Legal defence woes delay Mkhwebane’s impeachment inquiry

The Section 194 inquiry probing suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s suitability to hold office adjourned early on Monday due to lack of a defence legal representation.

Her legal team, led by advocate Dali Mpofu, announced on Friday that it can no longer represent Mkhwebane due to non-payment.

Mkhwebane’s legal fees were covered by the Office of the Public Protector, but acting public protector Kholeka Gcaleka notified Mkhwebane previously that funding for her legal defense will not continue beyond the end of the previous financial year, which was on March 31.

During the proceedings on Monday, Mkhwebane requested a postponement, arguing that without continued funding for her defense, the inquiry could not continue.

She also appealed that the inquiry had not yet addressed all the issues in part A of her statement, which is necessary before proceeding to part B.

“How do I then sit here without my legal team?” asked Mkhwebane.

“I will have a legal team assisting me to note all the issues, so that when I continue presenting my evidence, they also know what the issues are. I do not think that will be proper and fair.

“Let us make sure that we work and get the resources so that we can proceed with the legal team. The process cannot continue without the legal team, and I wonder why the legal team will even entertain this.”

After Mkhwebane requested a postponement, she left the chamber while the committee members continued their discussion on whether to proceed with the inquiry without her legal representation.

Omphile Maotwe of the EFF expressed confusion regarding instructions by Richard Dyantyi, chairperson of the committee, to the evidence leader.

Maotwe suggested that if the meeting had become a committee meeting, the evidence leader should have also left.

“You [Dyantyi] said the next sitting is a committee sitting, for committee members. She is not a member. She leads evidence inside the inquiry. Outside the inquiry what is she doing? If you want us to have a committee meeting, explain what we are meeting for,” Maotwe said.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa requested that the committee seek guidance from parliamentary legal services on whether evidence leaders could brief the committee in the absence of Mkhwebane’s legal team.

However, Dyantyi deemed this unnecessary and suggested that the inquiry proceed but hold off on questioning Mkhwebane until she has legal representation, as the current business of the day did not involve new evidence.

Nonetheless, other committee members argued that Mkhwebane should be entitled to legal representation throughout the proceedings.

Dyantyi eventually concluded that the inquiry would be discontinued and that they would instead move into a committee session.

The lack of legal representation for Mkhwebane may have serious implications for her defence. It remains to be seen how this will impact the outcome of the inquiry and the future of the public protector’s office.

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