After months of being hamstrung by a series of delays, the parliamentary inquiry into the fitness of suspended Public Protector, Busiswe Mkhwebane, to hold office has changed track. Efforts to sort out her legal representation has seen the hearings postponed since the end of March.
In the latest development, the committee has heard that Mkhwebane has objected to the office of the state attorney acting as attorneys of record and briefing counsel on her behalf.
She will now be required to answer questions from members of the committee and evidence leaders in writing.
The committee started by hearing from the office of the state attorney on how far they were in briefing counsel. This was after the mandate of Mkhwebane’s new preferred attorneys of record, Chaane Attorneys, was withdrawn as a result of their failure to brief counsel. Isaac Chowe explained that he in fact was not able to act as her attorney of record as she has objected to this.
“The ethical issues which are standing before us or as the state attorney and myself is that once a client objects to the representation by an attorney it would be unethical for me to even address the committee as an attorney of record for advocate Mkhwebane.”
Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane claims the state attorney’s office is conflicted:
Mkhwebane herself repeated her previous position that there was a clear conflict of interest.
“The issue now is; let’s say Chowe proceeeds, can Chowe continue to apply at court for the recusal of the chairperson. Can Chowe go an litigate against the state attorney because you are represented by the state attorney. Then also there’s my private attorney. Possibly then you can brief those attorneys and then we can proceed.”
When it became clear that there was not going to be movement, chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi, announced a new way forward. He instructed committee members and evidence leaders to present their questions to her in writing.
Mkhwebane will then have the opportunity to also answer in writing or, if she wishes to answer orally, she will be allowed to do so.
“Should the PP fail to answer the committee shall have no choice but to make its findings based on the evidence before it including the PP statements part A and B which were made under oath. Members will be afforded an opportunity to consider these answers. Which may be oral or in writing. I will then allow the PP via her counsel an opportunity to make closing statements orally or submit same in writing.”
Mkhwebane was unhappy with this proposal and called it unconstitutional.
“Whatever you mentioned now. The process which you are saying you are going to take, is not provided for in directives. It’s an unlawful process which all members are agreeing to an unlawful process. Fortunately it’s what the late TJP said is what you would want to do to circumvent the process.”
Dyantyi will now issue new regulations and a timetable that will ensure that they complete their work by the 28th of July.
Mkhwebane claims state attorney’s office is conflicted: