Parliament to consider draft report on removing public protector

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen during a press briefing at the Public Protector's offices in Hatfield, 19 December 2018, Pretoria. Photo: Jacques Nelles

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane may be back in the firing line today as parliament is expected to consider a draft report on whether an inquiry should be launched into her fitness to hold office.

According to the justice portfolio committee, the report stems from a request to expedite procedures to remove the public protector.

This was initiated by a complaint lodged by Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen in February last year. It followed the release of Mkhwebane’s report on the Absa Bank/Bankorp scandal, in which she recommended that parliament consider changing the constitution and the powers of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb).

“This was arising from a number of judgments and matters where the public protector was found to have erred,” explained Steenhuisen.

The DA, which initiated the process last year, yesterday said it had little faith that MPs would agree to forge ahead with their request.

“The public protector’s defence squad from the ANC rallied around her from the onset, making public statements in her defence. This report may turn out to be one excuse after the other, about why there should not be an inquiry into her fitness to hold office,” said Steenhuisen.

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said her office was not given a chance to make a submission on the report.

“The public protector was not requested to make a submission on the report. The only time she was afforded an opportunity to make an input was in response to a DA request for an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. That was last year and this was reported on extensively,” said Segalwe.

During a judicial review of her Bankorp report in 2017, Mkhwebane gave reasons in an affidavit as to why she felt she was within her powers to make recommendations to parliament. The most contentious of her recommendations was that parliament move to change the constitution to expand on the mandate of the Sarb.

But Steenhuisen said this was an unconstitutional move on her part and it indicated either a lack of understanding, or a blatant disregard of the limitations of her office.

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni / The Citizen