Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is to face parliamentary impeachment proceedings.
This comes after National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise appointed an independent review panel last year to assess if there was prima facie evidence Mkhwebane committed misconduct, was incapacitated or incompetent after the DA tabled a motion for her removal from office.
The panel comprised retired Constitutional Court justice Bess Nkabinde, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza and advocate Johan de Waal.
In a statement on Monday, Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the panel found substantial information that constitutes prima facie evidence of incompetence and misconduct against the public protector.
“The rules of the [National] Assembly stipulate that once the panel has made its recommendations, the speaker must schedule these for decision by the House. If the House decides the inquiry should go ahead, it must be referred to a special section 194 committee for a formal inquiry. The speaker must inform the president of any action or decision coming from the recommendations,” Mothapo said.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone welcomed the findings by the independent panel.
“We are pleased by these findings and urge Parliament to institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane without delay,” Mazzone said in a statement.
“The DA believes that it is of the utmost importance that Mkhwebane be removed as Public Protector and someone competent, credible and independent is appointed in this post to regain the public’s trust in this crucial Chapter 9 institution and to ensure that once again the interests of the vulnerable will be protected above the interests of the politically connected.”
Last week, Parliament revealed the panel submitted its report to Modise.
Mkhwebane is on sabbatical leave to get some rest, her office said in January.
The leave commenced on 15 January and is expected to end on 31 March.
Independent review panel findings
Examples of incompetence found by the panel include: “the prima facie evidence demonstrating the PP’s [public protector’s] overreach and exceeding the bounds of her powers in terms of the Constitution and the PP Act; repeated errors of the same kind such as incorrect interpretation of the law and other patent legal errors; failure to give audi (right to be heard) to the affected persons; incorrect factual analysis; sustained lack of knowledge to carry out duties and/or inability or skill to perform the duties effectively and efficiently as required by the Constitution. According to the panel, these instances, cumulatively assessed, meet the threshold of prima facie evidence of sustained incompetence.”
The panel also found sufficient information that constitutes prima facie evidence of misconduct.
“The examples given include the following: the PP’s failure to reveal that she had meetings with the former president of the Republic and the State Security Agency; to honour an agreement with the Sarb thereby displaying non-compliance with a high standard of professional ethics as required by the Constitution and to investigate the third complaint regarding the alleged involvement of certain politicians in the Vrede Dairy Project.
“Her alleged modification of the final report and providing untruthful explanation to a review court as to why same was done as well as her patently wrong findings on money laundering in the CR17 Campaign matter and her unexplained doubting of the bona fides of the President (the latter found to constitute prima facie evidence of both incompetence and misconduct).”