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Mkhwebane inquiry: Mpofu accuses chair of trying to put witness through ‘Spanish Inquisition’

The hearings into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office is set to resume in January next year.

Mkhwebane’s third witness, Zambian Public Protector Caroline Zulu-Sokoni, was expected to testify at the Section 194 Inquiry on Monday, but could not do so.

“That has created a few compilations,” Mkhwebane’s lawyer, Advocate Dali Mpofu told the inquiry.

‘Internal issues’

Mpofu explained that Zulu-Sokoni could not give her oral evidence due to the fact that she was nominated for a judge position in Zambia more than a week ago.

“According to our original plan, she was not even supposed to testify now in December. We would have called her when we come back, but we got concerned that we might lose her if her appointment to the bench was immediate.”

ALSO READ: ‘Are you going to tell us what to wear?’: Mpofu slams inquiry for saying Mkhwebane must appear in January

He also said that Zulu-Sokoni was unable to get the greenlight to testify before the inquiry considering her official position.

“Those are internal issues in Zambia that we are not necessarily familiar with, but she wanted us to make it clear that she is testifying for the government of Zambia. She is an independent witness testifying for the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association,” he continued.

The advocate added that she would also prefer to give her evidence physically because the processes for her appointment as a judge may take “longer than we feared”.

“She’s comfortable, come January, she will still be able to assist the committee.”

Section 194 committee chairperson, Qubudile Dyantyi asked Mpofu whether Zulu-Sokoni would testify on Thursday and if there would be similar issues in the future.

“Chair I have no idea. I am telling you what has transpired. I don’t know now why you are cross-examining [me],” Mpofu responded.

Procedure

Zulu-Sokoni, who appeared virtually, informed the inquiry that it would take three weeks to get approval for her to testify.

“The approval is required whenever a government official has to travel out of the country. So when you apply for authority to travel abroad, you then inform government the reason why you are leaving the jurisdiction. That is our procedure in this country,” she said.

“It’s not an issue of permission, it’s courtesy to my government to let them know – that is what is going on. Even if I was not applying to travel abroad, I would have to inform the government I am addressing the South African Parliament.”

When Dyantyi asked about the clearance needed for Zulu-Sokoni to testify, Mpofu lashed out at the chair.

“She’s not here to be put through a Spanish Inquisition by you,” he said.

READ MORE: Mkhwebane inquiry: Future public protectors will worry about being impeached – witness

With the inquiry expected to return on 30 January, Mpofu said the legal team has prepared another potential witness to replace Zulu-Sokoni if she is unable to testify.

“Indeed, we will get an alternative person from their organisation,” he said.

But Dyantyi warned that there will be no extension given on the programme that has been outlined.

According to Parliament’s draft programme, the committee aims to complete its work by March 2023.

Watch the proceedings below:

Meanwhile, evidence leader Advocate Nazreen Bawa told the committee that evidence leaders do not have any statements of of Mkhwebane’s future witnesses.

“[This] does effect us in preparation as well,” she said.

In his response, Mpofu said the legal team will file a supplementary statement for Zulu-Sokoni seven days before she testifies.

Recusal

Mpofu further revealed that Mkhwebane’s review application in the Western Cape High Court, scheduled for 13 and 14 December, might not take place on those dates.

He indicated that the case may now be heard in February.

“My preference is that the case should be heard on the 23rd so it interfere with this programme. But if that doesn’t succeed we will write to [the committee].”

The Public Protector is challenging Dyantyi and DA MP Kevin Mileham’s decision not to recuse themselves from the impeachment inquiry.

NOW READ: Mkhwebane impeachment: Public Protector to challenge recusal decision – Dali Mpofu

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