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Mkhwebane's sabbatical granted on condition she is available to deal with process to remove her from office

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is on sabbatical until March 31. File photo.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is on sabbatical until March 31. File photo.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise granted public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s sabbatical leave on the condition she will avail herself to the ongoing parliamentary regarding her removal from office.

The process involves an independent legal panel assessing a motion to remove the public protector from office.

Mkhwebane’s office announced on Monday that she has gone on an 11-week sabbatical to get some rest.

TimesLIVE has since learnt that Modise granted Mkhwebane the leave of absence on condition she avail herself to the parliamentary process should she be required to appear. Mkhwebane is challenging the constitutionality of the rules that are guiding the parliamentary process.

“The leave is granted on condition it does not in any way impact on the public protector’s availability and participation in the ongoing parliamentary process affecting her, undertaken in line with section 194 of the constitution,” parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said on Tuesday.

The public protector service conditions provide for the speaker to grant leave to the public protector for a period of three-and-a-half months for every period of four years’ service completed, or for a shorter period and subject to conditions the speaker may in any particular case deem fit.

In addition, the public protector is entitled to vacation leave for a period not exceeding 36 calendar days per year. Mkhwebane has been in her position for more than four years.

Public protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe declined to comment about Modise’s condition to Mkhwebane, referring questions to Modise “as the custodian of the process in question”.

Mkhwebane approached the Constitutional Court earlier this month in an attempt to stop the parliamentary process from proceeding while she challenges the constitutionality of its rules.

This followed the Western Cape High Court’s dismissal of her application to stop Modise from pursuing the 17-stage process until the court has ruled on the constitutionality of the parliamentary rules regarding the removal of office bearers of Chapter 9 state institutions.

Modise appointed top legal minds led by retired ConCourt judge Bess Nkabinde in November to assess the merits of the DA motion to have Mkhwebane removed from office. Prominent senior counsel Dumisa Ntsebeza and senior counsel and academic Johan de Waal are part of the three-member panel.

The motion to have Mkhwebane removed was tabled by DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone early in 2020 in terms of the rules of parliament, which outline procedures to be followed in removing heads of constitutional Chapter 9 bodies, such as the public protector.

On Monday, Segalwe said Mkhwebane’s leave started on January 15 and will end on March 31, and that Modise was aware and had given Mkhwebane the go-ahead.

Segalwe said deputy public protector Adv Kholeka Gcaleka was holding the fort as acting public protector in her absence.


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