Parliament’s justice committee has decided the National Assembly’s rules committee must first adopt rules to govern the process of removing the Public Protector from office, before considering whether to hold an inquiry into her fitness for office.
Committee members on Tuesday unanimously resolved to refer the matter to Speaker Thandi Modise, so that she can formally refer it to the rules committee.
In terms of the Constitution, Parliament can remove the head of a Chapter Nine institution.
But no specific mechanism is in place to affect this.
Justice committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe explained: “We need to take a resolution as the committee that this matter be referred to the rules committee so that rules and procedures can be developed. The resolution is necessary so that the Speaker can refer the matter to the rules committee as soon as it is practically possible.”
Backing the move, the African National Congress’ Xola Nqola said it was the best approach to avoid any legal comeback from Busisiwe Mkhwebane: “It takes us into a responsible manner of handling this matter, so that we don’t – as a committee and [as] lawmakers – preside over a process that will be highly litigious.”
Mkhwebane earlier threatened to take Parliament to court if it continued with an inquiry, accusing Modise of violating the Constitution by agreeing to the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s request for an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen welcomed the justice committee’s decision but said the rules committee must move quickly.
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