The Committee met to consider and adopt the draft report on the request for the National Assembly to expedite the procedure to remove the Public Protector in terms of section 194 of the Constitution.
The report recommended that the House not support the request to expedite proceedings to remove the Public Protector, Adv B Mkhwebane from office.
The DA and ACDP pointed out that the Report was inadequate and disagreed with the recommendation.
Their position was rejected by the majority and the report was passed after a vote.
Opening Remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed everyone.
She indicated that apologies had been submitted by three Members and read out their names.
The Chairperson stated that there was only one item on the agenda: consideration on the Committee Report on the request for the National Assembly to remove the Public Protector from office in terms of section 194 of the Constitution.
The Chairperson enquired if all Members had received the report that had been circulated by the secretariat the previous week.
Members confirmed that they had received the report.
Committee Report on request for Public Protector’s removal from office
The Chairperson tabled the report for consideration and invited Members to comment.
Mr W Horn (DA) stated that the report did not address the referral to the Committee made by the Speaker, the merits or demerits of the referral, the lengthy letter by the Chief whip of the opposition, the response to the referral and how the Committee or majority of the committee arrived at the conclusion that the Committee should not embark on an investigation or fitness to hold office by the incumbent Public Protector. In his view, this one page report could not be presented to the National Assembly.
He pointed out that paragraph 4 was nonsensical and did not explain the views of majority of the committee in that on one hand it seemed to indicate that the committee should respect the court’s decision and on the other hand that it indicated that the committee cannot be led by what the court determines on the Public Protector holding office. He reminded the Committee that the Public Protector is fighting a High Court order which ruled that she was personally liable for part of the legal costs incurred by the SA Reserve Bank in the Bankorp matter. Should the Constitutional court uphold the finding and not set aside other grounds by the High Court, the Committee will want to embark on a full scale investigation.
Mr Horn also pointed out that the committee was not dealing with oversight but a constitutional duty referred to it by the Speaker. He Committee recommended that the House does support the request to expedite proceedings to remove the Public Protector from office.
Ms G Breytenbach (DA) agreed with Mr Horn’s submission. She pointed out that the report failed dismally and did not deal with the deliberations by the Committee, the issues raised by the Chief whip or referral by the Speaker. She further pointed out that the report did not indicate that the Committee, on 10 October 2017, resolved to hold an inquiry into the fitness or otherwise of the Public Protector to hold office and that at a subsequent meeting the Committee back tracked on its decision.
She further pointed out that the Public Protector had insulted the Committee and the matter had not been indicated in the report. She stated that her party disassociated itself from the report.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) agreed with both Mr Horn and Ms Breytenbach’s submissions. He pointed out that the report did not deal with a number of issues which should be included. For example, the referral by the Speaker, the Chief whip’s letter, the Public Protector’s response and the High Court finding in the case challenging the removal of the public protector. A proper inquiry was necessary and the excuse that there is not enough time to deliberate on the Public Protector should not be used to submit the report to Parliament. The matter could be included in the legacy report of the Committee. He reminded the Committee of Parliament’s oversight role.
Further, Mr Swart referred to the document and pointed out that the word ‘expedite’ was not relevant and should be deleted.
Lastly, he said that the Public Protector’s attitude towards the Committee had not been included in the report and ought to have been included.
Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF) stated that the EFF went through the report and arrived at the decision that it is in order and further that the incumbent Public Protector should stay in office and be supported on the issues she raised for example on budgetary constraints.
In response to Mr Swart’s suggestion that the word ‘expedite’ be removed, Mr Mulaudzi disagreed and said it should be retained.
Mr G Skoskana (ANC) argued that the report was in order and that a report is a summary and cannot include every document e.g. the referral by the Speaker, the Chief whip’s letter and the lengthy response by the Public Protector. He suggested that the documents should be included as annexures to the report.
He suggested that the Committee should focus on the request by the Chief Whip and at a later stage invite the Public Protector to deal with other issues raised.
He further highlighted that most of the members did not attend the committee meeting on 5 December 2018 where all the issues relating to the Public Protector were discussed.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) agreed with Mr Skosana’s input that the report reflected what transpired before the Committee. He stated that the Committee had never decided that an inquiry will be done and backtracked on it.
Mr M Maila (ANC) agreed with Mr Mulaudzi and stated that the report substantially covered what the Committee dealt with. He further pointed out that the Committee had already dealt with the discussions relating to the Public Protector and same should not be opened up in today’s meeting. Mr STleane (ANC) stated that the word ‘expedite’ should not be removed as it formed the basis of the request by the Chief Whip of the DA. He urged the committee members not to distort the request by the Chief Whip.
Mr Tleane added that the recommendation in the report captured the Committee’s view on the matter.
Mr Maila further suggested that the word ‘Not’ on page 2 should be in bold and that the addendums should not be added as they were part of the public domain.
A proposal was made to adopt the report.
Ms Breytenbach proposed that the report should not be adopted.
The proposal to adopt the draft report was supported by six members namely, Ms Mothapo, Mr Maila, Mr Skosana, Mr Mulaudzi, Mr Mpumlwana and Mr Tleane. Three members, namely Mr Swart, Mr Horn and Ms Breytenbach voted against the report.
The report was therefore passed. The report recommended that the House not support the request to expedite proceedings to remove the Public Protector, Adv B Mkhwebane from office.
The meeting was adjourned.
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