Public Protector given a reprieve by justice portfolio committee


PARLIAMENT, December 5 – Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice on Wednesday decided to hold off on an investigation into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, leading the Democratic Alliance to accuse it of failing in its oversight duty.

The committee voted by five to one in favour of a proposal from African National Congress MP Moloko Maila to wait, at least until the Pretoria High Court has pronounced on an application to have Mkhwebane’s report on the Vrede dairy farm in the Free State declared unconstitutional and set aside.

The Economic Freedom Fighters abstained from the vote, with MP Thilivhali Mulaudzi, saying he needed to consult with his party’s chief whip. James Selfe from the DA voted against the proposal.

The court application on the Vrede dairy farm was brought by the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac). The parties argued in October that Mkhwebane had not acted prudently in her probe and had failed to investigate senior politicians implicated in corruption and money-laundering that sank the agriculture project.

The DA has for months pushed for the committee to start proceedings to remove Mkhwebane, citing her poor record and notably the scathing court findings on her report on the Absa/Bankorp matter.

James Selfe said he believed the committee had failed in its duty, and that the ANC caucus appeared to have lost any appetite to investigate Mkhwebane.

“It seemed to me that people have closed ranks ahead of next year’s election and avoiding any controversy that might arise from dealing with the matter.”

Selfe added that the DA would await the ruling of the high court on the Vrede matter and then raise its views on Mkhwebane before the committee again.

“Depending on what court judgment we will get we will most certainly be reviving this issue before the committee because it was clear to us during court proceedings that the Public Protector’s investigation into Vrede Farm was a travesty of justice of the worst proportions.”

Mkhwebane has told the committee that the DA has no cause to call for her removal.

– African News Agency (ANA)