Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Under fire Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane failed to pitch up for a scheduled meeting with MPs on Wednesday, citing a "family emergency".

Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services was due to meet Mkhwebane to discuss the public protector’s rules and policy on the appointment of a special adviser to the executive authority. Significantly, the committee was meant to discuss with Mkhwebane the request to institute an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

Committee chairman Mathole Motshekga told MPs that he had received correspondence from Mkhwebane on Tuesday at 5pm requesting that the meeting be postponed to either June 21 or July 5.

Motshekga said the committee wanted to meet Mkhwebane sooner, and he would therefore write to her to get more clarity why she had failed to attend the meeting or to send a delegation on her behalf.

MPs across the political spectrum were enraged by Mkhwebane’s request for a postponement at the 11th hour. They also questioned why she had failed to delegate her deputy, Kevin Malunga.

Malunga tweeted later on Wednesday that he had not been formally informed about the meeting and had seen reference to it only in the media.

Glynnis Breytenbach, DA MP and the party’s spokeswoman for justice, said it was clear Mkhwebane did not intend to attend the meeting as she had failed to supply MPs with documents in advance, as per the norm. The DA and other opposition parties have been pushing for Parliament to remove Mkhwebane from office for alleged incompetence and misconduct.

Motshekga said the committee needed to first hear from Mkhwebane before any decision was taken to proceed with the inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

The public protector faced heavy criticism for her handling of the Absa-Bankorp case, and the Vrede dairy farm project.

Earlier in 2018, the High Court in Pretoria set aside the remedial action contained in Mkhwebane’s Absa-Bankorp report and ordered her to pay 15% of the Reserve Bank’s costs in her personal capacity.

Damningly, the court said: "The public protector does not fully understand her constitutional duty to be impartial and to perform her functions without fear‚ favour or prejudice."

Mkhwebane has since approached the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn the personal costs order related to the case.