Cape Town - Parliament’s Section 194 inquiry committee into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness for office resumed on Wednesday and immediately became embroiled in a heated row over whether the committee’s chairperson should recuse himself.
At the same time, Mkhwebane was again without her chosen legal representation at the inquiry following the sudden hospitalisation of her recently appointed attorney, Hope Chaane.
The renewed demand for recusal came in a letter from Mkhwebane to inquiry chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi dated Tuesday, June 6, in which she said she wanted the inquiry postponed until her attorney recovered and could brief her counsel of choice.
Reading the letter to the committee, Mkhwebane said if the inquiry could not be postponed, she wanted arrangements made for Dyantyi’s recusal to be heard pending the investigation into an alleged bribery scandal that involved him, ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina and the late ANC MP Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
Dyantyi responded to this demand by saying an oral application was unacceptable; he would only accept a recusal application in writing and it would have to be submitted by 1pm on Friday this week. He said he would reply in writing by 1pm on Monday.
During the heated debate that followed Mkhwebane’s demands, committee members representing the ANC, the DA, the Freedom Front Plus and the ACDP argued there was no need for Dyantyi to recuse himself until the matter was formally brought to the committee or if Parliament made a decision to recall him.
However, representatives of the EFF, including party leader Julius Malema, and the African Transformation Movement insisted Dyantyi recuse himself “to preserve the integrity of the process”.
On Monday, Parliament’s Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said she was concerned about the bribery allegations against members of the committee, and that she had advised Mkhwebane to report the matter to the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests.
Mapisa-Nqakula told Mkhwebane that once she had filed her complaint with the Ethics Committee, she should “afford the committee an opportunity to conduct its investigation”.
The Speaker was referring to news reports that Mkhwebane’s husband, Mandla Skosana, had officially handed over a collection of WhatsApp messages between him and Joemat-Pettersson to support his claim that three MPs tried to extort a R600 000 bribe from him to quash the inquiry.
The committee adjourned and will reconvene on Friday morning.