National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise is satisfied that the DA’s new motion for proceedings to be initiated to remove Busisiwe Mkhwebane as public protector complies with the Rules of the National Assembly.
On Friday, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone announced the party had submitted further “evidence” – of more than 7,000 pages – to Modise of a new motion after withdrawing their previous one.
On Tuesday, parliament confirmed Modise was considering the new motion, and on Wednesday, a statement was released to confirm she was satisfied it complied with the rules.
The next step in the proceedings is the establishment of a panel of three people to determine whether the DA’s motion makes a prima facie case for Mkhwebane’s removal.
“The speaker has, therefore, written to political parties represented in the National Assembly, inviting them, afresh, to nominate suitable people to serve on an external panel of experts,” read the statement from parliament’s spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo.
“Parties have until March 6 to submit names to the speaker.”
The three-member panel must be fit and proper South Africans who, collectively, have legal and other skills as well as experience to conduct a preliminary assessment of the motion proposing a section 194 inquiry.
Within 30 days of its appointment, the panel must conduct and finalise its preliminary assessment and make a recommendation to the speaker.
“Section 194 of the Constitution and the National Assembly’s rules allow any member of the National Assembly to submit a substantive motion to initiate a procedure to remove the holder of a public office. National Assembly Rule 128(1) allows a member who has given notice of a motion to withdraw it at any time before being called upon to move the motion in the National Assembly,” read Mothapo’s statement.
Mazzone lodged the initial motion with Modise in December, three days after the National Assembly adopted rules for the removal of the head of a Chapter 9 institution like the public protector.
Last month, Modise gave the green light to the initial motion, which paved the way for the appointment of a panel of three people to decide whether there is a prima facie case for Mkhwebane’s removal.
Modise would have appointed this panel – after receiving nominations from all parties in parliament – by the end of this month. This process now falls away.
On Friday, Mazzone said in a statement: “In her almost three years in office, Mkhwebane has successfully tarnished the credibility, authority and independence of the Office of the Public Protector.”
She listed some of Mkhwebane’s “notable blunders” as follows:
- The Constitutional Court found that she acted in bad faith and was not honest with the High Court regarding her investigation process in the Reserve Bank matter.
- She jumped to the defence of former president Jacob Zuma by laying criminal charges against former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for releasing the transcript of her interview with him.
- In late 2019, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed her appeal to overturn Judge Ronel Tolmay’s scathing judgment on her handling of the Estina dairy farm matter and the report thereof.
- She was also recently reported to have celebrated her 50th birthday party with individuals allegedly involved in state capture – she chose to spend an evening sipping champagne with the very people she should be investigating, the party said.
“The DA hopes that the disgraceful chapter that was Mkhwebane’s rule at the helm of a once-proud Chapter 9 institution will soon come to an end and that we can begin the work to build a strong and capable Public Protector’s office that upholds the rule of law and protects South Africans from state abuses. The DA will not rest until South Africans are given the Public Protector they deserve,” Mazzone said at the time.
Mkhwebane has railed against the institution of removal proceedings against her and filed an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court, asking for an interdict to halt the parliamentary process. She argued that the rules were illegal and unconstitutional.
Apart from the interdict to halt the removal proceedings, Mkhwebane also asked the court to declare the rules for her removal unlawful and for an order to compel Modise to provide her with the reasons for her decision to approve Mazzone’s motion.