Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has rejected the July 6 deadline for her to file answers to questions from the Section 94 Committee in parliament.
The deadline was set against her despite the fact that she has decried a lack of legal representation following her deputy Kholeka Gcaleka’s decision to stop funding her legal team.
Moreover, Mkhwebane has consistently objected to the way the committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi has been conducting himself. Her court bid to force Dyantyi to recuse himself has failed.
Following revelations that Dyantyi was implicated in a scheme to extort Mkhwebane of R600 000 to make the committee go away, the Chapter 9 institution head personally wrote to Dyantyi imploring him to allow another member of parliament to take over the work of the committee.
The implicated MPs in the extortion scheme are Dyantyi and ANC parliamentary Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina.
These revelations created a standoff between Mkhwebane and the committee, with deadlines being set for her to answer the questions from the committee members.
However, recorded conversations between the late Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Mkhwebane’s husband, Mandla Skosana, revealed that if the money was not paid, the committee would disallow her from presenting evidence at the committee but would resort to sending her written questions for her to reply, thus denying her legal representatives any opportunity to publicly weigh the evidence.
“In the past few days, several misleading public statements have been made by the parliamentary spokesperson and the chairperson of the Section 194 committee, Mr Qubudile Dyantyi and repeated in the mainstream media, to the effect that I have ‘missed two deadlines’ in the enquiry and that I am ‘unwilling’ to engage my legal representatives in spite of the legal funding problem having been ‘resolved’.
“The chairperson has also labelled the calls for his recusal following the allegations of corruption against him as ‘delaying tactics’. It is, therefore, necessary to set the record straight so that the public is not fed with such deliberate distortions and untruths,” said Mkhwebane in a recent statement.
Mkhwebane said the committee, under Dyantyi’s leadership, had endorsed a new procedure on how to treat her evidence.
“The alleged ‘deadlines’ emanate from the illegally imposed new procedure which has been unilaterally introduced and imposed by the chairperson on 9 June 2023 when I appeared before the committee without any legal representation. Even then, I told the committee that I rejected the proposed new procedure.
“It is unheard of to conduct a fact-finding or disciplinary enquiry without oral evidence. To do so after more than 25 witnesses, all of whom gave oral evidence in public, makes a mockery of a process which is meant to be fair and reasonable. These deadlines, therefore, have no legal force and effect. In addition, the deadlines are unenforceable for being unreasonable,” she said.
Mkhwebane said the committee’s evidence leaders and a select number of MPs belonging to the Democratic Alliance (DA), African National Congress (ANC), Freedom Front, African Christian Democratic Party and Good wrote her more than 1 000 questions.
“That means that nine of the 14 parties represented in the committee correctly elected not to participate in the farcical exercise, which has been illegally redesigned along the exact lines which were articulated by the late Tina Joemat-Pettersson some three months before Mr Dyantyi introduced them.
“She had stated openly that the new procedure was a product of political decisions taken from above and outside of the committee aimed at producing a predetermined outcome which will be rubber-stamped in the National Assembly. On 9 June 2023, when the so-called new procedure was introduced, Mr Dyantyi could indeed be seen reading from a prepared script which must have existed even before the meeting,” Mkhwebane said.
“This, therefore, confirms the account given by Ms Joemat-Pettersson, which should be alarming for any right-thinking South African or public representative. It is irrational to expect me to respond to such a crooked procedure but also to deal with so many questions in such a short space of time and at a time when the counsel of my choice is not on brief.”
Mkhwebane said her protest to answering the questions within the stated deadline was practically impossible.
“To put the matter in its proper perspective and even assuming that each question can be averagely answered in one-and-a-half to two pages, I am expected to single-handedly produce a document longer than the Holy Bible in the space of about one week. This is sheer absurdity.
“It is clear that the committee has sacrificed all notions of fairness at the altar of conducting a rushed and shoddy [process] and remaining within the arbitrary budget. To the knowledge of the chairperson and the committee, my attorneys, who were fired by the current leadership Public Protector South Africa on 7 June 2023 only to be ‘re-appointed’ on 14 June 2023, both without consulting me as the supposed client, have requested to be given some time for them to familiarise themselves with the matter which had already proceeded for about 11 months as at the time of their final appointment,” said Mkhwebane.
“One does not even have to be a lawyer or doctor to understand that it is unreasonable to require any professional to take over an 11-month ongoing serious case without being granted an opportunity to understand what that case is all about. Yet this is exactly what Mr Dyantyi, the DA and its supporting parties expect to happen.”
Mkhwebane said the attorneys were not in a position to rush through 60 000 pages of the committee records within a restricted budget of R4 million.
“As if all that was not bad enough, the committee and the South African Parliament also expect me to subject myself, unrepresented, to the chairmanship of Richard Dyantyi, who is implicated in the ongoing criminal and parliamentary investigation into corruption, bribery and extortion as well as the possible murder or suicide of Ms Joemat-Pettersson, depending on the outcomes of the inquest.
“It is now public knowledge that Ms Joemat-Pettersson died mysteriously shortly after it was revealed that there was hard and irrefutable evidence of her soliciting bribes on behalf of Mr Dyantyi and Ms Majodina whom she mentioned by name in the audio recordings and referred to as ‘the others’ or ‘they’ in the WhatsApp messages.
“When read together, it is clear and obvious to whom reference is made when those words are used. She even articulated the failed bid of Mr Dyantyi to become the chair of the ANC in the Western Cape, which subsequently materialised in front of the entire nation, albeit with dismal results despite the best efforts of the ANC Secretary-General [Fikile Mbalula] who also revealed that Mr Dyantyi and Ms Majodina had given written explanations of their alleged conduct to the ANC,” said Mkhwebane.
Mbalula recently told the media that Joemat-Pettersson, Dyantyi and Majodina responded to questions from the party, with the chief whip and the chairperson denying any involvement.
Through the parliamentary communication office, Dyantyi said the committee would stick to its deadline.
“The chairperson of the committee into Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office reaffirmed that the committee is sticking to its revised way forward, as the PP now has the funds and access to an instructing attorney to brief her counsel.
“Accordingly, the PP was provided with written questions to respond to, as per the timetable of steps previously communicated to her,” said the communication office.