Cape Town - The Section 194 Committee probing the fitness of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold office is expected to resume its proceedings on Wednesday after granting her more time to obtain legal representation.
The committee could not sit on Monday after postponing its scheduled hearing.
The inquiry stalled at the end of March after the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) cited financial constraints in funding Mkhwebane’s legal fees, which escalated to R30 million.
An additional R4m was secured to continue with the inquiry, but it did not proceed last week in order to afford Mkhwebane an opportunity to obtain legal representation.
On Monday, committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi confirmed that although the committee had indicated last week that it would meet on Monday, he had afforded Mkhwebane a further period to issue instructions to her legal team so that hearings can resume in earnest on Wednesday.
Dyantyi said his decision followed the exchange of several letters between the parties – the office of the Public Protector South Africa, Seanego Attorneys, Mkhwebane and the committee – since its meeting last week.
“The correspondence will be tabled in the committee today,” he said.
The turn off events takes place as Mkhwebane two weeks ago filed an application in the Constitutional Court, raising concerns on a fair hearing and/legal representation and the continuation of the committee meeting with evidence leaders in her and attorneys’ absence.
“A key dispute which is central to this application pertains to the question whether or not the State and/ or any of its organs is responsible for the provision of, including further funding, required for my legal representation,” her court papers read.
Mkhwebane had indicated that she would lodge a formal complaint with the Judicial Services Commission over the delay by the Constitutional Court to deliver a judgment on matters related to her suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Pressure is also on the committee to complete its work.
The committee changed its programme and now plans to finish on June 26 subject to House chairperson Cedric Frolick granting it permission.
Last week, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula expressed her displeasure that the committee was requesting to do its work until June 26 when it was meant to submit its report at the end of May.
“I am raising this out not being insensitive to the work of the committee.
“It is because of the difficulties of finding money for the continuation of that work of that committee,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the R4m was meant to cover legal fees until the end of May.
“Come end of May, we will not be able to push any further anyone to make money available for the legal costs,” she said.
She stated that it had been difficult to secure the funds.
“If we are to stop this process midway before completion, there will be an audit finding against Parliament.”
“It’s either people continue and complete at the end of May or the process collapses. In that case the public protector walks away without the conclusion of the case,” Mapisa-Nqakula added.
Opposition parties were in agreement that the inquiry could not collapse and that it should finalise its work.