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South Africa

South Africa: Public Protector Removal - Speaker Thandi Modise Approves Motion to Begin Proceedings

The office of National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has approved a motion to initiate proceedings for the removal of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Three days after Parliament adopted formal rules for the removal of a head of a Chapter 9 institution in December last year, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone put in a request to Modise.

"The DA, from the onset, opposed the appointment of Mkhwebane as Public Protector and we consider her removal a matter of great urgency," Mazzone said at the time.

"She has, time and again, proven that she is unfit to hold office, has consistently demonstrated an inability to conduct her work independently and has illustrated a poor understanding both of the law as well as of her mandate as Public Protector. Worse, Mkhwebane's actions have caused immeasurable damage to the once-respected reputation of the Office of the Public Protector."

In a statement on Friday, parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the new rules expanded on the broad parameters in Section 194 of the Constitution - which provide for the removal of heads of Chapter 9 institutions - and previous National Assembly rules.

"The Democratic Alliance's draft substantive motion for the removal of Advocate Mkhwebane will thus be considered in terms of these new rules," read the statement.

"The new rules provide for any member of the National Assembly to initiate, through a substantive motion, proceedings for a Section 194 inquiry."

If the Speaker is satisfied that the motion meets all the requirements, she must refer the motion and any supporting documents for a preliminary assessment to an independent panel. She must also, without delay, inform the National Assembly and the president of this referral.

"Having approved the motion, the Speaker has thus written to political parties to put forward proposed nominees to serve on the panel, made up of fit and proper South African citizens," Mothapo said.

"The rules stipulate that the panel must collectively have the necessary legal and other competencies and experience to conduct the assessment. A judge may be appointed to the panel, but the Speaker must make such an appointment in consultation with the chief justice."

Parties have until February 7 to submit their recommended nominees.

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

The new rules came about as the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services considered then DA chief whip John Steenhuisen's request to remove Mkhwebane. Steenhuisen has since become DA interim leader.

On two occasions during the Fifth Parliament, Steenhuisen unsuccessfully attempted to have the committee institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane.

As the Sixth Parliament began, the DA again asked for such a process, which Modise referred to the committee.

Mkhwebane wrote to Modise to complain there were no rules for the process to remove her and threatened court action.

After considering the case, the committee referred it to the rules committee to draft the rules, which was then adopted on December 3 last year.

The Constitution empowers the president to suspend the head of a Chapter 9 institution when he or she is under investigation. In that case, the Deputy Public Protector would act as Public Protector. This will also be the case if the incumbent is removed, until a new Public Protector is appointed.

Source: News24

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