The Democratic Alliance (DA) wants one of the first tasks of the newly installed National Assembly to be the removal of Busisiwe Mkhwebane as Public Protector.
The official opposition has written to Speaker Thandi Modise calling for Parliament to institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane.
The party says it is because of the ruling by the Pretoria high court which found Mkhwebane’s report into the Vrede dairy farm project ‘invalid and unconstitutional’.
The Estina dairy farm saga, in Vrede in the Free State was supposed to be an empowerment project for more than one hundred black farmers. Public money to the tune of R200-million , which was meant to benefit the farmers instead found its way to the bank accounts of the controversial Gupta family.
Mkhwebane’s initial report made no findings against former Free State Premier and now ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, and Mosebenzi Zwane who was Free State Agriculture MEC at the time.
Zwane — who was also mineral resources MEC in former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet — was sworn in as a member of Parliament on Wednesday.
“We have long stated that Mkhwebane is not the right person to serve as the head of such a critical Chapter 9 body. It is for this reason the DA has submitted another request to the Speaker of the National Assembly in terms of Section 194 of the Constitution, to have the Public Protector removed,” DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said.
It wouldn’t be the DA’s first attempt to remove Mkhwebane.
Just before the last Parliament was dissolved in February, the National Assembly’s justice committee turned down the DA’s call for her removal.
At the time, former committee chairperson Madipoane Mothapo called the attempt “premature”.
Steenhuisen says Mkhwebane has shown herself to be an inadequate public protector with some questionable reports tabled, including stepping outside her mandate while calling for a constitutional amendment with regards to the South African Reserve Bank.
She also consulted Zuma’s legal advisers and discussed further recommendations not included in her initial report into the ABSA/Bankorp bailout.
“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. In addition to this, she has also brought the independence of her office into question,” Steenhuisen said.
National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise will most likely leave any decision to go ahead with probe into Mkhwebane’s conduct in the hands of the Justice Committee.
Parliamentary committees are yet to be formed and chairpersons have not been appointed.
This will only happen after President Cyril Ramaphosa makes an announcement on the restructuring and size of government and Cabinet appointments.
Parliamentary committees usually oversee a corresponding government department over which they must conduct oversight.