SECTION 194 INQUIRY
Mkhwebane saga — Deathbed resurrections, mass distractions, legal withdrawals fail to stop adoption of draft report
At the resumption on Friday of the Section 194 Inquiry into advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, MPs opted to continue work on a draft report ignoring the mosquitos in the room.
These mosquitos being letters sent to the committee by the suspended public protector and her attorney of choice, Hope Chaane, announcing their withdrawal.
The third letter was a last-minute application by Winston Erasmus, a former ANC youth league spokesperson and researcher, for committee chair, Qubudile Dyantyi’s recusal — attempt number four.
On 31 July, the committee announced that it had been provided with sufficient evidence by witnesses over more than 12 months to support an Independent Panel’s finding that Mkhwebane was guilty of four charges of misconduct and incompetence.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Long road to impeachment: Mkhwebane is guilty as charged – here’s a breakdown of the damning findings
On Friday the committee adopted the draft report after Parliament’s legal advisor, Fatima Ibrahim, had taken members through each charge. All that is left now is for Mkhwebane, who appears to have absconded, to offer her reply.
The IP, led by retired Constitutional Court judge Bess Nkabinde together with advocates Dumisa Ntsebeza and Johan de Waal, was unequivocal in its finding that there was prima facie evidence to support the charges and that she should be removed from office.
Last-ditch trip up
Erasmus in his application to the committee for Dyantyi’s recusal described himself as a “protected whistleblower” this late in the game.
The chair, he charged, was revealed to have been a manager for then deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR-17 campaign, and as such could not be impartial.
Erasmus, an advocate, had no locus standi at the Section 194 inquiry argued ANC MP Xola Ngola. And while the committee had been open and transparent, even allowing a group of “advocates to address us”, entertaining Erasmus would open the door to 54 million other South Africans.
“He is talking about apples while we are dealing with bananas,” he said,
ANC MP Boyce Maneli, said these were all matters “that seek to distract members and we should not be entertaining this. This has nothing to do with the committee”.
Notice of withdrawal of Chaane attorneys from representing Mkhwebane bordered, said Maneli, on “unfairness”.
The miracle attorney
Maneli added, “the attorney that is withdrawing (Chaane) is not an imposed attorney. He is an attorney of choice of the Public Protector, the same attorney who was on his death bed and miraculously her rose back up again, alive and kicking”.
In the meantime, Chaane had been well enough to launch a recusal application for Dyantyi while being paid from an extra R4-million ringfenced for her legal fees. Taxpayers funds, naturally.
“They have done other tasks than focus on the main work of the inquiry,” said Boyce adding that South Africans “must know what we are dealing with”.
Nqola said the committee would carry on with its work and Mkhwebane could elect to make comments, or not, afterwards. The suspended PP should not be allowed to use the issue of her legal representation as a “weapon of mass distraction”.
“There is no interest in fairness, no interest in justice being served and no interest that this needs to be done within a timeframe,” Ngola thundered.
He added that the committee had done everything in its power, including acting ultra vires (beyond its powers) “to get her the money so that she can have legal representation”.
The committee heard of the hard graft that had been put in by committee members who had spent more than 18 hours in July — charge by charge — going through the draft report.
After the committee members collectively dismissed Erasmus’ recusal application, Parliament’s legal advisor, Fatima Ibrahim, took members through the draft report.
Around lunchtime, DA MP Annelie Lotriet was the first to provide her opinion after Dyantyi had opened the floor to members to say “yay” or “nay”. Lotriet proposed that the committee recommend to the National Assembly that Mkhwebane be removed from office.
This was a view seconded by Maneli and Bheki Nkosi as well as the ACDP’s Marie Sukers.
The EFF, who have been staunch supporters of Mkhwebane, did not support Mkhwebane’s removal. MP Omphile Maotwe said the committee’s work had been “a frivolous exercise”.
Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks also did not support Mkhwebane’s removal. DM