SECTION 194 INQUIRY
Mkhwebane reaches end of the road, refuses State Attorney’s offer and is poised to reveal alleged bribery files
With her attorney of choice, Hope Chaane, in hospital indefinitely, Busisiwe Mkhwebane has rejected representation by the State Attorney.
Just as Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s Section 194 impeachment inquiry was poised this week to start questioning the suspended public protector (PP) on damning evidence presented over almost two years, a series of further obstacles were strewn across the tracks.
At the resumption of proceedings on Wednesday, Mkhwebane sought to have the inquiry committee chair, Qubudile Dyantyi, recuse himself, again.
This follows claims by Mkhwebane’s husband, Mandla Skosana, of an attempted bribe the late Tina Joemat-Pettersson had allegedly negotiated on behalf of three ANC members, including Dyantyi.
On Wednesday, Dyantyi said the committee would only entertain a motion for his recusal if Mkhwebane delivered it in writing by 1pm on Friday.
As the deadline came and went, Mkhwebane, an advocate herself, said she had been unable to prepare the motion as “I don’t have legal representation”.
On Friday, another representative from the State Attorney’s office in Pretoria, Isaac Chowe, told the committee that Mkhwebane had informed him she disputed his legal status to represent her.
Chowe had been appointed by the Office of the Public Protector (PPSA), who has ringfenced R4-million to pay the suspended PP’s legal bills.
Mkhwebane claimed on Friday that there was a “conflict of interest” as the State Attorney had also instructed the Section 194 Inquiry evidence leaders and that the courts had stated she was allowed to appoint attorneys of her choice.
This was Seanego Attorneys, who had instructed advocate Dali Mpofu, and who had packed up when the money ran out.
Chowe informed committee members that Mkhwebane had told him she had been “shocked” when the PPSA had terminated the brief of Hope Chaana, who is apparently gravely ill.
Chaane was so ill that EFF MP Omphile Moatshe suggested on Wednesday that the attorney was actually “at death’s door” at an undisclosed hospital.
“My status as the attorney of record is actually in dispute,” Chowe said.
It took time, but Chowe eventually admitted to the committee that Mkhwebane was rejecting representation.
The impasse reached, the committee took a tea break.
One step forward, two steps back
After tea, Dyantyi set down the way forward. There was no legal impediment to the committee continuing its work as there was no interdict, he said.
One of Mkhwebane’s earlier demands had been that the inquiry be postponed until Chaabe’s recovery.
Legal adviser Fatima Ibrahim told committee members that the firm of attorneys played a limited role, and it was “counsel who does the heavy lifting”.
Dyantyi said there was no intention to extend the 22 days left and that there was also “no intention to deplete the R4-million”. The committee had been “firm and clear” about respecting the need for ensuring legal representation for the suspended PP, he said.
“We have done everything to make sure that happens, up to today, as I speak, the PP has not been denied legal representation”.
The committee found itself in a position where “when we take one step forward, then there is a setback of sorts. It has been the DNA of this inquiry since February and March”.
Mkhwebane as well as the committee and the public had the right to have the matter “brought to finality”, he said.
The road to the impeachment vote
Dyantyi described how the committee would go to work. All evidence leaders and committee members were to put in writing all questions in relation to the charges faced by Mkhwebane, he said.
These would be collated and provided to Mkhwebane to respond. As committee chair he would also be issuing an amended directive to this effect.
“Should she wish to respond orally, she will be able to attend hearings not later than a day after being provided with the questions.
“If she wants to respond in writing, I will give her time,” he said.
The suspended PP was also invited to submit anything further in writing. Should she fail to respond the committee would “have no choice but to make its findings on what is before it, including the PP’s statements”.
Mkhwebane, added Dyantyi, would be given an opportunity to make her closing statement orally or in writing, and that more than one date would be provided to accommodate “availability issues”.
All of this would happen “transparently and in public”.
Once a draft report was completed it would be given to members as well as Mkhwebane for comment.
“It will be her final audi [right to reply] before a decision on the adoption of the report will be made,” said Dyantyi.
There was “no other option” but for the committee to continue its work in this fashion.
The proposal was accepted by committee members with no apparent objections.
The bribery files
Once the committee had adjourned, Mkhwebane announced on social media that she would be holding a press conference on Tuesday, 13 June, with a venue to be confirmed.
At the meeting she claims she will be presenting “evidence of extortion, bribery and corruption” that has been pinned on ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina, Dyantyi and Joemat-Pettersson.
Apparent WhatsApp messages between Skosana and Joemat-Pettersson have been widely circulated on social media. Mkhwebane claims she has further “audio” that will back up her husband’s claims. DM