Public Protector demands Thandi Modise halts process for her removal


Embattled Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has accused parliament’s speaker Thandi Modise of violating her constitutional rights and demanded that a process to remove her from office be halted.

Mkhwebane told a media briefing that she had on Tuesday morning sent a lawyer’s letter to Modise’s office demanding that proceedings be stopped until her concerns with the process were satisfactorily addressed.

She accused Modise of leaving her to learn of parliament’s intention to initiate the process in the media.

This amounted to a violation of her rights to privacy and dignity, she said.

Modise’s office on Friday approved a motion to initiate proceedings for the removal of Mkhwebane, whose tenure has been marred by several instances where high courts delivered scathing criticism of her findings.

This followed a request from DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone that was made three days after parliament adopted formal rules for the removal of a head of a Chapter 9 institution in December last year.

Mkhwebane said her letter to Modise set out her concerns with the manner in which the rules had been drafted and the constitutionality of the proposed process.

“As I have detailed that the issues… are with the process which has been followed in drafting the rules and also the issue of the constitutionality of the process,” she said, adding that parliament had a duty to uphold the values of the constitution and the principles of natural justice.

Mkhwebane said she was awaiting Modise’s response and hoped that the matter could be settled amicably.

“If the speaker does not respond we are engaging with the legal team which will then take other measures,” she said, but added: “I don’t think it will reach that point.”

Mkhwebane questioned an investigation against her by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) relating to tax matters. She also said she believed that some of the adversity she was encountering related to her investigation against frontline political figure, including public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.

The losing of cases we have been saying repeatedly, again and again and again, that you cannot deal with the competence of the public protector …. yes, judges can comment,” she said.

She added that this did not necessarily reflect on her competence because judges occasionally made mistakes, of the level of wrongly convicting people of murder or acquitting rapists.

But she took issue with the South African Revenue Service and the Hawks investigating her office. She said she expected to encounter opposition given the high level cases she was called upon to probe.

She said the bid to unseat her should not be seen as a personal matter but rather an assault on her office.

Relating to adverse court findings, she noted that she and her office had a right to appeal these and said it was expected that prominent figures would resist her office’s scrutiny.

The adverse findings against Mkhwebane notably include the Bankcorp matter where she was ordered to personally pay 15% of the costs from her own pocket in a case pitting her against the Reserve Bank.

The court held Mkhwebane personally liable for an estimated R900 000.

Those who have accused her of bias include Gordhan, who expressed the view that she was effectively strengthening the hand of the so-called fight-back campaign against president Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign of political renewal. Gordhan is contesting her findings against him relating to the establishment of an intelligence-gathering unit within SARS.

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Source: African News Agency (ANA)