MPs fume at absent Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's failure to attend a parliamentary meeting on Wednesday morning seems to have strengthened the resolve of MPs to have her removed from office.
Mkhwebane was scheduled to appear before the justice oversight committee to explain a policy on the appointment of a special advisor to her office. But now in her next appearance‚ she will not only be explaining that policy‚ but will have to give reasons for pulling out of Wednesday's meeting‚ and reasons for not sending her deputy Kevin Malunga or other officials from her office to stand in for her.
MPs will also use the occasion to discuss a proposal to remove her from office and they want her to be present when such a discussion takes place.
MPs were fuming when Mkhwebane did not arrive for the meeting and on hearing from committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga that Mkhwebane in fact had sent a letter at 5pm on Tuesday requesting the committee to reschedule the meeting to later this month or to a date next month.
Mkhwebane cited a “family emergency”‚ which she said she had tried in vain to rearrange.
She proposed that the committee consider rescheduling the meeting to either June 21 or July 5 which she said were suitable dates for her.
The public protector had also failed to forward to the committee copies of her presentation or a list of officials who would have been part of her delegation had she attended the meeting. This failure to submit documents and list‚ a practice she has previously performed‚ raised questions with MPs who claimed it was an indication that she had had no intention of attending the meeting.
“If the deputy was delegated to be here‚ we would be able to proceed with our business‚” said Motshekga. The committee has repeatedly asked Mkhwebane why she never brought Malunga to parliamentary meetings and she has previously said she had delegated him to focus on training staff of the public protector office.
“That was not acceptable to us‚” said Motshekga on Wednesday‚ adding that the committee had however taken a view not to interfere with the running of the office of the public protector as it was an independent institution.
The DA's Glynnis Breytenbach agreed with Motshekga‚ adding that the committee had informed Mkhwebane that Malunga's abilities were not being used to the optimum and that there was no reason why he shouldn't be fully involved in the running of the public protector’s office.
“If that office was being run even remotely properly‚ he should have been in a position to step into her shoes immediately and lead the delegation to parliament today. I have absolutely no doubt that he is perfectly competent to do that‚” she said.
Breytenbach‚ whose party‚ has repeatedly called for Mkhwebane's removal called on other parties to seriously consider that option saying it had become “very clear that the public protector doesn't want to do this job; cannot do this and doesn't understand this job and has nothing but contempt for the processes that she has to report to”.
The African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart noted that the courts had indicated that Mkhwebane did not understand her constitutional obligations and those of her office and that could imply her obligations to Parliament as well. He too called for the committee to seriously consider whether she was fit to hold office and have an inquiry in that regard.
MPs also queried the nature of Mkhwebane's emergency that could be “rearranged” with Breytenbach saying she had serious doubts about the veracity of the excuse.
Even ANC MPs who have previously defended Mkhwebane raised their concerns on Wednesday with Madipoane Mothapo questioning “the issue of rearrangement [as] trying to put us into doubt”.
Malunga took to Twitter on Wednesday morning saying he wasn’t aware of the meeting in Parliament and had only heard about it informally in the media.