13 June 2018

South Africa: Mkhwebane Apologises to MPs for Skipping Meeting

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has apologised in person to MPs on the Portfolio Committee on Justice for missing a scheduled meeting last week.

MPs were left fuming on Wednesday after Mkhwebane requested an 11th-hour postponement of the scheduled meeting, which was meant to discuss her office's rules on appointing a special advisor.

She told the committee she had to attend to a "family emergency".

MPs were also unhappy that Mkhwebane had not sent a delegation, headed by Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, in her stead.

On Wednesday, both Mkhwebane and Malunga appeared before the committee.

"I would like to again apologise for not being able to make it on June 6," Mkhwebane said.

"I've tried my best to attend [today], because we already made the arrangements, and our documents have been sent to the Speaker's office.

"I couldn't send my deputy as I thought the issues, especially on the rules and policies of the office, required my special attention."

Mkhwebane highlighted a letter she had sent to committee chair Mathole Motshekga on May 18 that explained why she had not delegated certain duties to Malunga.

"For me, that responsibility was not delegated to the deputy Public Protector, so I wanted to come myself. It would have also appeared as if I was not taking the committee seriously."

Motshekga acknowledged that he had received the letter, but said he was only made aware of it on Tuesday, three weeks after it was initially sent.

He personally accepted the reasons in the letter as "good reasons", and suggested the committee accept the apology and move on.

Opposition MPs, though, were not happy.

'Send us the letter then'

DA MPs Werner Horn and Glynnis Breytenbach said they wanted to see the letter themselves so that they too, could move on.

Horn said it was not only up to Motshekga to decide.

ANC MPs Loyiso Mpumlwana and Jim Skosana, however, said they did not have to deal with the letter in the current meeting, but could focus on it another time.

Motshekga agreed with them, decided that debating the letter would "not take them anywhere".

He would personally probe the reasons why he had only received the letter this week, and would also send it to the Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy for a second follow-up.

They would then debate Mkhwebane's reasons for missing last week's meeting.

"Send us the letter then," DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach added.

"I will send it at the appropriate time," Motshekga responded.

"Now would be appropriate," Breytenbach chirped, to some giggles around the room.

The committee then moved on to a discussion on the policies and rules of Mkhwebane's office, and how court judgments altered her powers.

Later at 12:00, the committee is due to discuss a request from DA chief whip John Steenhuisen to institute an inquiry into Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office.

Source: News24

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