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Covid-19 reprieve for Public Protector

Publish date: 23 March 2020
Issue Number: 865
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been given a reprieve in her battle against possible impeachment – because of the Covid-19 pandemic, notes a Business Day report by legal writer Karyn Maughan. Mkhwebane’s lawyers are seeking an urgent interdict to block National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise from proceeding with an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. The application, which is being opposed by Modise and the DA, was due to be argued on 26-27 March. However, on Friday, Mkhwebane’s attorney Theo Seanego wrote to Judge President John Hlophe to ask that the case be postponed indefinitely ‘due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent suspension of the business of the National Assembly until further notice’. Seanego said all parties involved in the acrimonious case, in which Mkhwebane and Modise have sought personal costs orders against each other, had agreed to the indefinite postponement. Mkhwebane launched her legal action after Modise granted a motion – by the DA’s acting chief whip, Natasha Mazzone – that initiated a process that could lead to her facing an inquiry into her fitness to hold office. The proposed postponement comes as the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) was due to rule today on SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter’s legal bid to block Mkhwebane from subpoenaing former President Jacob Zuma’s tax records. Business Day says it understands the judgment will not be handed down due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Mkhwebane’s lawyers are understood to have requested that the ruling be e-mailed to all the parties involved, but it is unclear if that will be done.

Full Business Day analysis