Speaker brings out the big guns to assess removal of Mkhwebane

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise has appointed former judge Bess Nkabinde to chair a three-member panel to assess the merit of the motion calling for public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to be removed from her job.
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise has appointed former judge Bess Nkabinde to chair a three-member panel to assess the merit of the motion calling for public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to be removed from her job.
Image: Sunday Times

National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise has rolled out the big guns on public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, appointing top legal minds to assess the merits of a motion to have her removed from office.

Modise has appointed retired Constitutional Court Judge Bess Nkabinde to chair a three-member panel to assess the merit of the motion calling for the institution of proceedings to have Mkhwebane removed from her job.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Modise announced that Nkabinde would be joined on the panel by prominent senior counsel Dumisa Ntsebeza as well as another senior counsel and academic, Johan de Waal.

The motion to have Mkhwebane removed was tabled by DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone earlier this year in terms of the rules of parliament, which outline procedures to be followed in removing heads of constitutional chapter nine bodies, such as the public protector.

In tabling the motion, Mazzone cited a series of court judgments against Mkhwebane in which she was slammed for issuing unconstitutional directives against several state organs, including parliament itself.

Mazzone argued these showed that Mkhwebane had a poor grasp of the law and her constitutional mandate and was therefore not fit to hold office.

The panel to be chaired by justice Nkabinde, which Modise appointed followed a lengthy consultative process with parties represented in the National Assembly, will now determine if there's any merit to Mazzone's motion before a decision to institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane is instituted.

“Pursuant to these considerations, the speaker has appointed the followed people to the panel: Justice Bess Nkabinde (as chairperson); advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza; and advocate Johan de Waal,” said parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo.

“The panel will start its duties on a date to be announced. The panel must determine whether there is prima facie evidence to show that the holder of a public office committed misconduct; is incapacitated; or is incompetent.

“In so doing, it must provide the holder of a public office with a reasonable opportunity to respond, in writing, to all relevant allegations.

“It may not hold oral hearings but must limit its assessment to the relevant written and recorded information placed before it. In terms of the rules, the panel must complete its work and report within 30 days. The report in turn must be scheduled for consideration by the house. The panel may otherwise determine its own working arrangements.

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