Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services has voted by majority not to probe Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for possible fast-track removal from her constitutionally mandated position.
A draft report on whether parliament should expedite her firing in the wake of an embarrassing court judgment against her, and other complaints, had earlier advised against this.
The report was adopted by six MPs against three, the acting chairperson, Mothapo Moremadi, confirmed.
This increases the odds of the divisive incumbent surviving her seven-year term, although the DA remains determined to see the back of her.
eNCA’s parliamentary reporter Annika Larsen had earlier revealed on Tuesday morning that the justice portfolio committee’s draft report on whether an inquiry should be launched into her fitness to hold office had simply “kicked the can further down the road”.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen in February last year requested the probe following the release of Mkhwebane’s report on the Absa Bank/Bankorp scandal, in which she recommended that parliament consider changing the constitution and the powers of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb).
The DA has also taken issue with how Mkhwebane investigated the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm.
The party considers the committee’s decision a disgrace.
A year ago, the high court also set aside Mkhwebane’s so-called Bankorp Ciex report, which found that 1.125 billion needed to be recovered from Absa Bank for a bailout paid to Bankorp by the Reserve Bank during the apartheid era.
The court ordered Mkhwebane to pay 85% of the costs of Absa and the Reserve Bank in her official capacity, but to also personally pay 15% of the costs.
Then finance minister Malusi Gigaba‚ the Reserve Bank and Absa had complained that Mkhwebane had made findings based on information riddled with factual inaccuracies. These included the findings of previous investigations into the Absa-Bankorp lifeboat as well as non-consideration of material facts provided by other parties.
Mkhwebane’s findings, which were effectively rendered null and void by the court, included that government had neglected its constitutional duty by failing to implement the findings of the Ciex report from a company established by a British investigator, Michael Oatley.
Both the DA and the EFF then called for Mkhwebane to resign, along with other civic bodies. The DA said today, though, that the EFF had flip-flopped again and were now once again in favour of her.
A defiant Mkhwebane has maintained she will remain the public protector until the end of her term in 2023.
The DA, which initiated the process last year, yesterday said it had little faith that MPs would agree to forge ahead with their request.
“The public protector’s defence squad from the ANC rallied around her from the onset, making public statements in her defence. This report may turn out to be one excuse after the other, about why there should not be an inquiry into her fitness to hold office,” said Steenhuisen, correctly anticipating today’s outcome.
The committee’s deliberations on December 5 led to a majority of MPs agreeing that since Mkhwebane was still in the middle of legal proceedings related to the judgment against her, it would be premature to remove her.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said her office was not given a chance to make a submission on the report.
“The public protector was not requested to make a submission on the report. The only time she was afforded an opportunity to make an input was in response to a DA request for an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. That was last year and this was reported on extensively,” said Segalwe.