ANC stops public protector probe

Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture Credit: ANTONIO MUCHAVE
Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture Credit: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The ANC majority on the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice on Wednesday used its majority to stop the inquiry into the fitness of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to hold office.

In one of the most ill-tempered and partisan parliamentary committee sittings since the Nkandla inquiry‚ committee chairman Mathole Motshekga (ANC) upheld every point of order raised by the ANC and overruled every point of order raised by the opposition.

The committee dealt with a referral to it by speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete of a complaint by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen that Mkhwebane was unfit to be public protector. This was after a judge had found she had overreached her powers when she instructed that the mandate of the Reserve Bank must be changed‚ and instructed the portfolio committee (which does not have the power) to change the Constitution accordingly.

ANC shields Mkhwebane from the DA 

Despite an earlier indication that he might recuse himself as chairman because he was so deeply involved with the matter‚ Motshekga said he had reconsidered his position and would not recuse himself after all.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach set the tone for the opposition parties (DA‚ EFF‚ ACDP and NFP) by asking what form the inquiry would take.

From the chair‚ Motshekga‚ in turn‚ set the tone for the ANC by arguing that the committee must first decide whether an inquiry was necessary‚ and not “put the cart before the horse.”

DA MP Werner Horn reminded Motshekga of the Constitutional Court finding that parliament had failed in its constitutional duty during the Nkandla inquiry‚ and warned Motshekga — who was central to that process — that he was doing so again.

“This is like the Nkandla inquiry. It is a make-believe process‚” said Horn.

ANC MP Makgathatso Pilane-Majake said the DA never wanted Mkhwebane as public protector and was pursuing the matter as a witch hunt to suit their own political ends.

She also held that‚ although Mkhwebane had made a mistake in the matter under discussion‚ judges were not removed every time a higher court overruled them.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said it was impossible to decide whether the events merited an inquiry until the complainant (Steenhuisen) had put his case‚ and preferably until Mkhwebane had answered.

Matters became very heated when Motshekga prevented Breytenbach from referencing Steenhuisen’s letter of complaint — the documentary catalyst for Mbete referring the issue to the committee — claiming that it cast aspersions on Mkhwebane and dealt with the merits of the case prematurely.

When Breytenbach pointed out that it was impossible to ascertain whether an inquiry was needed without reference to the base document‚ she was overruled.

From there‚ things turned into a shouting match.

EFF MP Sam Matiase accused Motshekga of being too conflicted‚ confused and involved to chair — an assertion hotly contested by Motshekga‚ who nevertheless insisted that his vote be counted with those of the ANC‚ giving the ANC a 6-4 victory in deciding the complaint did not merit an inquiry.