Prayers planned for Mkhwebane, the 'defender of the poor', as Parliament mulls rules for her removal

Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Tebogo Letsie, Daily Sun)
Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Tebogo Letsie, Daily Sun)

On the same day that MPs decided to ask Parliament's rules committee to draft regulations for the removal of the Public Protector, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) announced it will attend a prayer service for the beleaguered incumbent, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

In a statement, the ATM said its president, Vuyo Zungula, would attend a mass prayer meeting at the Kwamhlanga showgrounds on Friday.

"It is our confident view that the Public Protector is fighting for the people of South Africa and will do whatever it takes to be the defender of the voiceless and poor. We admire her strength and conviction and urge her not to be shaken amid the negative press," read the statement.

"The African Transformation Movement, in support of the Public Protector and representing the people of South Africa, calls for support of the Public Protector."

READ: Masina slams Ramaphosa, praises Mkhwebane: 'She is under attack'

On Tuesday morning, the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services unanimously decided to refer the matter of an inquiry into Mkhwebane's suitability as Public Protector to the rules committee. This committee will be asked to draft rules that would serve as a guideline for the removal of any Chapter 9 institution's head, such as the Public Protector.

The ANC study group on justice welcomed the decision.

"Currently, Section 194(1) of the Constitution provides for the removal of the Public Protector on the grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. The Constitution also states that should a committee in the National Assembly find such an adverse finding against the Public Protector, then the incumbent would be removed from the Chapter 9 institution," read a statement from ANC MP Hishaam Mohamed, the ANC's whip on the committee.

"However, despite this provision, the Constitution does not explicitly state the mechanism that should be employed to remove an individual from the Office of the Public Protector. Therefore, it is with this in mind that Parliament's rules committee has been tasked with drafting a set of rules that will dictate what procedure should be followed when removing the Public Protector, or the head of any other Chapter 9 institution from office."

He said Chapter 9 institutions like the Office of the Public Protector was a cornerstone of South Africa's democracy and played a crucial role in keeping members of the executive accountable.

'Fair, transparent and objective'

"We as the ANC study group on justice and correctional services will ensure that this process is fair, transparent and objective, in line with the values and beliefs of South Africa's Constitution," Mohamed added.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen, who asked Parliament to institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane, welcomed the committee's decision.

"The DA has since obtained a legal opinion that recommends Parliament should first adopt rules governing how removal proceedings in terms of section 194 should be conducted, in order to ensure that all parties enjoy legal and procedural certainty," Steenhuisen said in a statement.

"We therefore fully support the decision taken by today's meeting of the portfolio committee, and we are hopeful that it signifies that Parliament is approaching the matter with the care and attention it deserves."

He said the DA does not believe Mkhwebane was up to the job, adding the party would not rest in its efforts to "ensure that South Africans are given the Public Protector they deserve".

The EFF has in recent months defended Mkhwebane vociferously, however, their representative on the committee, Thilivhali Mulaudzi, did not attend the meeting. The ATM's sole MP, Zungula, is an alternate member of the committee and he too was absent.

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