President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said he would not back down from the impeachment process against public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. He has also made it clear he will not withdraw his notice of intention to suspend her.
This after Mkhwebane ordered him to do so, saying he had a conflict of interest due to her ongoing and previous investigations of his alleged wrongdoings.
Speaking through attorneys in a letter dated March 23, Ramaphosa said he did not accept this and would forge ahead with the motion on her fitness to hold office in terms of section 194(3) of the constitution.
“We do not accept that there is any basis for these claims. We make clear at the outset that this response to your letter is restricted only to the preliminary objection you raise.
“The president will, in the fullness of time (and on receipt of representations from the public protector), apply his mind to the question of whether the public protector ought to be suspended or not.”
Mkhwebane had argued that Ramaphosa is “not legally entitled or competent to take any steps” in line with section 194(3)(a) of the constitution.
Ramaphosa’s lawyers, however, dismissed this as a generality as it did not specify which of the public protector’s investigations gave rise to the alleged conflict.
This despite Mkhwebane, in her letter, citing the Bosasa matter and Ramaphosa’s statements on the misuse of public funds by ANC politicians as serious investigations in which he is fingered.
“It is also not correct that the president is ‘personally, heavily and multiply conflicted in this matter due to various investigations which have recently been, or are presently being, investigated’ by the public protector against or concerning allegations of a breach of ethics and/or violations of the constitution.
“In our view, neither a past investigation nor an ongoing investigation creates a conflict of interest. Had this been the case, the public protector could immunise herself against the processes envisaged by section 194 of the constitution by initiating investigations against those organs of state or those individuals she considers to be a threat to her.”
Ramaphosa’s attorneys said none of the allegations in Mkhwebane’s letter had been warranted or justified the demand for Ramaphosa to step away, and as a result, said he “will not do so”.
“Finally, to the extent that we have not responded to any allegations in your letter under reply, which are inconsistent with what is stated herein, they are denied. We reserve the right to respond more fully to the allegations and submissions of law made in your letter of March 22 at the appropriate time.”
Ramaphosa’s attorneys said they were not opposed to Mkhwebane’s application to have the matter moved to a full court.
“We are in agreement that a request be made that your client’s intended application be heard by a full court. Our office will accept service of papers in this matter.”