Mkhwebane’s impeachment inquiry resumes on Wednesday

The inquiry into suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office will resume on Wednesday.

The committee is expected to hear evidence from Sphelo Hamilton Samuel, who was recently reinstated as the head of the public protector’s office in the Free State.

Samuel, who was subjected to a disciplinary hearing by Mkhwebane on allegations of misconduct and financial mismanagement in 2020, was cleared by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in June.

It granted an order that he be reinstated to his post and that he must receive backpay to the tune of R1.5-million.

Former senior investigator in the public protector’s office, Tebogo Kekana, who is the first witness, was grilled during week one and on Monday and Tuesday last week.

He revealed to the committee that Mkhwebane had fiddled with the authenticity of the Reserve Bank report by asking him to omit crucial information.

Mkhwebane’s lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu, who questioned his credibility, asserted that Kekana is a dishonest witness whose testimony cannot be trusted. He further argued that Mkhwebane’s instruction on the Reserve Bank report was “quality assured at all stages”.

During the hearing, Mkhwebane denied that she had an investigator on the Vrede Dairy Farm report removed on suspicion that they were a DA member. She also denied that she instructed Kekana to not rely on the “so-called Gupta leaks”.

Mpofu said Mkhwebane was actually concerned about the leaks’ authenticity.

However, Kekana maintained that his [then] supervisor reported that Mkhwebane had instructed them not to use the leaks. He also alleged that Mkhwebane gave an instruction to omit a couple of names from the Vrede Dairy Farm report.

Mpofu accused Kekana of retaliating against Mkhwebane for his removal from office, and blamed Kekana for gossiping about Mkhwebane, stating that he is the “opposite of a whistleblower” because he “spoke too much to lawyers”.

During the proceedings on Monday, Mpofu argued that the embattled public protector’s suspension was unlawful. According to Mpofu, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who suspended Mkhwebane in June, acted in retaliation.

Mpofu said Ramaphosa suspended Mkhwebane “out of revenge” because of her report on the CR17 presidential campaign and the 2020 burglary at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo.

According to Mkhwebane, the controversial Phala Phala farm saga is a conflict of interest in her impeachment proceedings. She has over many statements asserted how it disqualifies the president from suspending her although Ramaphosa believes he has the power to suspend her until the conclusion of the inquiry into her fitness to hold office proves otherwise.

The Presidency declared at the time that section 194(3) (a) of the constitution provides that the president may suspend Mkhwebane or “any member of the Chapter 9 institution” at any time following the commencement of the National Assembly’s proceedings for their removal.

Meanwhile, South Africans are eager to get a copy of the president’s response to the 31 questions the public protector had asked him about theft at his farm.

Ramaphosa responded late after the acting public protector, Kholeka Gcaleka, said he would be subpoenaed to respond.

According to Gcaleka, Ramaphosa failed to respond by the extended deadline of July 18 and has instead requested another extension which was denied on the same day.

In a statement at the time, Gcaleka said: “We confirm that the president had until July 18 2022 to respond to the allegations letter of June 7 2022 after his previous request to have the initial return date of June 22 2022 extended. A request for a further extension has instead been filed.”

Also read: Ramaphosa to be forced to answer Phala Phala questions

Mkhwebane denies Estina farm cover-up

Mkhwebane plans to challenge high court judgment, suspension

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