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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane accused of abusing the courts against her impeachment

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane at Cape Town High Court. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane at Cape Town High Court. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 19, 2022


Johannesburg - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s ongoing legal battle against President Cyril Ramaphosa and Parliament has been described as “abusive litigation” and a Stalingrad defence against her impeachment.

The Western Cape High Court is hearing her case to interdict Parliament’s Section 194 committee from continuing with her impeachment proceedings and to prevent Ramaphosa from suspending her.

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Parliament’s lawyer, advocate Andrew Breitenbach SC who addressed the court on Thursday, said Judge Vincent Saldanha ruled against Mkhwebane when she tried to stop the parliamentary process.

He said after she failed, she made another attempt to stall her impeachment and “we’re in the same boat as we were before”.

Breitenbach questioned whether it was proper for a full Bench to consider the same question that was previously ruled on.

He told the court that Parliament’s Section 194 committee had the power to convene whenever it wanted to and that the investigation by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo into a leaked SMS was not enough reason to stop the inquiry from proceeding.

On Wednesday, Mkhwebane’s lawyer advocate Dali Mpofu SC argued that she was victimised by “the most powerful forces in this country”.

Mpofu told Judges Nathan Erasmus, Mokgoatji Dolamo and Derek Wille, that Mkhwebane was a, “lonesome woman who was just trying to do her job”, but faced victimisation from the head of state, Parliament and head of the judiciary.

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Mkhwebane’s application was postponed in the high court last month after counsel for Parliament revealed an incident where Ismail Abramjee sent an SMS to Parliament’s counsel, advocate Breitenbach, saying that the public protector would lose the application.

In his submissions on Thursday, Breitenbach said whatever was sought to be achieved from sending the SMS was not achieved.

He said that Abramjee's reasons for sending the SMS had nothing to do with the work of the Section 194 committee.

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“Why Abramjee sent this message has nothing to do with what Section 194 has to consider.

“They need to consider whether Mkhwebane is fit to hold office.

“These two things do not overlap.

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"Section 194(3) empowers and obliges the committee to do this.

“It’s one of those provisions which is a power coupled with a duty.

“Section 237 of the Constitution says when these are imposed, they must be performed diligently and without delay,” Breitenbach said.

Advocate Karrisha Pillay, representing the office of the Presidency addressed the argument that Ramaphosa is conflicted and cannot suspend Mkhwebane.

Pillay told the court that the extent to which Ramaphosa must withdraw from the process must be thoroughly ventilated.

She argued that Mkhwebane could be lawfully suspended pending her impeachment process.

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Political Bureau