National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has shot back at Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s bid to get her slapped with a personal costs order in the ongoing litigation over the rules for unseating heads of Chapter 9 institutions.
Mkhwebane’s legal team this week described Modise’s handling of the impeachment process the public protector is currently facing as “reckless”.
But Modise’s counsel retaliated, saying she is just doing her job.
“The real issue is whether it’s appropriate for a senior officer of the state, the public protector, to level charges of this nature against someone who’s merely doing their duty, on such a flimsy foundation,” advocate Andrew Breitenbach, for the speaker, argued in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday.
This as the hearing of the public protector’s legal challenge to the rules got into its second day.
On Monday, Mkhwebane’s counsel, advocate Dali Mpofu, put up 10 grounds on which he argued for a punitive personal costs order against the speaker – holding her liable for 20% of the legal bills the case had racked up.
But last year, the public protector launched an unsuccessful urgent application for an interdict to stop Modise from forging ahead with the process.
And Breitenbach on Tuesday cited the court’s judgment in that matter, where it found the public protector had “completely lost sight of the responsibilities of the National Assembly in carrying out its constitutional mandate in holding [her] to account” and failed “to take into account the public interest in ensuring that the proceedings under the new rules are proceeded with, in the light of the serious charges which have been preferred against [her]”.
He argued Modise had “merely been performing her duties as required by the constitution and the new rules” and had done so “reasonably and in good faith”.
The motion for Mkhwebane’s removal from office was brought last February, and centres on her investigations into the bailout the SA Reserve Bank provided for what was then Bankorp during the late ’80s and early ’90s; as well as the Vrede dairy farm scandal and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority.
All the reports Mkhwebane penned on the back of these investigations have – at least in part – been set aside by the courts. She’s now challenging the rules for her removal, which were only adopted three days before the motion was moved and have never been called into play before.
Part of her challenge is focused on the fact the rules do not allow her full legal representation during the process. The case continues.