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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s suspension not meant to impede any current investigations

In a move which had been expected, President Cyril Ramaphosa last night suspended under-fire Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Pictures: African News Agency

In a move which had been expected, President Cyril Ramaphosa last night suspended under-fire Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Pictures: African News Agency

Published Jun 10, 2022


Cape Town - In a move which had been expected, President Cyril Ramaphosa last night suspended under-fire Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Shortly after finishing his budget vote speech in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa’s office released a statement that he had exercised his constitutional powers to suspend Mkhwebane.

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Her suspension follows numerous adverse court rulings that have called into question her competence, understanding of the law, and her understanding of her constitutional role.

But UDM leader Bantu Holomisa fired back, saying Ramaphosa was in contempt of court.

“The judgment (which challenged the parliamentary process) is still pending. There’s been no investigation which has been started in Parliament, the ‘love letter’ between him and Parliament’s Speaker means nothing,” Holomisa insisted.

He said Ramaphosa was sending a wrong message about the rule of law by suspending Mkhwebane while there remained a possibility that the Western Cape High Court could rule in her favour.

He then rhetorically posed the question: “Have some judges whispered in his ear?”

Called for comment, Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said he was still consulting with her.

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Not soon after Mkhwebane tweeted in reference to a Bible verse from the Old Testament: “Oksalayo (what remains is) this battle is the Lord’s. Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.”

Just this week Mkhwebane’s office confirmed that it would probe Ramaphosa over the heist at his game farm and whether he had breached the Executive Ethics Code.

GOOD party secretary-general and MP Brett Herron said the party took note of Ramaphosa’s decision.

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“The Section 194 Committee was established to inquire if the public protector should be impeached, and removed from office, based on a motion to Parliament alleging misconduct and/or incompetence.

“The proceedings of the committee rest on the ‘golden rules’ of the constitutional process, rather than a litigious or adversarial one, procedural fairness and rationality, and findings based on impartiality and objectivity,” said Herron.

He said a decision to impeach Mkhwebane was a serious matter and that his party was committed to a fair and impartial process.

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UCT law professor Cathy Powell said Mkhwebane’s suspension saved the office from making more mistakes while Parliament probed whether she had failed in her duties.

She said the suspension of a public protector might be unprecedented but the Constitution had provided for the eventuality since 1994.

She said Parliament might have to re-look at the process of appointing the next public protector because Mkhwebane’s appointment was not thorough.

“The process was rushed, it was all fitted into one day and suggests that it might not have been thorough enough.

“The way the process could be improved is if the MPs give a more thorough explanation as to why they chose the person,” said Powell.

Last month, the parliamentary ad-hoc committee established to probe Mkhwebane indicated it would go ahead with its work despite her rescission application to the Constitutional Court, a decision which ultimately went against her.

To further muddy the waters, Mkhwebane filed a complaint to the Judicial Service Commission over the conduct of recently-appointed Constitutional Court Judge Jody Kollapen and North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria Judge President Dunstan Mlambo.

This, after self-described anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee had sent a text message to Parliament’s counsel advocate Andrew Breitenbach intimating that he had it “on good authority” that Mkhwebane’s rescission application to the apex court would be dismissed.

Mkhwebane had sought relief from the Western Cape High Court to halt Parliament’s probe against her which could lead to her suspension.

On Friday, the Western Cape High Court dismissed Mkhwebane’s latest bid.

In the statement from the Presidency, it reiterated that Mkhwebane would remain suspended until the parliamentary inquiry into her conduct had been completed.

According to the statement from Ramaphosa’s office, Mkhwebane’s suspension was not meant to impede any current investigations, and the deputy public protector Kholeka Gcaleka would act in her stead.

“President Ramaphosa and Advocate Mkhwebane are both obligated to act in the best interest of the country, in compliance with the Constitution and mindful of the need to protect all constitutional institutions. The President’s decision to suspend Advocate Mkhwebane is the best manner to fulfil these obligations," read the statement.

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Cape Argus