Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and former SA Airways (SAA) chair, Dudu Myeni, may not be friends but when it comes to public accounting on their performance, they share a common attribute – not showing up to answer questions before parliamentary portfolio committee meetings or hearings.
Avoiding having to respond to questions from members of the portfolio committee on justice – some of whom want her removed due to “incompetence” – Mkhwebane has this week chosen not to show up in parliament as expected, until MPs she regarded as “hostile” recused themselves.
Myeni, meanwhile, has chosen to be a regular at president Jacob Zuma’s corruption and fraud trial in KwaZulu-Natal, yet has failed to attend scheduled hearings of the portfolio committee on public enterprises because her lawyer needed time to ponder over legal implications of her attending.
She also claimed to have been too ill to attend a previous hearing.
Not amused is Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert at the University of Cape Town, who has warned that Mkhwebane and Myeni’s stance towards parliament could land them in trouble.
De Vos said: “The fact Public Protector Mkhwebane heads a Chapter 9 institution, an independent body, does not mean she cannot account to the National Assembly. She is accountable to parliament in terms of section 55 of the constitution.
“There is a provision in the constitution which provides for Mkhwebane, Myeni or anybody to be subpoenaed to appear before a parliamentary committee.”
De Vos, who described Mkhwebane and Myeni’s actions as “inappropriate” and “outrageous”, said the two could find themselves summoned by parliament, seen by angry MPs as an appropriate measure to ensure compliance.
“Failure to comply could be regarded as an action similar to contempt of court, punishable by law,” added De Vos.