Facing impeachment, Mkhwebane gets 10 days to convince Ramaphosa to spare her from suspension
This latest blow to Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s controversial tenure follows the resumption of the National Assembly’s Section 194 committee’s inquiry to impeach her, after the Constitutional Court’s judgment last month cleared the way for the process to resume.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, whose term has been tumultuous from the get-go, has been notified by President Cyril Ramaphosa of his intention to suspend her from office, 18 months before her non-renewable term is expected to end, in October 2023.
This emerged late on Thursday evening after Mkhwebane received a letter from the President notifying her that the National Assembly had decided to resume its impeachment proceedings against her and that he was considering her suspension.
In a statement on Friday morning, the Presidency said that Ramaphosa had asked Mkhwebane to provide him with reasons — within 10 working days — why he should not suspend her in terms of Section 194(3)(a) of the Constitution. Section 194(3)(a) of the Constitution gives the President the power to suspend the Public Protector while the impeachment process is still underway.
The Presidency said it had received confirmation from the National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, that the Section 194 committee would be continuing with Mkhwebane’s impeachment proceedings. This follows a landmark Constitutional Court judgment last month, which cleared the path for the Section 194 committee impeachment inquiry to resume.
Read in the Daily Maverick: ConCourt unanimous judgment on parliamentary rules clears way for Public Protector impeachment inquiry
In the letter to Mkhwebane, dated 17 March 2022, Ramaphosa said that in light of the resolution of the committee, “It would therefore now be appropriate to consider whether or not you ought to be suspended pending finalisation of the committee’s work.
“I therefore hereby ask you to provide me with reasons why I should not exercise my powers in terms of Section 194(3)(a) of the Constitution, in writing, within 10 working days of the date of this letter,” Ramaphosa informed her.
PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA REQUESTS PUBLIC PROTECTOR FOR REASONS NOT TO SUSPEND HER
President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked Public Protector Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane to provide him with reasons why he should not suspend her in terms of Section 194(3)(a) of the Constitution.
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) March 18, 2022
In the statement late on Thursday evening, Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe indicated that Mkhwebane would consult her legal team on Friday morning “to map the way forward”, in response to Ramaphosa’s intention to suspend her.
“In addition, the Public Protector wishes to assure stakeholders that while she is not averse to being held to account, she will always seek to ensure that the work of the office of the Public Protector is not unduly and unlawfully disrupted. Contrary to the prevailing narrative, all she has ever asked for is a fair Section 194 process,” said Segalwe.
Media Statement : Public Protector consults legal team on Section 194 process pic.twitter.com/XIyCQyplux
— Public Protector SA (@PublicProtector) March 17, 2022
Since the start of her tenure as Public Protector in October 2016, several of Mkhwebane’s reports have been challenged in court and unfavourable rulings have been made against her.
The current impeachment process was initiated by the DA on 21 February 2020, after several earlier attempts to remove Mkhwebane from office had failed.
On Friday, the DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Glynnis Breytenbach called the intended suspension of the Public Protector both “necessary and urgent”, given the numerous negative judgments expressed against her.
According to legal researcher at the Helen Suzman Foundation, Jos Venter, the impeachment is the first of its kind, and the Section 194 committee is expected to conclude its work by 22 September 2022.
“Thereafter the committee’s report will be presented to the National Assembly. If the committee recommends that the Public Protector must be removed from office, a two-thirds majority vote is required to support her removal. Thereafter, the President is required to effect removal from office.” DM
Read the recent expose by Marianne Thamm on the public protector’s living arrangements here: