John Steenhuisen. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/RUVAN BOSHOFF
John Steenhuisen. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/RUVAN BOSHOFF

Parliament’s rules committee decided on Tuesday to refer the DA’s proposed draft rules, as well one other draft by the National Assembly, for the removal of the public protector or other heads of institutions set up in terms of chapter nine of the constitution to a sub-committee.

The DA based its draft rules on those established by parliament for the removal of the president.

The absence of such parliamentary rules was highlighted when the DA submitted a proposal for the removal of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who the party believes is incompetent, unfit to hold office, and should be removed.

Business has also called for her removal, as her credibility has been dented by various adverse judicial findings in key cases and she was ordered to personally pay a portion of the legal costs attached to her discredited SA Reserve Bank and Estina Dairy Project cases.

During Tuesday’s meeting, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen emphasised the need for checks and balances in the process of removal of the head of a chapter nine institution. This deliberative process must be fair, open and transparent, able to withstand legal challenge and not be open to the arbitrary abuse of power by a majority, he said.

The process should not be entered into lightly and with ease, Steenhuisen said, because the reports of public protectors could be negative for the government. A malevolent government could act to remove a public protector who was doing their job well.

Steenhuisen said that the process must be unimpeachable. “We have got to be fair and be seen to be fair,” he said. The ANC also argued for a fair process that would stand the test of time.

The rules committee was chaired by speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise, who questioned whether parliament is doing its job properly when it identified and interviewed candidates for chapter nine institutions. Competence requirements should be imposed at the initial stage of selection.

The DA argues that the matter of Mkhwebane’s continued occupancy of the office of public protector should be dealt with urgently by parliament. Steenhuisen submitted a proposal for her removal to Modise four months ago.

“She has disgraced the office with the release of several deeply concerning reports that demonstrate her poor understanding both of the law as well as of her mandate as public protector, and has shown, repeatedly, that she is not a fit and proper person to occupy the position of public protector,” Steenhuisen said in a statement after the meeting.

“For every day that parliament delays, advocate Mkhwebane’s destructive path continues to wreak havoc on SA’s economy and to weaken the public’s faith in her office, while state officials and bodies are allowed to tread roughshod over the rights and dreams of ordinary South Africans.”