Parliament’s justice committee has referred the matter to remove advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane from the office of the public protector to the legislature’s rules committee.
This comes after a complaint from Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise that Mkhwebane is not fit for the job, following numerous court judgements against her and her reports into several investigations.
There are currently no rules in place for how a public protector should be investigated by the legislature, despite regulations in the Constitution that a resolution for the removal of the public protector must be adopted with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of MPs in the House.
The DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach urged that the matter be dealt with to the letter of the law.
“It should be made clear to the speaker that the matter is urgent. And that the rules committee deals with it urgently, so that it can come back here so we can deal with the matter of the removal of the public protector,” Breytenbach said.
ANC MP Nomathemba Maseko-Jele said any process that is considered must not appear to be targeting Mkhwebane but should apply to possible future investigations into all heads of chapter nine institutions.
“We need to look broader into covering [all heads of chapter nine institutions], and not just the public protector. It should also look at those who are coming after the public protector.”
Committee chairperson Gratitude Magwanishe agreed, adding that the rules of procedure will be used to cover all state institutions supporting constitutional democracy.
“It covers all chapter nine institutions. There’s general agreement. And we’ll be writing to the speaker and I will sign it today so that the speaker can receive it today. And we will request that this will be dealt with urgently,” he said.
In a statement, Steenhuisen said he supports Parliament first establishing rules on how the public protector should be investigated and possibly removed from office.
“We therefore fully support the decision taken by today’s meeting of the portfolio committee, and are hopeful that it signifies that Parliament is approaching the matter with the care and attention it deserves,’ Steenhuisen said.