National Assembly votes Mkhwebane out of Public Protector office for incompetence and misconduct
Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the suspended Public Protector, has been impeached with a vote of 318 for, 43 against and one abstention in the National Assembly.
South Africa’s unprecedented impeachment inquiry ended with the removal from office as Public Protector for misconduct and incompetence of Busisiwe Mkhwebane after a debate in the House.
The EFF, African Transformation Movement (ATM) and United Democratic Movement (UDM) had opposed the impeachment inquiry when it started in July 2022 after delays from a slew of legal challenges by Mkhwebane, and a cost of millions of rand to the taxpayer.
On Monday, the EFF, ATM and UDM were joined by the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), African Independent Congress (AIC) and Al Jama-ah to continue to oppose Mkhwebane’s removal from office on grounds of misconduct and incompetence.
“The uninformed majority seeks to railroad all of us to impeach a person not liked by the establishment… We see Parliament being used to break the law to protect the powerful,” was how EFF MP Omphile Maotwe put it, after describing the process as “grossly unfair” and “a witch hunt”.
Citing Mkhwebane as “victim” continues the spin the Public Protector herself pursued through the recent past.
DA MP Annelie Lotriet on Monday said the Section 194 committee did its job, and described as “seminal” the over one-year impeachment inquiry despite the Public Protector’s serial legal challenges.
“The evidence that we heard, it is clear without a doubt that advocate Mkhwebane cannot proceed any longer… We can correct the wrong by supporting the removal of advocate Mkhwebane.”
The ANC took a similar view.
“I have no doubt the committee has established, on the facts, that advocate Mkhwebane has indeed misconducted herself and is incompetent and is not fit for this esteemed office…” said Section 194 impeachment inquiry chairperson ANC MP Qubudile Dyantyi.
Freedom Front Plus Chief Whip Corné Mulder said it was a “sad day”, but that Mkhwebane had failed to live up to the requirements of office. “We can do something about this today… together. Let’s bring dignity back to the PP. The self-protector needs to go today.”
IFP MP Zandile Majozi earlier said South Africa could ill afford to have a Public Protector who’s not accountable and transparent: “the the individual taking up the home of the Public Protector must embody the best values of democracy…”
The IFP in 2016 proposed Mkhwebane to the shortlist of interviews. When the ANC’s preferred candidate Judge Siraj Desai became mired in opposition, the EFF proposed Mkhwebane as a compromise candidate. The DA did not support her.
Grumblings over Mkhwebane’s conduct emerged by 2017 with a damning judgement in the Bankcorp/Absa apartheid-era bail-out report included changing the South African Reserve Bank constitutional mandate. It dropped during the faction-ridden governing ANC July 2017 policy conference where calls were made for the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank.
On 3 December 2019 rules for the removal from office of a Chapter 9 institution head, modelled on the impeachment proceedings against a president, were adopted unanimously. By early 2020 then DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone brought the required motion to kickstart the the 17-step process that led to the appointment of an independent assessment panel in November 2020.
While the Section 194 inquiry was established by March 2021, it only got under way in July 2022 after the Constitutional Court dismissed all but one of Mkhwebane’s challenges — that the subject of an impeachment inquiry must be fully represented by a lawyer.
That, ironically, led to a legalistic and often antagonistic process that marked the parliamentary proceedings.
In late July 2023 the Section 194 inquiry committee upheld four counts against Mkhwebane, including victimising staff and misconduct and incompetence in three investigations — the Gutpa-linked Vrede Dairy Farm, the Bosasa funding of the CR17 campaign by Cyril Ramaphosa for ANC president, and the Bankorp/Absa bailout.
Monday’s debate and vote in the House were the final steps in the removal from office proceedings.
The National Assembly’s decision to immediately impeach Mkhwebane now goes to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who must remove her from office in line with Section 194(3)(b) — a month short of the expiration of her seven-year non-renewable term. DM