SECTION 194 INQUIRY
Lawyerless Mkhwebane questions ‘absurd’ R4m legal lifeline as impeachment probe starts 22-day countdown
A ‘surplus’ of R4-million ring-fenced to cover Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s legal expenses for her Section 194 impeachment inquiry was ‘absurd’, the suspended Public Protector said on Monday.
As her impeachment inquiry resumed after a week-long hiatus, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s legal woes were once again the focus and cause of further delay.
The suspended Public Protector will have four days to complete her evidence as the hearing hurtles towards its deadline in 22 days’ time. In the meantime, she remains unrepresented.
In a letter to the committee, Mkhwebane argued she needed more time to rustle up a legal team, although she also said, “I am not sure as to where I will get a legal team that will agree to your unrealistic and absurd terms dictating the work to be undertaken…”
And, she warned, should Advocate Dali Mpofu and the rest of her team not be willing to return for “peanuts”, an entirely new legal team would have to go through the 65,000-page record.
In 22 days. Hands up any takers?
Mkhwebane maintains that while the Constitutional Court ordered that she be legally represented during her impeachment hearing, questions of who should pay and how much, have been left open.
On Monday, Mkhwebane opted to attend her hearing in person as committee chair, Qubudile Dyantyi, had unceremoniously “muted” her during her last virtual appearance.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Kangaroo court’ — Muted Mkhwebane in a flap over impeachment inquiry
Swings and roundabouts
In an act of apparent cosmic symmetry, the R4-million now made available by Treasury to the Office of the Public Protector SA (PPSA) tallies more or less with the amount the Chapter 9 institution forked out on rent for Mkhwebane during her tenure.
She moved into the luxury Bryntirion ministerial estate in Pretoria between 2017 and 2022 and only moved out when the media exposed the grift.
Mkhwebane’s rent was paid to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, which is responsible for the estate and other government buildings.
Mkhwebane has ripped an almost R30-million hole in legal fees in the PPSA’s budget.
In the meantime, she managed to find resources to launch on 5 May an urgent application to the Constitutional Court for uncapped funding for her defence at the inquiry. She is of the opinion the state should foot the bill entirely.
Mkhwebane also asked the court to review the six days the committee met in her absence for evidence to be led, and also claimed that the inquiry had “consequentially and irretrievably collapsed and ought, accordingly, to be nullified”.
She also complained that the four days allocated to her were inadequate.
Mkhwebane also let it be known that she intended to lodge a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission against the Constitutional Court for “undue delay” in making its ruling.
The court is yet to rule on her application to rescind her suspension by President Ramaphosa. It sat in November 2022, when it reserved judgment.
The show goes on
The R4-million now made available, said Dyantyi, was “all there is” and the committee would resume its work.
ACDP MP Marie Sukers said that more than R26-million had been spent so far on Mkhwebane and “I think we have extended fairness to the Public Protector until now”.
She added that it could not be ignored that “there is the issue of fairness to the South African taxpayer”.
Dyantyi said Mkhwebane was welcome to approach the Constitutional Court, but this could not be regarded as an “interdict”. She was “exercising her right”, but there was no impediment to the committee proceeding.
The hearing was postponed for a week to allow Mkhwebane to find legal representation. DM