Cape Town - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will soon be getting new attorneys on record to brief senior counsel advocate Dali Mpofu, who is still available to represent her in the parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
This comes after Seanego Attorneys notified the inquiry that the firm no longer acted on behalf of Mkhwebane, citing professional reasons.
The inquiry met on Wednesday after Mkhwebane had been afforded two opportunities to obtain legal representation. The inquiry was postponed last week to Monday, only to be moved again until Wednesday in an effort to give Mkhwebane more time to obtain legal representation.
She was left with no representation after Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) claimed to have financial constraints in funding her legal fees, which ran into R30 million as at March.
An allocation of R4m was made available to fund the legal fees for the remainder of the inquiry. The hearing is set to be completed next month.
Wednesday’s meeting was used to go through the correspondence that ensued between Mkhwebane, the Section 194 committee, PPSA, Seanego Attorneys and the Solicitor-General since last week.
The Solicitor-General, who was asked to assist in obtaining legal representation for Mkhwebane, declined the request, citing a conflict of interest.
Parliament had used the services of the solicitor-general to acquire the services of the inquiry’s evidence leaders.
Since Mkhwebane had Seanego as her preferred attorney of choice, she has forwarded the name of Tshani Attorneys as her second option.
While the opposition parties were sympathetic to Mkhwebane, the EFF, ATM and UDM raised concern that Wednesday’s meeting was convened when administrative issues were not resolved.
However the DA and IFP said the inquiry should conclude its work.
Mkhwebane told the meeting that PPSA CEO should facilitate the process of appointing Tshani Attorneys.
She also indicated that Mpofu was “available as soon as we have an attorney who will brief them”.
Responding to accusations of not dealing with administrative issues at Wednesday’s meeting, committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi said they shared information on the efforts they made in the last seven days.
“It would not be correct to project nothing would have happened. There are a lot of things that happened,” he said.
Dyantyi said it was confirmed that Seanego Attorneys were not acting on behalf of Mkhwebane.
“What is clear today is that we are now at a point where we are to get legal support from the public protector in terms of an attorney of record.
“The public protector confirmed that her senior counsel remains,” he said.
Dyantyi noted that the Solicitor-General was ready to assist PPSA to obtain the legal assistance required.
“The moment we clinch that to be able to say all of that is in place, it would only be fair to adjourn the meeting. You will remain on standby not because there is nothing else to do,” he added.
“We are to indicate as a matter of urgency to the public protector and the members when we resume,” Dyantyi said.
Mkhwebane clarified to the committee that she had not consulted the Solicitor-General and that she had not been involved in getting his office to assist to obtain her attorney of record.
She added that PPSA should handle the negotiations, agree on the legal fees with the legal team, time frames and all other matters.
“Once that is done, we can proceed,” Mkhwebane said.
Dyantyi said when the issue of attorney on record was appointed, she would be be involved.
“When we give the announcement of resumption, it will go with a revised programme,” he said as he adjourned the meeting indefinitely.