Mkhwebane defiant as supporters back her, detractors urge her to resign
Johannesburg - With all eyes on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who is simultaneously facing an impeachment hearing and calls for her to resign from the Chapter 9 institution, public opinion is again divided.
Mkhwebane is digging in, saying the panel of Justice Bess Nkabinde, advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza SC and advocate John de Waal SC which gave the green for her impeachment jumped the gun.
On the side of Mkhwebane is Democracy in Action, an organisation which once drove a fundraising campaign to settle the personal cost orders levied on her by courts. Across the gulf are her detractors. Among them is the Congress of the People (Cope) which wants her to resign even before even the impeachment process starts.
Speaking for the first time since the panel, appointed by Parliament to determine whether there was a basis for action, recommended she should be impeached, Mkhwebane said there are two pending litigations related to the process and she was hopeful their outcomes would favour her.
She is currently on sabbatical leave to “get some rest”.
This was in response to the panel’s ruling that there is evidence of incompetence and wrongdoing and that the impeachment process put in motion by the DA’s chief whip, Natasha Mazzone, in February last year can go ahead.
Speaking via Oupa Segalwe, her long-time spokesperson, Mkhwebane said the report is a pronouncement on the alleged existence of prima facie evidence against her and not findings of any wrongdoing – as it may be perceived.
“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 Segalwe 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 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 democratic dispensation.
By insisting that the process to impeach her is being rushed, Mkhwebane is sticking to what she had told the panel – that they should have waited for these court challenges to be concluded. She had been invited to deliver input before Monday’s report was concluded and her objection is noted in detail in the report.
However, the panel dismissed her objections, saying their work was in no way interfering with the two court cases.
Siding with Mkhwebane, the chairperson of Democracy in Action, 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.
He added that they stand with her.
“The motive was to create rules so that they could remove Public Protector 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.
While the ANC’s chief whip, Pemmy Majodima, declined to comment on the panel’s decision, it is public knowledge that in the past the issue has left MPs of the ruling party divided, with some saying Mkhwebane would not be pushed out while others backed the DA’s motion.
The EFF, one of the few parties that have previously supported her, is yet to comment on the latest developments which have put the future of Mkhwebane in doubt.