South Africa

SECTION 194 IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY

‘Just mute her!’ — Committee chair Qubudile Dyantyi in virtual verbal scuffle with Mkhwebane

‘Just mute her!’ — Committee chair Qubudile Dyantyi in virtual verbal scuffle with Mkhwebane
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during a break during her impeachment proceedings at Parliament, 1 February 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

While Busisiwe Mkhwebane may be mutely absorbing her Section 194 impeachment inquiry, evidence leaders are dropping hefty clues as to where they will be testing her later.

On Tuesday, at the start of proceedings, an unseemly virtual verbal scuffle between suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Section 194 committee chair Qubudile Dyantyi briefly ensued.

The inquiry’s legal adviser, Fatima Ebrahim, confirmed earlier to members that the committee was well within its legal rights to continue with evidence leaders “landscaping” their case at this point regardless of Mkhwebane’s legal woes.

Mkhwebane was sharply rebuked by Dyantyi when she attempted to interrupt. Dyantyi informed her that “the evidence leaders are addressing committee members, not you”.

Just mute her! It’s a committee meeting. You are completely out of order and I’m not going to take that attitude from you,” a ferocious Dyantyi snapped.

Mkhwebane has been left without her legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu, after wrangling over Mkhwebane’s legal bill. The Public Protector SA has been depleted to the tune of around R24-million so far in legal costs for this inquiry and has indicated the books are now closed.

“Well, I have written you a letter,” Mkhwebane managed to squeeze in before the big freeze-out by Dyantyi.

The suspended PP then posted the letter to her Twitter account. She was writing “to express my deepest concerns at the latest turn of events”. 

Mkhwebane had argued and asked for a postponement earlier this week while the issue of who would pick up her legal tab was being “discussed”. 

As proceedings were not a court of law and inquisitorial as opposed to accusatorial, Dyantyi ruled that the evidence leaders, advocates Nazreen Bawa and Ncumisa Mayosi, would take turns painstakingly taking members  through thousands of documents. 

So no postponement.

Neither evidence leader presented any legal argument as they went through court judgments and affidavits filed in the lengthy court processes setting aside Mkhwebane’s CR17 and SARS “rogue unit” reports in particular.

It was suggested by Dyantyi earlier that this placed Mkhwebane at an advantage as she would be able to work on responding to burning questions evidence leaders told the committee they would be asking Mkhwebane later.

The evidence leaders also pointed out anomalies and discrepancies in legal documents relating to Mkhwebane’s use of certain laws, the Executive Members Ethics Act and the Executive Ethics Code.

A back-door inquiry

Mkhwebane, in her letter, said the process at present was “actually an opportunity given to evidence leaders to present closing arguments regarding the merits of the charges”.

Bawa has taken great effort to explain that this was not the case and that the copious amount of “landscaping” Mpofu accomplished leading his evidence was now being matched by the team.

Mkhwebane said she had supported the notion of a postponement but this had simply been dismissed.

What was most puzzling was your unilateral and unsolicited decision to invite the Evidence Leaders to present an analysis of the evidence which was led by me thus far, to the Committee during what has been labelled as a Committee meeting but is in actual fact a backdoor enquiry thinly disguised as a ‘meeting’,” she said.

The only “obvious objectives of this exercise”, she added, was to “conduct a damage control exercise following evidence I led in respect of the CR17 and ‘Rogue Unit’ scandals for the sake of cheap publicity”.

She added that this was all “grossly prejudicial, unfair and unheard of in such punitive proceedings and to poison the minds of members of the committee and unsuspecting members of the public against me”.

By the time her legal woes had been resolved, she added, “The damage will obviously be done.” 

Dyantyi’s explanation that this was to “empower” committee members “was false and laughable”, she said.

“I am therefore advised to demand, as I hereby do, that you and/or the Committee must refrain from continuing with the ongoing alleged illegal ‘Committee meeting’ forthwith. Failure to do so will result in the taking of whatever necessary steps are available to me without any further notice to you.”

Campaign moola

Much of the afternoon was taken up dissecting Mkhwebane’s use of a 2007 instead of a 2000 legal version of the Executive Ethics Code in finding President Cyril Ramaphosa had misled Parliament after a question about a donation by Bosasa to his CR17 campaign.

The courts also found no evidence of any money laundering in the private donations garnered by the CR17 presidential team in the run-up to Ramaphosa’s electoral victory in 2017.

Presidential campaigns might be an overt matter in the US (mm) but political funding in South Africa has been a highly secret, until lately, and highly dodgy affair.

