The parliament’s section 194 committee which was tasked with the process on adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s possible removal as Public Protector (OP), had to postpone her planned hearings for the week due to Mkhwebane’s health.
The committee received a sick letter from Mkhwebane indicating that she was booked until Monday.
Qubudile Dyantyi, committee chairman, indicated that the committee had in fact lost a further three days of hearings and that the draft program would now have to be amended to take these days into account. Furthermore, committee members will have to “sacrifice” their constituency period early next month to prioritize the committee hearings.
Dyantyi also raised another “risk factor”, namely that Mkhwebane’s legal representation is only paid for by the office of the OB until the end of next week. The OB’s office had earlier indicated that it could not afford to pay Mkhwebane’s legal team after March 31 due to a lack of funds. In addition, the OB office’s work suffers because of the expenses associated with the investigation.
Committee members are of the opinion that the last parts of Mkhwebane’s affidavit cannot be delayed any further and according to the agreement must be handed over to the committee by today. The committee has already been lenient in allowing the submission of the affidavit to be delayed and in allowing it to be submitted in separate parts to accommodate the OB’s legal team. Any new witnesses Mkhwebane may wish to call at this stage will have to provide written affidavits.
The committee also decided that due to the lost days and the program extension, urgent intervention is needed to deal with the funding issue. The committee noted that it is aware that the Constitutional Court has ruled that Mkhwebane is entitled to legal representation at the hearings. However, the court did not rule that the OB’s office or the parliament is responsible for financing those costs.
“However, this may affect the work of the committee, but it is not really our space to intervene. The portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, the speaker or the minister of justice and correctional services should instead be approached to pursue this matter,” he said.
Regarding the amended committee program, members agreed that several options should be considered. This includes working through the next constituency period, reducing the number of days set aside for members to engage with the OB through written questions and reducing the number of days set aside for committee closing arguments to provide written heads of arguments.
Dyantyi said the committee further agreed not to disclose Mkhwebane’s sick note for privacy reasons. The trial will continue on Tuesday.
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