ANC veteran Mathole Motshekga Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Parliament - Senior African National Congress legislator Vincent Smith was elected as the new chairman of Parliament's portfolio committee on justice on Thursday, replacing ruling party veteran Mathole Motshekga.

An announcement in parliamentary papers in the morning said Moshekga had been removed both as a member and chairman of the committee and that Smith had been appointed to the committee.

Smith garnered six votes compared to five for African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart, who was nominated for the chairperson post by Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach.

The justice committee was due to discuss Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's submission on why it should not initiate a process of removing her from her post. 

But Smith asked that the meeting be postponed to give him time familiarise himself with the matter.

Motshekga was considered a highly partisan chairman, and frequently clashed with opposition MPs.

He also chaired the ad hoc committee that controversially cleared former president Jacob Zuma of any wrongdoing in the Nkandla scandal involving state-funded upgrades to his private home.

Smith has been a member of Parliament since 1999. He chaired the ad hoc committee that investigated governance at the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the ad hoc committee on political party funding and is co-chair of the Joint Constitutional Review Committee, which is considering submissions on amending section 25 of the Constitution to expressly allow land expropriation without compensation.

The opposition welcomed Motshekga's removal from the post.

"The DA is elated that Dr Motshekga has been removed from the justice portfolio committee," Breytenbach said. "Provided a competent chairperson is elected to replace him, it could improve the efficacy, objectivity and output of the committee considerably."

Swart concurred that the committee had been "struggling".

African News Agency/ANA