Sparks fly as MPs debate Kholeka Gcaleka's nomination for public protector job

19 October 2023 - 16:05
By Andisiwe Makinana
Parliament on Thursday debated the recommendation of advocate Kholeka Gcaleka to replace Busisiwe Mkhwebane as public protector. File image.
Image: Anton Scholtz Parliament on Thursday debated the recommendation of advocate Kholeka Gcaleka to replace Busisiwe Mkhwebane as public protector. File image.

Parliament's debate to consider the recommendation of deputy public protector advocate Kholeka Gcaleka to replace Busisiwe Mkhwebane started on a heated note on Thursday.

The DA caucus walked out early on as the party disagreed with a ruling by National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, which resulted in DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach being chased out of the house.

Breytenbach opposed Gcaleka’s nomination and cited a number of reasons why she should not be appointed. She insinuated that Gcaleka, who formerly worked at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and former NPA boss Menzi Simelane were more than just friends or colleagues. She suggested that Gcaleka was rapidly promoted in the NPA due to her relationship with Simelane.

“Her cosy relationship, some say intimate relationship, with her boss, the rather odious Menzi Simelane, led to speedy promotions and her very vocal and active support of his role in the capture of the NPA,” said Breytenbach.

When heckled by ANC MPs, she responded: “You don’t have to like it!”

ANC MP Bheki Radebe objected, citing a rule which bars MPs from reflecting on the competence or integrity of a holder of a public office like a Chapter 9 institution and whose removal from office is dependent upon a decision of the house.

Human settlements minister Mmamoloko Kubayi, also rising on a point of order, said Breytenbach was insinuating that Gcaleka’s rise in her job had been due to her giving sexual favours.

“In this country, in this day, with what we have gone through, we cannot allow this, we can’t allow to have such an insinuation in the house — also given what we have gone through as women in this country,” said Kubayi.

The speaker upheld their objections and ordered Breytenbach to withdraw her comments. She refused and was then instructed to leave the house.

As she left, DA leader John Steenhuisen challenged Mapisa-Nqakula’s ruling, saying she had relied on a wrong rule in kicking Breytenbach out.

“Your last ruling you’ve made is an incorrect ruling. It’s incorrect because Gcaleka doesn’t occupy any of the offices that require …”

Mapisa-Nqakula cut him short, saying: “We are not discussing this matter.”

Steenhuisen responded by saying she was wrong. He refused to take his seat when instructed to do so. Instead, he shouted: “You are being as dishonest today in this parliament like you lied about [Xolile] George’s salary. You are dishonest, you are a liar, you do not follow the rules of parliament, you are a disgrace. We are going to remove you with a motion of no confidence.”

DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube reinforced Steenhuisen's point, saying Mapisa-Nqakula had relied on a wrong rule which does not apply to the deputy public protector, “as Gcaleka is not a public office bearer appointed by this house”.

Gcaleka was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the recommendation of the house but as a deputy she is not the holder of the office.

The house was adjourned briefly to fix poor sound. When it resumed, the DA caucus walked out accusing the speaker of unfairly presiding over the session.