In an unprecedented move, Busisiwe Mkhwebane yesterday became the first public protector to be hauled before an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Barely halfway through her seven-year tenure, Mkhwebane is facing the music over allegations that she met the Presidency and State Security Agency before issuing her report into the more than R1billion given as a bailout to Absa’s Bankorp subsidiary by the apartheid government.
The decision to tackle Mkhwebane came after a display of deep divisions in the ANC in Parliament, with some of the ruling party’s members breaking ranks with its chairperson, Mathole Motshekga.
Motshekga wanted the inquiry to go ahead, but ANC MPs in the committee defied him and wanted to quash the inquiry.
Later, Motshekga allowed ANC members to caucus outside and take a decision on the matter.
In the end, the committee agreed to the inquiry after it was put to a vote, and five ANC members voted in favour of the portfolio committee to conduct the inquiry.
The DA, EFF and ACDP wanted an ad hoc committee to probe Mkhwebane, a proposal which had been supported by Motshekga.
He told the committee that claims by the ANC that they were not informed in time about the request for an inquiry by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to remove Mkhwebane were not true.
Chana Pilane-Majake of the ANC said they now agreed with the inquiry, but denied some of the claims by Motshekga.
“The ANC study group has met and applied its mind because all members indicated they had not seen the documents.
“The study group expressed the (opinion) that the Office of the Public Protector is an important office, and when there is a matter from the Office of the Public Protector, it is urgent,” said Pilane-Majake yesterday.
Another ANC MP, Moloko Maila, said they disagreed with Motshekga for an ad hoc committee to be established to lead the inquiry.
“I want to second what was said by my colleagues in the ANC study group. We believe this committee is the one that plays oversight on the public protector.
“This committee is better positioned and will deal with the matter,” said Maila.
Motshekga had said the committee did not have time to do justice to the investigation on Mkhwebane as it was sitting with too many bills to pass this year.
ANC MPs said they needed time to discuss the matter, but later agreed that the committee could continue with the inquiry.
Bongani Bongo of the ANC accused the DA of pushing for the removal of Mkhwebane.
“We cannot be kowtowed by the DA. I don’t think the matter is important for consideration. When we appointed the public protector, the DA stood there and said ‘we don’t want the public protector’.
“We need to write to the Speaker that the issues are neither here nor there. This is baseless,” said Bongo.
But this was dismissed by Werner Horn of the DA, who accused the ANC of using delaying tactics.