Ramaphosa blocks Mkhwebane’s promise to return to work

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 5, 2023


Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has requested that the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, refrain from reporting to her office today.

Ramaphosa, in a statement on Monday, following Mkhwebane’s intention to resume her duties on Tuesday, said Mkhwebane lacked the legal authority to go back to work until the committee of the National Assembly, established in accordance with Section 194 of the constitution, reaches its final decisions.

This directive follows Mkhwebane’s prior correspondence to Ramaphosa, in which she expressed her intention to resume her duties.

Mkhwebane claimed the period of suspension defined by Ramaphosa in the presidential minute issued in terms of Section 194 has expired.

In her post shared on social media, the suspended PP said Ramaphosa, in June last year, signed a presidential minute recording his decision to suspend her "pending the finalisation of the proceedings by the committee". She said that now that the committee had concluded its work, she had the right to return to work.

"The period of suspension defined in the presidential minute issued in terms of Section 194 (3) (a), read with Section 101 (1) of the Constitution, has expired.

"Therefore, and as a matter of courtesy and protocol, advocate Mkhwebane has advised President Ramaphosa that she will be reporting back to work tomorrow morning, on Tuesday, September 5, 2023," Mkhwebane said.

Responding to Mkhwebane’s intention to report for duty, the Office of the Public Protector (PPSA) said Advocate Mkhwebane is not its employee.

Ndili Msoki, spokesperson for acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka, said Mkhwebane’s suspension remained in effect as Ramaphosa has not said otherwise.

"The institution acknowledges the importance of the subject matter and hereby advises that the Public Protector is not an employee of the PPSA. The Public Protector is appointed to office by the President of the Republic of South Africa. The Section 194 Committee inquiry is a parliamentary process, and the PPSA is not a party thereto. Accordingly, in the absence of communication emanating from the president, advocate Mkhwebane's suspension remains effective," Msoki said.

On Monday, Ramaphosa said he disagreed with Mkhwebane that she was entitled to report for duty following the finalisation of the Section 194 committee report, which was finalised on August 24 or 28.

Ramaphosa said her removal or reinstatement can only be done through a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly.

"I record that I have not been informed of any resolution having been taken by the National Assembly as contemplated by Section 194(2) of the Constitution. The National Assembly has, therefore, not yet completed its part of the process," the President said.

Last month, the ad hoc committee investigating the fitness of the suspended public protector to hold office recommended to the National Assembly that she be removed from office.

A year ago, Acting Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka told her suspended boss, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, not to return to work despite the Western Cape High Court declaring her suspension by President Cyril Ramaphosa invalid.

At the time, the Western Cape High Court declared President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to suspend Mkhwebane invalid, saying it had been retaliatory in nature and motivated by her decision to investigate the theft at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo in February 2020.

The Star