After doggedly trying to prevent Parliament from impeaching her for the past two years, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been removed from office.
In a first for democratic South Africa, the head of a Chapter Nine institution — created to protect constitutional rights — has been impeached.
Just over a month before she was due to receive a R10-million payout after her non-renewal seven-year term, Parliament voted on the Section 194 hearing’s conclusion that she should be impeached.
It followed numerous court judgments that questioned her competence and grasp of the law required by a figure as important as the public protector.
Some of the charges against her were that she wasted money in fruitless and unsuccessful attempts to defend her reports after they were overturned by the courts.
She spent an estimated R147 million on legal fees — and over R30 million defending herself at the Section 194 hearings.
“Ours was not an enquiry which rubber-stamped the findings of the independent panel or the courts,” said Richard Dyantyi, the chairperson of the Section 194 committee, referring to the hearings which found her guilty of misconduct and incompetence.
“On the contrary, we heard hundreds of hours of testimony and were seized with copious documentary evidence. Where we have established misconduct and incompetence, we are confident that advocate Mkhwebane did not raise any valid defence for her conduct to sway us.
“In fact, the enquiry unearthed even further examples of misconduct and incompetence that had this committee not adduced evidence in the manner that it did, would have never come to the fore.”
Her legal challenges saw Seanego Attorneys receive R55 million, while advocate Dali Mpofu SC, who represented her at the hearings, was the highest-paid advocate with R12 million.
The section 194 hearing followed the National Assembly in 2021 recommending that Mkhwebane be investigated for misconduct and incompetence after her most controversial investigations were all overturned by the courts.