DA goes for low blow, but Gcaleka still gets vote as public protector

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach brought parliament to a halt during the vote for the nomination of advocate Kholeka Gcaleka as the new public protector when she dropped allegations of her past intimate relationship into the debate.

But in the end, Gcaleka was appointed to the post with 244 votes in favour against 12, confirming her as the successor to Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

The recommendation would be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for confirmation.

The Thursday session got off to a wobbly start when Breytenbach said: “Her very cozy relationship and some say the intimate relationship with her boss, the rather odious Menzi Simelane, led to speedy promotions.”

Simelane is a former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, and Gcaleka is a former employee.

The comments prompted ANC MPs to raise a points of order, but Breytenbach retorted: “You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to like it.”

ANC MP Abram Radebe said it was unparliamentary language to use “intimate things” in the house. Radebe said Gcaleka was the acting public protector, and therefore “she cannot be denigrated the way she has been done here”.

Human Settlements Minister Mamoloko Kubayi said Breytenbach gave “an insinuation of a young woman rising through sexual favours in the job”.

“In this country, in this day, with what we have gone through, we cannot allow this. It cannot be allowed to even have such an insinuation in the house, with the past we have and what we are going through as women in this country,” Kubayi said.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ruled that Breytenbach should withdraw the comments about Gcaleka’s intimate relations.

“A person who is dependent on you for appointment and for removal cannot be attacked in such a manner in this house,” Mapisa-Nqakula said, to which the DA benches disagreed, saying Gcaleka was not an office bearer.

And Breytenbach would not budge: “I will not!”

Mapisa-Nqakula then threw her out of the house.

She also warned members that they may try hard to collapse the sitting, but they would fail. “I will not allow the house to collapse.”

DA leader John Steenhuisen was not impressed, warning Mapisa-Nqakula that she would face a motion of no confidence.

“You are a liar and a disgrace,” Steenhuisen shouted, adding that Mapisa-Nqakula manipulated the rules.

Deputy ANC chief whip Dorris Dlakude said Steenhuisen “must deal with his anger or whatever he has, but he can’t as an honourable member of this house insult the speaker”.

She said Steenhuisen knew which process to follow if he was unhappy.

EFF MP Jimmy Manyi kicked out

When the debate resumed, the EFF’s Jimmy Manyi also got kicked out of the house for referring to ANC MPs as thugs.

“Finally, the people of South Africa must see that they have voted thugs who are willing to go to great lengths to appoint a tainted person to a position of authority,” Manyi said.

“It’s quite disgraceful, honorable speaker, that was the sitting here today contemplating appointing a liar, a manipulator, and an unethical person. The EFF rejects this with contempt.”

Manyi referred to Gcaleka’s investigation that cleared Ramaphosa from any wrongdoing on the millions of illegal US dollars that were stolen while hidden under a couch at his Phala Phala game farm in 2020.

“The Office of the Public Protector is not a political football, and people ought not to use political proximity to ascend to this position, nor should they use their power to massage political equals,” he said, adding that Gcaleka whitewashed the Phala Phale investigation so the ANC could support her nomination.

He said that even the ANC must be ashamed of some of the things.

“We reject the appointment of Cholera Gcaleka with the contempt it deserves. And if the ANC uses its majority to appoint a president protector instead of a public protector, that’s on them.”

The IFP’s Elphas Buthelezi said the Office of the Public Protector suffered political interference.

“While other speakers hesitated and allowed their political bias to cloud their judgement, the IFP stands here in support of advocate Kholeka Gcaleka as the new public protector,” Buthelezi said.

Strong leadership

He added that Gcaleka demonstrated strong leadership character and a deep understanding of the ins and outs of the office.

“[She] demonstrated all that is needed to lead this vital institution.”

The ANC’s Manketse Tlhape said the ANC considered knowledge, experience, skills, and character in nominating Gcaleka.

“We agree that advocate Kholeka Gcaleka is the best candidate suited for the position,” said Tlhape.

Tlhape noted that the governing party chose the best candidate, stating that Gcaleka was among the youngest candidates interviewed, was well-prepared, and exhibited high levels of confidence and bravery.

“She demonstrated a good understanding of the operations of the office and has a concrete, clear vision for the office within the confines of her mandate, and a clear approach to improving its accessibility.”

She added that Gcaleka had substantial knowledge of interpretation, application, and understanding of the law, and demonstrated good temperament.

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