In 2022, a leaked recording of Ramaphosa speaking during a National Executive Committee (NEC) Zoom meeting in 2021, revealed him claiming “a lot of public money was used, and I said, in this case, I, I am prepared to fall on the sword. So that the CR17 campaign yes, should be the only one that’s looked at.”

In fact, what Ramaphosa was doing was saving the ANC’s and Zuma’s arse in particular at that moment.

But no good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

ANC’s funding secrets

The leak caused the usual outcry with Ramaphosa later telling Parliament’s watchdog Standing Committee on Public Accounts that the sources of his comments about ANC using public funds were in the public domain.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Politics and recordings — the latest RET claim might inflict pain on the ANC — but no legal bother for Ramaphosa

Once such source, said the President, had been the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigation into an illegal attempt by SAPS Crime Intelligence to divert R45-million from the secret fund to grease delegates’ palms at the conference. 

Rather than have that occur, Ramaphosa told the NEC, “I said heaven forbid! I would rather, they say yes, you got money from this businessman for CR17, than for the public to finally hear that their money, public money, was used to advance certain campaigns. So comrade Tony [Yengeni], and all comrades, on this, this need for transparency, I’m all for it.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa tells parliamentary watchdog his comments on state funds used for ANC campaigning were based on information in public domain

It was into this murky ANC milieu that Mkhwebane waded after a complaint by then Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, about the President’s response in Parliament to questions about funding.

It must be dirty

On Monday, the committee heard that Mkhwebane had not only used the incorrect legislation in the CR17 matter but had also simply assumed that donations must have been corrupt or the proceeds of corruption and that Ramaphosa had been money laundering. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Evidence leader’s fine legal scalpel slices through Mkhwebane’s assertions about CR17 ‘money laundering’

Bawa flighted the Constitutional Court’s findings confirming the setting aside of Mkhwebane’s account that: “The evidence summarised in the Public Protector’s own report indicates that neither the President nor his family participated in the transfer of that amount.” 

This had been done by an employee of African Global Operations, “on the instructions of its CEO, Mr Watson”. 

The R500,000 had been part of R3-million transferred from Watson’s personal account “into the account of a company called Miotto Trading which belonged to the employee who was instructed to transfer R500,000 to a trust account held on behalf of the CR17 campaign. 

“It is puzzling that despite the evidence placed before her, the Public Protector would conclude that the allegation has merit,” the court found.

Later, when advocate Mayosi took over, she told the committee that Mpofu had spent much time asking who had donated to the CR17 campaign, a matter she had no “legal competence” to investigate. 

Ramaphosa’s evidence was that the CR17 campaign was not only focused on his election as ANC president but also on the “renewal of the ANC”, in fact “an anti-corruption movement”.

The inquiry continues. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Any citizen can tell you a lot of tax money has been wasted.A circus is taking place and we are forced to endure it

  • Helen Lachenicht says:

    If a Public Protector was found guilty of just one of the matters Mkhwebani is being held accountable for, would that not be reason enough to end her/his term? Is this lengthy, hugely costly Impeachment Enquiry just a huge waste of time and money? I feel so angry, at what could have been achieved by all the human resources and money that this matter has cost so far!

  • Anneli Delport says:

    I do not understand why the committee need to go through matters which have already been decided on by the courts. Impeach Mkwebane because independent courts have ALREADY found her to have acted wrongly repeatedly. She unsuccessfully appealed. Why go back?

  • Hilary Morris says:

    Perhaps one of the most depressing aspects of this ridiculously drawn out process (by Dali paid-by-the day Mpofu) has been to read the comments by the illiterati cheerleaders for Mkhwebane. It is quite frightening to witness the total ignorance on display, the conviction that this is a (to quote another rogue, “witch-hunt”), and their apparent belief that the evidence being led by Advocate Bawa from court findings is either her own opinion, or untrue! The law is irrelevant to these EFF and RET supporters. This does not bode well for 2024. In fact, this does not bode well for our country.

  • Sarel Van Der Walt says:

    Its clear that Mkhwebane has no legal defense, thus her & her legal team’s legal strategy is delay, delay, delay… until September when her contract would end anyway. This move about legal fees is just another way to delay the inquiry for a few days or maybe weeks, only for it to resume & new reasons for delay to emerge, whatever it may be. It’s all about delay, delay, delay.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Why does she need that leach, she’s an advocate FGS she can defend herself.

  • virginia crawford says:

    I was so excited! I misread and thought it said just “moer” her.

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