In a letter to Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen, National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise has confirmed that the party’s request for an investigation into the fitness of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold office has been referred to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.
The DA wrote to Modise to request the removal of the public protector towards the end of May following the High Court in Pretoria’s ruling to set aside the public protector’s report into the Vrede Dairy Project, finding it unconstitutional and invalid.
Steenhuisen told The Citizen at the time that the Vrede judgment by the High Court in Pretoria was one example in a long list of Mkhwebane’s failures in her role as public protector.
“She jumped to the defence of former president Jacob Zuma by laying criminal charges against former public protector advocate Thuli Madonsela for releasing the transcript of her interview with him,” said Steenhuisen.
Steenhuisen said the DA had long stated that Mkhwebane was not the right person to serve as the public protector.
“It is for this reason the DA has submitted another request to the speaker in terms of section 194 of the constitution to have her removed,” he said.
In terms of section 194(1) of the constitution, the public protector may be removed from office on a finding of “misconduct, incapacity, or incompetence” by a committee of the National Assembly. This would be followed by the adoption of a resolution on said removal by two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.
“Over the past three years, Mkhwebane compromised the integrity of the office of the public protector by showing a poor understanding of both the law as well as of her own powers,” said Steenhuisen. He said, in addition to this, the public protector had also brought the independence of her office into question.
“The public protector’s office has not only stumbled from one blunder to the next, but the public has also lost faith in her ability to competently and fairly represent their best interests and, for these reasons, she must be removed,” said Steenhuisen.
Mkhwebane was unsurprised at the DA’s attempts to get rid of her, her spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told The Citizen.
“This is, after all, the same party that never supported her appointment from the outset, accusing her of being a spy – a claim they are still failing in court to substantiate two years later,” Segalwe said.
“It is also the same party that led an ill-fated attempt to have the fifth parliament institute a similar process.
“The party speaks from both sides of the mouth. Today, they call for her removal from office. The very next day the party leader is at our front door, asking the public protector to investigate allegations that the president breached the executive code of ethics, with regular requests for progress reports.”
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Gcina Ntsaluba)