Despite the noise about the process being “unfair”, the Committee for Section 194 Enquiry into the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will proceed with its inquiry into Public Protector’s fitness to hold office after her suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
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The committee has been authorised to call witnesses and experts generally accept the political process.
Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said the process dealing with Mkhwebane was “absolutely” a fair and legal process which gave her the opportunity to define her innocence”. “The government is following a due process and protocol according to a fair legal principle of the audi alteram partem rule where everyone is given the opportunity to provide their view, along with relevant facts,” he said.
“We know this is a very sensitive issue and highly politicised, therefore the process of decision making in order to acquire legitimacy should be free, fair and open.”
Committee chair Qubudile Dyantyi said the summoning of any person, recommended by evidence leaders or identified by the committee in the course of gathering evidence to appear before it and provide a sworn written statement, was material to the assessment of the motion.
“The above resolution would apply where such a person was invited to provide oral evidence before the committee and does not voluntarily agree to do so. “The committee agreed that summoning would be the last resort, as assistance would first be sought voluntarily,” he said.
Dyantyi called on all committee members to act in an impartial manner and to be cautious of public statements that could impact negatively on this process. “This process is a twin task. We made it clear that people can provide evidence to either exonerate the public protector or evidence that can add to the motion that she is unfit to hold office.”
Dyanti said it was “an exercise in accountability to look into the public protector’s fitness to hold office”. “We will work only with the evidence before us.”
Political analyst Levy Ndou said the inquiry had the potential to assist everyone, including Mkhwebane’s case and this would now give her the opportunity to prove herself and state her side of the story. “If what she is doing is in the best interest of South Africa, then this is her chance. By providing facts she will be able to prove those who are saying she is unfit, wrong,” he said.
Ndou added that the unfortunate part of this ongoing situation was the politisation of the public protector’s role and activities surrounding her. “Nobody has to fall into the thread of politics if that person occupies such a position. “This is the temptation that people who occupy such offices should never have to fall into because it compromises themselves as individuals and it compromises the office of the Public Protector.”
Dyanti said the committee was in receipt of a “referral from the Speaker of a Protected Disclosure made in December 2019 by a former employee in the Office of the Public Protector, which will be added to the bundle of submissions that are now being prepared for members and advocate Mkhwebane”.