'Speaker Thandi Modise is failing in her duties'

07 February 2020 - 09:08
By Kgothatso Madisa and Isaac Mahlangu
Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has accused National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise of "dismally" failing to uphold the constitution by allowing the adoption of unfair rules aimed at ousting her from office.

Mkhwebane filed an urgent court application in the Western Cape High Court in a bid to stop the start of the parliamentary process that will, from today, look into appointing a three-member panel of experts that will oversee it.

The public protector accused Modise of failing to be impartial in the execution of her duties and of having done a "cut-and-paste job" on the rules suggested by the DA to govern the process to remove her.

In the court papers filed in the Western Cape High Court this week, Mkhwebane said the process, initiated by the DA, was unlawful and that Modise failed to uphold the constitution when she accepted the rules governing it.

Mkhwebane said the proposed rules, which she said Modise "embarrassingly" adopted "as is", were solely targeted at her.

"By the look of things, the National Assembly simply swallowed hook, line and sinker in the shoddy cut-and-paste job of the DA, which was known to have been carrying out an unrelenting vendetta to get rid of me from even before the proverbial day one."

She said she was seeking the court to protect her by stopping the process of appointing an independent panel until her application challenging the illegalities around the process.

Mkhwebane argued that the rules are unconstitutional and unlawful and wants them declared illegal and set aside.

She stated that Modise has continuously failed to communicate with her, which makes her believe that she was "intending and determined to take further steps in pursuance of my removal from office".

Mkhwebane also argued that this process seems to be used as legal threat of restricting the decisional independence of her office.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said as far as they were concerned, the process of appointing an independent panel that oversee the process was going ahead.

"The deadline for parties to submit the nominations for persons to form the three-member panel of experts is tomorrow [today]..." Mothapo said.

Meanwhile, a group calling itself Democracy in Action is also challenging the constitutionality of parliament's process to investigate Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office in court.

The organisation, which launched the "Hands-off Public Protector" campaign last July, last week also filed papers in the Western Cape High Court in which it argues that the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994, which dealt with the removal from office of a public protector, is invalid.

The group's founder Thabo Mtsweni, in his affidavit, said the adopted removal rules "did not balance the constitutional rights of the office bearers of Chapter 9 institutions which include the right to dignity, equality and fair labour practices".

The African Transformation Movement has also instructed its lawyers to file court papers in support of Mkhwebane's legal action.