/ 5 September 2023

Ramaphosa says Mkhwebane has ‘no right in law’ to return to work, and her office agrees

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Suspended Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Deaan Vivier/Gallo)

Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s suspension remains effective, said the office of the public protector after she announced that she would return to work on Tuesday. 

“The institution acknowledges the importance of the subject matter and hereby advises that the [suspended] public protector is not an employee of the PPSA [Public Protector South Africa],” said spokesperson Ndili Msoki.

Mkhwebane’s decision comes despite a directive from President Cyril Ramaphosa saying she has “no right or entitlement in law to return to office” pending the finalisation of the proceedings by the [parliamentary] committee established in terms of section 194 of the Constitution.

Mkhwebane posted on social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, that she had written a letter to the president on Monday notifying him that she intended to return to work on 5 September and remain there until her term as public protector ended in October.

She said she had received a letter from the chairperson of the section 194 committee dated 24 August, which indicates that the inquiry was finalised on or about 28 August and on the adoption of the committee’s final report on her fitness to hold office.

But Ramaphosa said in a statement released on 4 September that he “disagrees with these contentions” that the proceedings have been finalised.

“Now that the committee has adopted its report, the proceedings which were initiated by the committee will be finalised either when the National Assembly does not adopt a resolution calling for your removal from office; or if the National Assembly does adopt such a resolution, when I act in terms of section 194(3)(b) of the Constitution.

“It is therefore patently clear that the process initiated by the committee is not completed (as your letter suggests) when the inquiry by the committee has been finalised,” his statement read.

Last week, the parliamentary committee investigating Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office adopted its final report, which recommended her permanent removal. The National Assembly is yet to vote on the adoption of the findings. 

On 9 June last year, Ramaphosa signed a Presidential Minute recording his decision to suspend Mkhwebane as public protector until a decision had been made by the section 194 committee.  

The office of the public prosecutor said, “The section 194 committee inquiry is a parliamentary process, and the PPSA is not a party thereto.” 

Mkhwebane’s seven-year term of office expires in October.