The portfolio committee on justice on Tuesday voted not to act against Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on the basis that it was for the National Assembly to determine her fitness to hold office, not the courts.
“This discretion cannot be replaced by the court’s view, however pertinent,” the draft report, adopted by six votes to three, reads.
The votes in support of Mkwebane against a call by the Democratic Alliance for her removal came from the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen had asked for the committee to begin proceedings to remove her from office following the Pretoria High Court’s scathing findings against her in the review of her report on the Absa-Bankorp matter.
The court set aside the report, which had ordered Absa to repay the Reserve Bank R1.125 billion, and directed Mkhwebane to personally pay a portion of the Reserve Bank’s legal costs. The court found that she had failed to be impartial.
The Public Protector is taking the costs order to the Constitutional Court.
The portfolio committee’s report notes that “legal proceedings related to the judgment are ongoing”.
“As such, the committee believes that it would be premature for removal proceedings to be instituted against the public protector.”
The adoption of the report was vehemently opposed by the DA and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).
ACDP MP Steve Swart and DA colleague Glynnis Breytenbach said they had found Mkhwebane’s attitude towards the committee when she appeared before it insulting.
Breytenbach said the report smacked of a desire on the part of the ANC in the run-up to the May elections “to protect poor decisions they made in the past”, among them appointing her in the twilight of the Zuma administration, to replace Thuli Madonsela as the head of the watchdog body.
EFF MP Thilivhali Mulaudzi said the party had changed its mind about Mkhwebane after initially supporting her appointment and then declaring that it had been mistaken in doing so. He denied suggestions that the EFF was aligning its position with that of a faction in the ruling party opposed to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“You know the English saying – a wise man always changes his mind.”
He dismissed the Pretoria High Court’s finding that she had exceeded her powers by suggesting changes to the mandate of the Reserve Bank, stating: “They got it wrong.”
Breytenbach said the DA would draft a minority report on the matter.
– African News Agency