CAPE TOWN: The African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu has called on Mkhwebane’s critics to provide evidence of her supposed “incompetence” if they want her removed from office.
Mthembu held a press briefing in Parliament on Thursday to deliver a summary of the party’s performance during the first half of 2018.
During a round of questions, Mthembu was asked what the ANC’s stance was in the ongoing process in the justice portfolio committee to review Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.
Mkhwebane’s report into Zille’s infamous tweets drew criticism from some quarters of the legal fraternity and opposition parties after its release on Monday.
The report found that Zille’s tweet, which stated that not all aspects of colonialism were negative, was in violation of the Constitution and the executive ethics code.
Following which, DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen presented his party’s official complaint before the committee, where he gave reasons why his party wants her removed.
While Steenhuisen insists his complaint is not a guilty finding against Mkhwebane, he believes there is enough prima facie evidence to support an inquiry. Meanwhile, the ANC has vows to stand with Mkhwebane until the evidence is brought forward.
“The ANC will not go against the [Public Protector] Act that has created that office. Anyone who says the Public Protector is no longer fit needs to prove to all of us that the Public Protector is incompetent and, through evidence, unable to run that office.”
He said there were three very distinct reasons over which the Public Protector’s performance can be reviewed: gross misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
Mthembu questioned the onslaught of criticism heaped on Mkhwebane following high-profile court judgments against some of her reports.
‘Where is the evidence?’
“If a court of law finds Jackson Mthembu guilty of a particular crime, and he takes it to the appeal court… and that court says, ‘no, no he is not guilty’.
“By this definition, should we also find that the lower court was incompetent? It can’t be correct. That’s why we have all these safeguards in the Constitution.”
So far, Mkhwebane has not been proven to be incompetent, he said.
“The safeguard is there for all institutions to impact on their decisions. Their decisions can be reviewed and do not necessarily make the Public Protector not fit to hold office. That is my view.”
Mthembu said that they would “of course” support any proven evidence that, notwithstanding all the safeguards, Mkhwebane was incompetent.
“But we must still prove [it],” he added.
The portfolio committee meanwhile agreed on Wednesday to wait for a reply from Mkhwebane before deciding on whether to green-light a request to hold an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.