The year 2022 has been turbulent for advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane to say the least, which saw the Public Protector being suspended to her facing impeachment proceedings.
Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office was questioned in July, with the suspended Public Protector being the first head of the Chapter 9 institution to face a parliamentary inquiry.
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A lot has happened at the Section 194 Inquiry from Mkhwebane’s lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu threatening the committee’s chairperson, Qubudile Dyantyi, to accusations of racism and claims of poisoning.
The Citizen takes a look at what has happened so far.
Mkhwebane: Top 5 moments:
1. Mpofu’s masterclass in disrespect
The Section 194 Committee has seen some heated exchanges between Mpofu and Dyantyi, but the most memorable back and forth has to be the incident on 13 September.
At the time, Mpofu had asked Dyantyi for a postponement to work on the litigation following a court ruling, which overturned President Cyril Ramaphosa’s suspension of Mkhwebane.
During the proceedings, the advocate also revealed that Mkhwebane was sick and at her doctor, and could not appear before the inquiry that day.
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ALSO READ: Mkhwebane impeachment: Section 194 inquiry chair ‘avoided laying complaint against Mpofu after threats’
But Mpofu lost his cool when his request was denied, telling Dyantyi that “you’ll pay one day”.
“The only reason I’m tolerating what you’re doing to me is for the interest of the client, otherwise you’re not entitled to abuse me like you’re abusing me.
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“I’m senior to you in many ways, not just in age, but in many ways. You know it. So, you have no right to abuse me. But fine, you have the power now, you can exercise it, but you’ll pay one day, ja,” the advocate said.
Dyantyi then asked: “Are you threatening me?”
“Yeah, actually it’s not a threat. As I said, it’s a promise,” Mpofu responded.
2. Mpofu ‘stages walk out’
Mpofu was the main highlight of the Section 194 Committee once again after “walking out” during the proceeding.
On 27 October, Mpofu informed the inquiry that his mandate had come to an end and asked to be excused before leaving.
This came after the committee rejected Mkhwebane’s application where she asked for an adjournment to go to court to review Dyantyi and a Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Kevin Mileham’s decision not to recuse themselves from the inquiry.
READ MORE: ‘Good luck, maybe we’ll see you again’: Dali Mpofu withdraws from representing Mkhwebane
The legal team’s move left the members of the committee puzzled, raising suspicion that the “walkout” was planned all along.
At a later stage, Mpofu denied stage a walkout, telling the committee that the legal team informed Dyantyi that they would only participate in the adjournment application.
“If I ever stage a walkout it won’t be a secret. Any form of protest I have ever done in my life, including hunger strikes, it was what it was not something that looks like it,” he continued.
3. Abuse of black lawyers’ accusations
In another incident, Mpofu claimed that the listing of the legal representatives who received payments from the Public Protector’s office amounted to “abuse” of black lawyers and advocates.
At the time, it was revealed during proceedings that Mpofu was paid around R12 million by the Public Protector Office over the past three years.
RELATED: Mkhwebane inquiry: Evidence leader accused of perpetuating ‘racist stereotype’ of black professionals
Although evidence leader, advocate Nazreen Bawa conceded that some of these amounts were incorrect, she argued that information about which advocates received money was given in response to a question about how the R147 million spent by the Public Protector’s office over Mkhwebane’s six-year term had been spent.
Bawa was further accused of perpetuating a “racist stereotype” of black professionals by two of the advocates whose names were listed, Muzi Sikhakhane and Vuyani Ngalwana.
4. KFC ‘poisoning’ claims
More revelations emerged at the inquiry on 2 November, including how Mkhwebane received threats relating to her investigation into the South African Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit”.
Public Protector’s legal services department Neels van der Merwe was quizzed during his testimony about Mkhwebane’s email – dated 15 June 2019 – in which she alleged there were threats to her life, and that one of her bodyguards was poisoned.
ALSO READ: Mkhwebane impeachment wrap: KFC ‘poisoning’, fugitive disinformation campaigns and more
“There is proof of threats to arrest for money laundering, threats to poison me and actually my protector has been poisoned (we have proof from the doctors). My car [was] tampered with. Witnesses who fear for their lives confirmed two people who died mysteriously when they spoke about the rogue unit,” the email reads.
But Van der Merwe denied the claims, telling the inquiry that a police investigation found Mkhwebane’s bodyguard was not poisoned but had overindulged on food – “Kentucky or something like that”.
He said police found no poison in the protector’s body.
5. Recusal applications
Mkhwebane’s legal team has been accused of attempting to delay the work of the committee by filing recusal applications that were “designed to waste time”, with the Public Protector’s term in office coming to an end in October 2023.
The Public Protector’s recusal application against Bawa and evidence leader advocate, Ncumisa Mayosi was rejected by the committee on 29 November.
Her application, Mpofu told the committee, was brought on the grounds that the evidence leaders displayed misconduct, cross-examined witnesses, and helped witnesses with their affidavits.
She had also filed recusal applications against Dyantyi, who was accused of being biased, and Mileham both of which were dismissed.
READ MORE: Mkhwebane inquiry: Future public protectors will worry about being impeached – witness
The Public Protector has since filed a review application challenging Dyantyi and Mileham’s decision not to recuse themselves from the impeachment inquiry.
The case could be heard in February, according to Mpofu.
Meanwhile, the inquiry resumes on 30 January, with the Section 194 Committee aiming to complete its work by April.