Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane takes parliament to court over attempt to remove her

06 February 2020 - 17:14 By Andisiwe Makinana
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is suing parliament.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is suing parliament.

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise has revealed that the public protector is suing parliament over the constitutionality of the recently passed rules on the removal of heads of Chapter 9 institutions.

“Yes, her lawyers wrote to us to give a period to suspend or withdraw [the initiation of proceedings for removal of public protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane] because they said our rules are unconstitutional,” Modise told parliamentary journalists on Thursday.

She said that before passing the rules, parliament made sure they were constitutional.

She said: “We responded and this week the lawyers came back to indicate to us that they are taking the matter forward [to court].”

Modise said they would follow the procedure they had adopted.

“We will set up a panel, that panel will be independent. We have deliberately asked all parties to put forward the names. That panel will then be given the motion that has come in the name of Ms (Natasha) Mazzone from the DA,” she added.

She said on that basis, the panel would then determine whether parliament should proceed with anything. “It is really premature for us to say there is going to be further processes or not. It is that panel that will advise us,” said Modise.

She said Mkhwebane's lawyers had objected to a number of issues in the new rules, including issues of conflict and that the rules do not give a right to reply.

“ ... as I say, we are not there yet. We are at a point where an independent panel as set out by the rules will determine if there is a case to answer or not.”

Mkhwebane told journalists last week that the rules adopted by the National Assembly to regulate the removal from office of heads of Chapter 9 bodies were unconstitutional and invalid. She threatened to challenge their constitutionality in court.

Meanwhile, Modise maintained that there would be one item on next Thursday night's agenda and nothing else: President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address.

This was in reference to the EFF's threat to disrupt the proceedings unless public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan was dismissed from his position.

“Any joint sitting is held and is chaired in accordance with the joint rules of that sitting and that is the only thing that we will be applying. We have not and we do not intend to go out of our way to plan anything extraordinary. The rules of the sitting will apply,” she added, while confirming that there had been no discussions about the possible disruptions.

Among the dignitaries who have confirmed their attendance at this year's event are former presidents Thabo Mbeki, FW de Klerk and Kgalema Motlanthe, former deputy president Baleka Mbete and former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala.

The state of the nation address will be on Thursday evening, February 13, in parliament.