Parliament to urgently draft new rules on public protector's removal

27 August 2019 - 13:10 By ANDISIWE MAKINANA
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Esa Alexander

The justice committee in parliament has taken a resolution to ask National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise to instruct the assembly's rules committee to urgently draft rules on how to remove from office the public protector and other heads of Chapter 9 institutions.

MPs agreed in just under four minutes on Tuesday morning to refer the process for removal of the public protector to the rules committee for urgent resolution.

Committee chair Bulelani Magwanishe told MPs of the decision of the programme committee which met last week and agreed that rules needed to be developed to effect processes in terms of section 194 (1) of the constitution. That section provides for the removal of the public protector, auditor-general or a member of any commission established under chapter 9 of the constitution.

Magwanishe said the committee resolution was necessary so that the speaker could refer the matter to the rules committee as soon as it is practically possible.

The ANC's Xola Nqola, a member of the committee, added that it was only fair to refer the matter to the rules committee as it would be a responsible manner of handling the DA's request for parliament to probe the fitness of the current public protector to hold office.

He predicted that the process would be highly litigious, saying it was important for MPs to have clarity in presiding over the matter. "Let's take it to the [rules] committee to at least construct a reasonable process for us to preside over the matter," he said.

The DA's Glynnis Breytenbach wanted the committee to emphasise urgency in developing the new rule.

"We support the resolution to refer the matter to the speaker so that she can refer the matter to the rules committee," said Breytenbach. "But we would request that it be made clear to the speaker that the matter is very urgent and the speaker refers it on an urgent basis and that the rules committee is asked to deal with it as an urgent matter so that it can come back here and we deal with the substantive matter of the removal of the public protector," she said.

Magwanishe said the committee would ensure Modise would receive the committee's request today [Tuesday].

The DA has been calling for parliament to initiate removal proceedings against Busisiwe Mkhwebane since her report on Bankorp's apartheid-era bailout was released in June 2017.

The party accused Mkhwebane of "grossly overreaching" her powers by recommending that the constitution be amended to alter the mandate of the Reserve Bank, and dictating to parliament how legislation should be amended.

The party has also relied on and cited several court findings against the public protector as a basis for the calls for her removal.

John Steenhuisen, in whose name the DA wrote to Modise on May 23, welcomed today's developments saying the party had obtained a legal opinion which recommended that parliament should first adopt rules governing how removal proceedings in terms of section 194 should be conducted, to ensure that all parties enjoy legal and procedural certainty.

"We therefore fully support the decision taken by today’s meeting of the portfolio committee, and are hopeful that it signifies that parliament is approaching the matter with the care and attention it deserves," he said.

He reiterated the DA's belief that Mkhwebane was not a fit and proper person to occupy the office of the public protector.


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