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‘Public protector was sabotaged,’ says Mpofu on day one of impeachment hearing

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, said her suspension was premature and biased.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, said her suspension was premature and biased.
Image: Freddy Mavunda/Business Day

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has accused parliament of sabotaging her preparations for the impeachment inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

Her legal representative Dali Mpofu has revealed that since Mkhwebane’s suspension on June 9, she had not had access to her emails until last Thursday.

“Her emails were only opened on Thursday, July 7, almost a month after her suspension on June 9. For almost a month, she had no access to email,” he said.

“This was a direct consequence of the suspension. She has been completely sabotaged in preparation for this,” he said.

Mkhwebane was suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa, pending the outcome of the impeachment inquiry.

Hearings into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office kicked off in parliament on Monday.

Mpofu argued the process had been unfair.

“Unfairness is patent,” he said and asked for the process to be conducted in a fair manner.

“We are here. We are ready to rock ’n roll. We just want to tell you where you are leading this country and this parliament — to a bottomless pit and a cesspool of illegality,” he said.

“We can’t stop, it’s a free country, the committee will make its own decision. Good luck.”

Mpofu told the special committee convened in terms of Section 194 of the constitution, which is looking into Mkhwebane’s conduct, that it could not distance itself from Mkhwebane’s suspension.

Mpofu has questioned the committee’s impartiality, suggesting it had a predetermined outcome because Mkhwebane’s suspension was at its and National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s behest.

He argued that not only was Mkhwebane’s suspension premature, it transgressed the rule of bias.

“The person who did the suspension is the same person being investigated by the public protector”.

Mpofu said the suspended public protector would participate in the parliamentary process, but her participation was under protest.

She will, however, continue with the legal challenge against her suspension which is scheduled to be heard at the high court in Cape Town on July 25-26, despite her deputy last week saying all appeal cases would be withdrawn.

Mpofu said the alleged sabotage by parliament had also impacted her preparations for the court matter in which Mapisa-Nqakula and chair of the section 194 committee Richard Dyantyi oppose Mkhwebane.

In the court papers, Mapisa-Nqakula said she doubted Mkhwebane’s authority to litigate as public protector and questioned Seanago Attorneys' authority, as Mkhwebane’s case was more about her personal interests.

Reflecting on Mkhwebane’s numerous court challenges to halt parliament’s process and her suspension, and which has been termed a "Stalingrad approach", Mpofu said this was the public protector trying to assist parliament to get its process in order.

He charged that the constitution had been “seriously violated” to get the process under way.

“There was a lot of zeal to get here. By hook or by crook. But mostly by crook,” he said.

Mpofu said if the constitution was a person, it would adopt Judith Sephuma’s song, A Cry a Smile and a Dance.

“The constitution would cry because of some of the violations that have brought us here.

“It would smile because everybody appreciates growth and, as you (Dyantyi) pointed out, it is a big moment constitutionally-speaking as we are entering uncharted waters,” said Mpofu.

“It’s the first time as a country that a so-called impeachment process has reached this stage. There have been attempts to impeach presidents and judges but none of them has ever reached the stages we are reaching today,” he said.

Evidence leader advocate Nazreen Bawa began the proceedings with a statement on what led to the historic exercise and how the process was expected to unfold.

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