Three candidates selected for preliminary assessment on Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office

Busisiwe Mkhwebane

SOUTH AFRICA – National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has selected three “fit and proper persons” to conduct the preliminary assessment regarding Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

Letters of invitation to serve on the independent assessment panel have been sent to the three people. In addition to indicating their availability to serve, they have also been asked to indicate if they believe the process over which they will preside is possible within the current coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions, parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo said.

If all the responses were positive, Modise would make the appointments. If all the responses were not positive, then, depending on the issues raised, she would either hold over the appointments until a later date or take steps to appointment other person(s) to the panel.

The names of the panel members will be announced once the process of appointment was concluded, he said.

On February 21, Modise received notice of a substantive motion from Democratic Alliance chief whip Natasha Mazzone proposing that Parliament initiate a process aimed at removing Mkhwebane from office.

The notice was found to be in line with the Constitution and the Assembly rules and the process to appoint the independent panel was then started.

“The purpose of the panel is to conduct a preliminary assessment about whether there is prima facie evidence to show that Busisiwe Mkhwebane has committed the misconduct alleged in the motion and/or is incompetent for the reasons alleged in the motion,” Mothapo said.

The rules specified that the panel comprise three fit and proper South African citizens who, collectively, possessed the necessary legal and other competencies and experience to conduct the preliminary assessment. If a judge was appointed to the panel, the Speaker should make the appointment in consultation with the chief justice.

One of the panellists would be appointed chairperson of the panel. The panel had to complete its assessment and report, which should include recommendations with reasons and any minority views of panellists, to the National Assembly within 30 days of its formal appointment.

“In determining whether there is prima facie evidence to sustain the motion’s complaints, the panel may, in its sole discretion, provide any NA member with an opportunity to place written or recorded information before it within a specified time frame.

“The panel must, without delay, provide the incumbent (Mkhwebane) with copies of all information available to it relating to the assessment.

“It must also provide the incumbent with a reasonable opportunity to respond in writing to the relevant allegations against her. The panel may not hold oral hearings and will be limited to an assessment of the record before it,” he said.

Once the panel had made its recommendations, Modise had to schedule these for a decision by the NA. If the NA decided the inquiry should go ahead, it had to be referred to a special section 194 committee for formal inquiry.

Before the business of the NA was briefly suspended because of the Covid-19 national state of disaster, Modise had requested parties to nominate preferred persons to serve on the panel by March 6.

Having considered the nominations by the parties, she had, in terms of the rules, selected three fit and proper persons who, she was confident, collectively possessed the necessary legal and other competencies and experience to conduct the preliminary assessment, Mothapo said.

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