.

On two occasions during the 5th Parliament, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen unsuccessfully attempted to have the portfolio committee institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane.

As the 6th Parliament got going, the DA again asked for such a process, which National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise referred to the committee.

Amid a slew of court findings against Mkhwebane, the calls for the process to be expedited increased from the DA and civil society organisations.

Last week, Modise lalso said that the process had to be fast-tracked, the Sunday Times reported.

Previously, Mkhwebane wrote to Modise to complain that there weren't rules for the process of her removal and threatened court action. Modise reportedly didn't take kindly to Mkhwebane's tone.

Section 194 of the Constitution prescribes the following for the removal of the Public Protector: "The Public Protector may only be removed from office on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence, a finding to that effect by a committee of the National Assembly and the adoption by the National Assembly of a resolution calling for that person's removal from office."

This resolution needs to be supported by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.

The president may suspend a Public Protector at any time after the start of the proceedings of a committee of the National Assembly for the removal of that person, and must remove a person from office upon adoption by the National Assembly of the resolution calling for that person’s removal.

The Constitution does not stipulate the process to be followed. It does, however, empower Parliament to determine its own processes.

Mkhwebane recently made adverse findings against Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Both have taken her reports into them on judicial review.

The EFF has come out in strong support of Mkhwebane.

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