DA warned Committee of flawed Deputy Public Protector appointment process

Issued by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP – DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
03 Apr 2024 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP

On the 13th of March 2024, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services held interviews for the vacant position of Deputy Public Protector (DPP). The DA objected to the interviews proceeding due to the glaring bias and conflict of interest caused by Ms Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who failed to declare her conflicts timeously and refused to recuse herself.

Ms Mkhwebane failed to disclose that one of the candidates applying for the DPP was currently representing her pro bono. Another candidate was subjected to unfair labour practices, where she was unfairly dismissed, victimised and harassed by the disgraced ex-public protector.

The Rules of the National Assembly require MPs to disclose any conflicts or bias, and where the matter is not trivial recuse themselves. Ms Mkhwebane refused to recuse herself and stated that no conflict existed. The Committee resolved by majority, in the face of the advice and objection of the DA, to continue while awaiting legal advice on the matter, which would be supplied only after the interviews had concluded.

The DA registered an objection, fundamentally disagreeing with the committee continuing. The ANC majority in the Portfolio Committee added to the problem by refusing to accept the advice of the DA, or heed the warning that to continue with the interviews would inevitably produce a fatally flawed process.

The legal opinion, presented on the 3rd of April 2024, found that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias due to the conflict of interest and noted that without Ms Mkhwebane recusing herself, the process would be open to legal challenge.

If the DA’s advice had been followed and Ms Mkhwebane had recused herself, the interviews would have been fairly conducted. However this was not the case, and Parliament has now wasted taxpayers’ funds in holding interviews, despite warning that they would be flawed.

This issue has meant that there will be further delays in the appointment of the DPP as the process will have to start afresh. All the potential candidates have been inconvenienced. A poor example has been set, which must now be corrected, at a cost, by restarting the process.