Evidence leaders in the parliamentary inquiry established to probe suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office have, as at March, been paid R4 million for their services.
This was disclosed by the chief parliamentary legal advisor, advocate Zuraya Adhikarie, during the media engagement with Secretary to Parliament Xolile George.
The money paid to evidence leaders, advocates Nazreen Bawa and Ncumisa Mayosi, has been an issue of concern for some opposition parties who said that Mkhwebane’s legal fees were public knowledge yet this was not the case with the evidence leaders in the inquiry.
Adhikarie said it was not that they did not want to divulge the information.
She said the arrangement with all legal counsel that Parliament briefed through the Office of the State Attorney was that it took six to 12 months for the national legislature to be invoiced and then to reimburse the State Attorney.
“At this point we don’t have a consolidated amount to give fair reflection,” she said.
Adhikarie also said the senior counsel earned R2 800 a day, which was “very low” and that the junior counsel earned R2 500 to R2 600.
“I can say with some certainty that they worked with the committee consistently every day on this matter. We paid in the region of R4m to the State Attorney. We don’t have the final figures,” she added.
Another senior parliamentary official said the rates for the legal fees of the evidence leaders were negotiated with the Office of the State Attorney.
“I can confirm that as at the end of March we have signed off an estimated R4m in fees and it is four counsels that have been assigned,” she said.
Meanwhile, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said on Monday that he was not surprised by the Section 194 inquiry’s finding against Mkhwebane.
On Sunday, the inquiry – mainly attended by the ANC, ACDP, DA and IFP – deliberated on the evidence and found that several charges against Mkhwebane were sustained. A report will be prepared for the consideration of the committee before it is sent to Mkhwebane for comment.
Holomisa said it was clear from day one that the ANC and DA had decided that Mkhwebane must go.
“There have been questions about the inquiry. Why bring witnesses that were a subject of disciplinary hearings and present them to Parliament as if it is an appeal panel of some sorts?” Holomisa asked.
He was referring to Public Protector South Africa employees who were deemed disgruntled and testified in the inquiry against Mkhwebane.
Holomisa also said his party had never agreed to the inquiry’s rules that provided for charges to be brought against Mkhwebane retrogressively.
“That is bad in law. It’s procedurally flawed,” he said.
ATM spokesperson Zama Ntshona said the inquiry was never interested in justice.
Ntshona raised the issue of Mkhwebane’s legal representation, specifically the funding of her legal fees when the Public Protector South Africa experienced financial constraints in March.
He said there was no need for the inquiry as Mkhwebane had done her job diligently.
“It is unwarranted but they continue with their plan because they are not interested in justice. There is an attack on the Public Protector and misuse of state institutions to protect the president,” Ntshona said.
He said Mkhwebane had finalised 66 000 reports and only 16 were taken to court, with just seven set aside.
“You have a 98% performer who had three consecutive (clean) audits for the first time in 25 years in that office,” he said.