The Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula says Parliament will not foot the bill for the suspended public protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s legal costs.
The parliamentary inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office hit a snag after her office withdrew funding at the end of the last financial year.
However, it was revealed last week that an amount of R4 million has been made available for Mkhwebane’s legal funding until the end of this month.
Mkhwebane’s seven-year non-renewable term as the Public Protector ends in October.
Mapisa Nqakula says, “We will not be able to push any further for anyone to make money available for the legal costs. I mean we have tried, one has tried very hard and very difficult to the point where there was a suggestion that parliament itself should fund the rest of the hearings. But I said we are conducting the oversight. Indeed we are responsible for the inquiry. But it can’t, the money can’t come from parliament. The money must come from the office and unfortunately, it was not our decision, it was the decision of the court that the Public Protector’s legal costs should be paid for.”
She has warned that failure to complete Mkhwebane’s inquiry into her fitness to hold office could have serious implications for Parliament as well as the Office of the Public Protector.
Mapisa-Nqakula says, “If we are to stop this whole process midway before we completed it, there will be an audit funding against parliament. There will be an audit finding against us. Equally, there will be an audit finding against the office of the public protector, but the people in the main who will bear the brunt of criticism is parliament as though is our problem. It is not our problem. It cannot be our problem. If there is a hearing then the appropriate office where the person is charged must take the responsibility.”
Inkatha Freedom Party ( IFP) has proposed that parliament should approach the Constitutional Court seeking clarity on the way forward should the inquiry into the fitness to Mkwebane’s hold office be halted again.
Speaking during the National Assembly’s Programming Committee IFP MP, Narend Singh advised parliament to approach the ConCourt for guidance.
He says, “Is it not possible for our legal team, meaning parliament to ask for an urgent declaratory from the constitutional court on what do we do explaining to them where we find ourselves? Explaining to them it is their decision that has put ourselves quote unquote quagmire. How do we proceed without flouting the law? Declaratories are something that we always ask when we are uncertain how to move forward in terms of the law. So is that something that we can consider as we move forward as a legal team.”