Cape Town - In a bizarre series of statements, the African National Congress caucus has tried to distance itself from its decision to hold a portfolio committee inquiry into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
The office of ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu on Wednesday blamed the inquiry on the Democratic Alliance, who had tabled the initial request to begin proceedings.
This after ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa slammed the portfolio committee as a whole on Wednesday for agreeing to an inquiry into Mkhwebane and deputy Kevin Malunga.
Five ANC MPs agreed to hold an inquiry in the portfolio committee 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.
"The office of the ANC chief whip is disturbed by the DA's malicious campaign against Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her deputy, Advocate Kevin Malunga," Mthembu said.
Mthembu said the DA's latest effort to "undermine and question" Mkhwebane was "frivolous", and had no grounds.
The Constitution says the Public Protector can be removed from office by Parliament on a finding of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
"There is currently no finding of any misconduct, incapacity or incompetence against Advocate Mkhwebane by any committee of Parliament," he said.
The North Gauteng High Court 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 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."
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."
Bizarrely, Mthembu asked the portfolio committee to reject the DA's "publicity stunt", despite it already being voted on by five ANC MPs.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, who tabled the request, welcomed the decision on Tuesday.
Opposition parties initially wanted an ad hoc committee established, but the ANC's compromise for a portfolio committee inquiry was still a progressive move.
"The work of [the Public Protector's] predecessor, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, greatly strengthened our democracy and provided a bulwark against state corruption," Breytenbach said on Tuesday.
"However, the inept and discredited work done by Advocate Mkhwebane threatens to undermine public confidence in the Public Protector's office, precisely at a time when South Africa needs it most."
She called on the committee to proceed with the inquiry with the "urgency and seriousness it demands".
The DA first tabled their intention to hold inquiry proceedings on September 20. It was referred to the committee by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on September 28.
A date has not been set for when the portfolio committee will begin the inquiry, but it will be outside normal parliamentary working hours.
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