Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
9 Jun 2022
10:03 pm

Another Abramjee? – Timing of Mkhwebane’s suspension questioned

Molefe Seeletsa

A judgment on the Public Protector's interdict application is expected to be delivered.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during a media briefing on 12 December 2019 in Pretoria. Picture: Gallo Images/Daily Sun/Raymond Morare

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s suspension from her office has raised some eyebrows from the opposition.

On Thursday, the Presidency confirmed that Mkhwebane has been suspended with immediate effect.

Mkhwebane, the Presidency said, will remain suspended until her impeachment process, which is being handled by Parliament’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Section 194 Inquiry, has been completed.

The suspension came after the Public Protector submitted her reasons on the matter to the President Cyril Ramaphosa on 27 May.

Ramaphosa previously wrote to Mkhwebane on 17 March asking her to explain why he should not suspend her and gave her 10 days to respond.

This, however, was delayed due to the Public Protector’s litigation – including her interdict application, which sought to halt Parliament’s impeachment process and prevent Ramaphosa from suspending her.

‘Eve of the judgment’

The judgment in the interdict application – heard by the Western Cape High Court on 18 and 19 May – was reserved.

Now it has emerged that the court’s full bench is expected to delivering their ruling on Friday.

This is according to United Democratic Movement (UDM) Bantu Holomisa, who revealed the matter in Parliament on Thursday.

ALSO READ: Relief sought by Mkhwebane ‘not competent’, Ramaphosa’s lawyer tells court

Following Ramaphosa’s budget vote speech in the National Assembly, Holomisa asked why Mkhwebane was suspended ahead of the court’s ruling.

“That judgment is due to be delivered tomorrow. Why do this on the eve of the judgement. What kind of message are you sending?” he asked.

Holomisa also questioned on whether this might be another judgment leak.

“Perhaps has someone whispered from the judiciary in the same manner we witnessed with Abramjee,” he further said.

SMS leak

Holomisa was speaking of legal consultant Ismail Abramjee’s leaked SMS to sent to Parliament’s lawyer, advocate Andrew Breitenbach.

In the SMS, Abramjee claimed that he had it “on good authority” that the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) had decided to dismiss Mkhwebane’s rescission application.

Mkhwebane had approached the ConCourt with a rescission application in February, seeking an order for the apex court to reverse its February ruling.

Abramjee also claimed in the message that the judgment would be delivered on 29 April, but the ruling only came a week later on 6 May.

READ MORE: Timeline: How Mkhwebane’s impeachment will unfold

Mkhwebane’s lawyer, Dali Mpofu labelled the SMS leak “the biggest scandal to ever hit our courts” during the interdict proceedings last month.

Mpofu said they were confident that “Abramjee is either a sangoma or there is something more serious to it”.

He told the court that Mkhwebane’s interdict hearing, which was postponed on 26 April due to the leak, should be suspended “where there is a possibility” that a ruling may be reversed in light of the Public Protector’s second rescission application.

Mkhwebane already opened a criminal case against Abramjee.

Her office has also since completed its own investigations into the leaked and referred it to both the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Hawks for further investigations.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s office said last week Thursday that its own investigation was close to completion.

Investigations into Ramaphosa

Mkwebane’s suspension comes a day after she confirmed that a complaint was lodged against Ramaphosa for allegedly breaching the Executive Code of Ethics.

This relates to the $4 million robbery at Ramaphosa’s Limpopo farm.

African Transformational Movement (ATM) president Vuyo Zungula filed the formal complaint via a letter, after former State Security Agency (SSA) director-general Arthur Fraser last week laid criminal charges against the president of money laundering, kidnapping and corruption.

READ MORE: Mabuza says people should not ‘jump the gun’ over demands for Ramaphosa’s resignation

Mkhwebane also indicated that the investigation and report into the incident would be completed in 30 days.

Other investigations by the Public Protector are related to the controversial South African Air Force flight to Zimbabwe in 2020, on which senior ANC officials received a lift, allegations of judicial capture, and claims that Ramaphosa knew about the abuse of state funds during the ANC’s elective conferences.