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22 candidates for panel to decide fate of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise has 22 candidates to choose from for the three members of the independent panel that will determine whether there is a prima facie case for the removal of Busisiwe Mkhwebane from the position of Public Protector.

The panel will be announced by the end of the month.

DA MP Natasha Mazzone submitted the motion to institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane to Modise on December 6, three days after the National Assembly passed the rules for the removal of the head of a Chapter 9 institution, like the Public Protector.

On January 24, Modise announced she had found the motion in order and the process could proceed. The next step entails the appointment of an independent panel of three “fit and proper South Africans” who collectively have the necessary legal and other competencies to conduct the assessment.

Initially, Modise gave all political parties represented in Parliament the opportunity to nominate candidates for the panel by the deadline of February 5, but agreed to extend this period to Wednesday.

On Friday, in a statement, Parliament confirmed that political parties had submitted nominations for the independent panel to consider preliminary evidence on Mazzone’s motion.

“A total of 22 names were received. The Speaker will now consider the nominations and make a determination on the three names to constitute the panel. The decision of the Speaker will be announced by the end of February,” read the statement from Parliament’s spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

Mazzone announced last week that the DA nominated judges Robert Nugent and Jeanette Traverso.

Formal inquiry

Within 30 days of its appointment, the panel must conduct and finalise a preliminary assessment of the motion proposing a Section 194 inquiry and make a recommendation to the speaker.

They must also immediately provide the office-bearer concerned with the allegations against them and all accompanying material and afford the office-bearer an opportunity to respond within a reasonable time. The speaker must then schedule the panel’s recommendation for a decision by the National Assembly.

If the National Assembly resolved that the inquiry should go ahead, the matter must be referred to a special Section 194 committee for a formal inquiry. If the special committee recommends the office-bearer’s removal, a two-thirds majority must approve it for it to take effect in the case of the Public Protector.

READ | Parliamentary process to ‘dethrone’ Mkhwebane to continue despite court challenge

Mkhwebane publicly expressed her dissatisfaction with Modise’s decision to accept Mazzone’s motion and filed an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court, asking for an interdict to halt the parliamentary process. She argued that the rules were illegal and unconstitutional.

Apart from the interdict to halt the removal proceedings, Mkhwebane also asked the court to declare the rules for her removal unlawful and for an order to compel Modise to provide her with the reasons for her decision to approve Mazzone’s motion.

“It is the very first time ever in our young democracy that a serious attempt is being made to remove and dethrone the head of a watchdog institution by impeachment,” read Mkhwebane’s affidavit.

Section 194 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to remove a sitting Public Protector.

Modise indicated last week that Parliament will oppose Mkhwebane’s application and that the proceedings will continue despite the application.

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