Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File picture: African News Agency (ANA).
Parliament - Some parties and civil society groups have expressed shock at reports that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane threatened legal action against Parliament if it went ahead with the process to remove her from office.

On Sunday the Sunday Times reported that Mkhwebane had in a letter accused Speaker Thandi Modise of violating the Constitution for acceding to the DA proposal to resume the process to probe her fitness to hold office. Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo is quoted as confirming that Modise has responded to the Mkhwebane letter.

The Sunday Times said Mkhwebane argues that Parliament has no rules on the procedure to follow to effect her removal. She reportedly wrote in her letter: “Unlike in the case of removal of judicial officers or the president, there are no rules specifically adopted by the National Assembly to deal with the removal of the public protector.

“Instead, the committee is given a free hand to adopt a clearly unlawful and unconstitutional process where the public protector is simply called to a meeting and berated about cases that are pending in the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal.”

Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, said it was wholly inappropriate for someone who was accountable to Parliament to threaten the national legislature against holding them to account.

“The public protector is once again overstepping her mark to tell Parliament how to conduct its business.

“The Constitution clearly says that Parliament must determine its own rules and procedures,” Naidoo said.

Congress of the People spokesperson Dennis Bloem said it was not for Mkhwebane to dictate to Modise what should happen.

“She was appointed, recommended and voted in by Parliament. Parliament is the only structure that can remove her,” Bloem said.

He also said Mkhwebane could not dictate to the Speaker.

“This public protector is always on the wrong side of how she does her duties. Nobody knows why she is coming up with this thing of dictating to the Speaker of Parliament,” Bloem said.

“Parliament must and will take the final decision on her, and nobody else,” he said. 

In May, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen wrote to Modise requesting proceedings to remove Mkhwebane from office after the North Gauteng High Court set aside her report into the Vrede Dairy Project.

In June, Modise referred the request to the justice and correctional services portfolio committee.

This was as Mkhwebane was appealing against the court ruling made against her. Mkhwebane has insisted that she was within her right to lodge appeals to higher courts or petition the Constitutional Court, and that those who took her reports on judicial review were wrong if they wanted to dent her credibility.

Political Bureau