Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Wednesday survived a Democratic Alliance proposal that Parliament should start procedures for her removal.
After considering a 25-page defence submitted by Mkhwebane, who was not present, the justice portfolio committee voted that it was too premature to begin proceedings.
ANC MPs on the committee said there was an application along similar lines still pending in the high court in Pretoria.
“I second the proposal made by honourable [Stan] Maila that it is too premature to entertain the matter now,” said Maila’s colleague, ANC MP Sello Tleane.
EFF MP Thilivhali Mulaudzi abstained on the grounds that he needed more time to consult the party, and DA MP James Selfe objected to the ANC’s counter-proposal.
Earlier this year, DA MP John Steenhuisen proposed that procedures be expedited to remove Mkhwebane from office.
Performance ‘speaks for itself’
The DA wanted to probe Mkhwebane’s decisions in office since being appointed in 2016, which it says have been “incompetent” — one of the three criteria in which the fitness of the Public Protector can be tested by law.
This included a high-profile court review that criticised her ABSA-CIEX report in February.
However, in her defence, Mkhwebane said she was selected out of 78 nominations, subjected to a rigorous recruitment process, and then received 60% of the National Assembly’s support when her appointment was recommended and put to the vote.
She submitted that fitness to hold office is not grounds for removal of the Public Protector as alleged by Steenhuisen, and that there was no charge of serious misconduct against her to justify starting the removal process.
She said her performance “speaks for itself”, with her office finalising 21 176 out of 25 288 complaints in the year 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Statistics for 2017/18 are still being audited and may change slightly.
Having reports taken on review is also not grounds for her removal.
In her 20 months in office she has published 50 investigation reports and of those, 12 were taken on judicial review. She claimed that only the ABSA report had parts of it set aside.
“As the committee may be aware, and dealt with herein below, taking any of my [reports] on judicial review does not mean that I am incompetent or incapable of performing my function,” she wrote.
She said the criticism aimed at her from some quarters had been “savage” and she was concerned about the utterances of some committee members about her.
She asked that some MPs be recused, but did not name them.
She said Steenhuisen was behaving in an unconstitutional manner and his proposed course of action threatens the constitutionally guaranteed independence of her office and position.
“We are appalled,” said Selfe after the committee adjourned. — News 24