Call for impeachment adds to Mkhwebane’s woes
Facing mounting legal challenges, besieged Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, faced another legal headache on Monday when a panel assigned by Parliament recommended that she should be impeached.
The panel comprising Justice Bess Nkabinde, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC and advocate Johan De Waal SC was formed last year after the DA’s chief whip, Natasha Mazzone, made a motion to have Mkhwebane impeached for failing to carry out her work ethically.
After gathering evidence and listening to inputs – including some from Mkhwebane herself – the panel said there was prima facie evidence of incompetence and misconduct – and Parliament could go ahead to form a committee to impeach her.
Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the evidence demonstrated Mkhwebane’s overreach and exceeding the bounds of her powers in terms of the Constitution and the Public Protector Act, repeated errors of the same kind, such as incorrect interpretation of the law, and other patent legal errors.
“According to the panel, these instances, cumulatively assessed, meet the threshold of prima facie evidence of sustained incompetence," Mothapo said.
The examples given include Mkhwebane's failure to reveal she had meetings with former president Jacob Zuma and the State Security Agency, her flawed findings on money laundering in the CR17 Campaign matter, and her unexplained doubting of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bona fides.
Expectedly, the decision divided public opinion, with Cope being the first party to call for Mkhwebane to resign to avoid being embarrassed by being removed in court.
Speaking via Oupa Segalwe, her long-time spokesperson on Tuesday, Mkhwebane dug in her heels, saying the process was flawed as they jumped the gun and ignored two pending court cases related to the matter.
Segalwe said the report was a pronouncement on the alleged existence of prima facie evidence against her and not findings of any wrongdoing.
“It should be noted that there are still court processes in relation to this matter.
“The public protector is confident that both the parliamentary process and the judicial proceedings, which are before the high court and the Constitutional Court, will ultimately result in her being cleared of any alleged wrongdoing,” Segalwe said.
The two cases the statement was referring to is a pending appeal lodged by Mkhwebane to the Constitutional Court, which she approached directly after being turned down by the Western Cape High Court, to interdict Parliament from going ahead with the process of impeachment.
The second court case, which will be heard in June this year by the Western Cape High Court, relates to Mkhwebane’s bid to challenge the rules Parliament is relying on as it moves to impeach her.
Her gripe is that they should be scrapped as they do not conform to the current democratic dispensation.
Joining the fray on the side of Mkhwebane is Democracy in Action, an organisation that once drove a fundraising campaign to settle the personal cost orders levied on her by courts, concurred with her that the process was rushed.
The organisation’s chairperson, Thabo Mtsweni, alleged that the panel was constituted as a formality and they were shocked that it ignored the two court cases Mkhwebane has lodged in courts.
“The motive was to create rules so that they could remove Mkhwebane, that’s all.
“It is very concerning that the panel ruled that way even when there are matters that are yet to be decided in court,” Mtsweni said.