Mkhwebane’s impeachment proceedings started long before Ramaphosa suspended her, court told

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s legal counsel has torn into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s arguments that she was suspended from office before the parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office had started its work.  

Mkhwebane challenges suspension

Ramaphosa’s lawyer, advocate Karrisha Pillay, on Tuesday told the Western Cape High Court there was no legal basis for advocate Dali Mpofu’s contention that the president suspended Mkhwebane prior to the start of parliament’s Section 194 Committee.

Mpofu is representing the suspended public protector.

Pillay said the proceedings of the committee commenced long before Ramaphosa suspended the public protector on 9 June 2022.

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She cited, among others, a letter the committee sent to Mkhwebane on 22 April regarding its terms of reference and revised programme, including the invitation made to the public on 11 May to make submissions or give evidence.

“The question then becomes, based on both the audi letter that was sent on 22 April, the revised programme and the notice to the public on 11 May – can it be seriously be said that the proceedings hadn’t commenced or hadn’t started by the time the president had taken a decision?” Pillay asked.

Ramaphosa’s lawyer made the arguments during day two of Mkhwebane’s application to overturn her suspension from office.

In early June, the same high court dismissed Mkhwebane’s urgent bid to interdict Ramaphosa from suspending her, ahead of the start of the Section 194 Committee’s public hearings on 11 July.

The last ditch effort by Mkhwebane to set aside her suspension has resulted in the inquiry being put on hold as her application was heard on both Monday and Tuesday.

Formation of impeachment inquiry

The establishment of the inquiry by the National Assembly on 16 March 2021 and its first meeting on 21 July 2021, meant that the impeachment proceedings against Mkhwebane had already started, Pillay contended.

“The court need not even go as far as that for the determination of this matter.

“The court need not go there because the evidence in this matter is that the president’s decision was taken on 9 June. And the question is: can it be said that as at 9 June, the proceedings had started on the 194 committee?”

Farmgate scandal

On Monday, Mpofu argued that Mkhwebane was suspended in retaliation for her investigation into the alleged theft of $4 million at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in Limpopo, two years ago.

He said the farmgate scandal was the biggest conflict of interest that disqualified Ramaphosa from suspending the public protector.

Mpofu also questioned the legality of the letter sent by National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to Ramaphosa on 10 March 2022, informing him that Parliament would proceed with the impeachment against Mkhwebane.

He said the letter “triggered” her suspension from office and the speaker had no authority to write to the president, before the start of the Section 194 inquiry hearings.

“If that letter by the speaker was not sent to the president, we wouldn’t be here. It has huge consequences. That letter triggered the public protector’s suspension by the president,” Mpofu said.

Judgment has been reserved in the matter.

NOW READ: Mapisa-Nqakula’s letter to Ramaphosa ‘triggered’ Mkhwebane’s suspension, court told 

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