Jackson Mthembu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Jackson Mthembu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the public protector‚ saying those seeking her removal will have to prove her incompetence.

Speaking to journalists in Parliament on the performance of the ANC caucus in the past six months‚ he questioned the wisdom of those pursuing the ousting of Busisiwe Mkhwebane on the basis that several of her reports had been overturned by the courts.

Mthembu’s argument was also advanced by ANC MPs on Wednesday during a meeting of the portfolio committee on justice following a presentation by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen in which he motivated why an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office should be urgently instituted.

Mthembu said that while he was not in a position to comment on the performance of Mkhwebane since she assumed office‚ because he did not serve on the justice committee‚ he believed it was incorrect to call for her removal each time a court of law overturned her reports.

“We don’t think that’s correct‚ it can’t be correct. That is why we’ve got all these safeguards in the Constitution. These safeguards say that these people who hold these offices are able to make mistakes‚” he said.

The public protector’s competence was called into question once more this week after she found that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille had breached the Constitution by praising colonialism on Twitter‚ with critics saying she had yet again overstepped her powers.

“Anyone who says the public protector is no longer fit needs to prove … that the public protector is incompetent‚ that she‚ through evidence‚ is unable to run that office. So far nobody has proven to any of us that‚ whatever wrong judgment calls that have been made by the public protector are on account of her inability to hold office,” said Mthembu.

"Anyone who says the Public Protector is no longer fit needs to prove to all of us that the [she] is incompetent‚ that ... through evidence‚ [she] is unable to run that office‚" said Mthembu. "So far nobody has proven to any of us that‚ whatever wrong judgment calls that have been made by the Public Protector are on account of her inability to hold office. Review by a court of law on a judgment call by the office of the Public Protector does not necessarily make [her] not fit to hold office. That’s my view and I think it’s also a view of those who inserted this in our law books."

Turning to caucus matters‚ Mthembu said ANC MPs had performed well. Among reasons for the favourable appraisal‚ he cited the passage of 13 pieces of legislation‚ which included the National Minimum Wage Bill‚ the Public Audit Amendment Bill and the Political Party Funding Bill.

Mthembu said ANC MPs would be spending time in their constituencies between now and mid-August in an attempt to strike a balance between the time legislators spent in Cape Town and the communities that elected them into office.

"This extension means that parliamentarians will spend 33% of their overall parliamentary programme conducting constituency work. The move brings us closer to the attainment of a 50-50 balance between parliamentary sessions and parliamentary constituency work."

Mthembu rejected criticism that his caucus was not driving the agenda in Parliament when it came to critical policy debates and was trailing behind opposition parties, such as the DA and the EFF. He said the argument was not backed up by facts‚ saying the EFF had only led on the issue of expropriation of land without compensation.

Mthembu praised the performance of ANC MPs in the Eskom inquiry‚ saying they had led the charge in uncovering the extent of the rot plaguing the power utility.