ANC MPs say yes to Mkhwebane inquiry, but no to ad hoc committee

Advocate Busiswe Mkhwebane. (Tshidi Madia, News24)
Advocate Busiswe Mkhwebane. (Tshidi Madia, News24)

Cape Town - ANC MPs in the justice and correctional services portfolio committee voted against establishing an ad hoc committee to handle the process of reviewing the Public Protector's fitness to hold office.

Rather, the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services will handle the process of reviewing the Public Protector's fitness to hold office, despite potential legal drawbacks, MPs voted on Tuesday.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete referred a Democratic Alliance-sponsored proposal to the committee last Thursday.

The DA has criticised Mkhwebane for her handling of the ABSA/Bankorp bailout report, in which the North Gauteng High Court ruled against her.

It also wants an inquiry established to look into Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga for allegedly striking off a case involving municipal fraud.

The committee, though, was split on how to deal with the matter.

Also read: Parliament to discuss Protector’s fitness to hold office

Committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga told members that it would not be possible to do justice to the matter, with such a backlog of legislation to grind through before the end of the year.

He asked whether the committee had the "capacity" to deal with the matter, and if it would not be better to refer it back to Mbete, with a view to setting up an ad hoc committee.

'We have to apply our minds'

DA MP Werner Horn said that, because the Public Protector was appointed by an ad hoc committee, it followed that an ad hoc committee must review her fitness to hold office.

ANC MPs complained that they had not had enough time to consult the documents, the court ruling and the tabling by Mbete.

After a brief break to caucus, ANC whip in the committee Makgathatso Pilane-Majake said the office of the Public Protector was an important one, and that the portfolio committee, not an ad hoc committee, should find time to deal with the issue.

ANC MP Bongani Bongo, who before the break said the issue was a "DA ploy" and "neither here nor there", then changed his tune, saying, "This is a matter of serious national importance and we have to apply our minds."

Bongo had also said he did not want to waste Parliament's time by setting up an ad hoc committee.

ACDP MP Steve Swart, though, raised a pertinent point. He said the committee could be compromised in its discussions, as Mkhwebane had directed the committee to amend the Constitution in the report in question.

'We can't be judges in our case'

Motshekga was also cited as a respondent in court, as chairperson of the portfolio committee.

"We can't be judges in our [own] case," Swart said. The committee would, therefore, be better off recusing itself and allowing an ad hoc committee with impartial MPs to handle the matter, he added.

In the end, the ANC used its majority to keep the matter at portfolio committee level. Five ANC MPs overruled Motshekga's proposal, and voted to keep the matter in-house. The DA, ACDP and EFF voted for Motshekga's proposal with one vote each.

They would make time on Fridays and weekends to debate the matter.

Motshekga said he would recuse himself as chairperson, as he was listed as a respondent in the case against Mkhwebane in the High Court.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, who sponsored the motion, was not present on Tuesday, as she was in court in Pretoria.

*This article has been updated.

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