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South Africa: Independent Panel to Assess Motion to Remove Public Protector


The Constitution and the Rules of the National Assembly provide for procedures to remove an office-bearer in State Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy. Earlier this year, the Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, Ms N W A Mazzone, invoked these procedures and tabled a motion for the removal of the incumbent Public Protector.

In accordance with the Rules, the Speaker invited parties to submit nominations for the establishment of an independent panel to conduct a preliminary inquiry to assess the motion. The panel must consist of three fit and proper persons who must collectively possess the necessary legal and other competencies. Parties subsequently submitted a list of nominees. The Speaker remains grateful to parties for their considered inputs. Having considered the nominations, persons were then approached. Some of the nominees were, however, not available because of professional commitments and other considerations.

Pursuant to these considerations, the Speaker has appointed the following persons to the panel: Justice Bess Nkabinde (as Chairperson); Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza; and Advocate Johan De Waal.

Justice Nkabinde – is a lawyer and has served in various judicial capacities, including as a judge in the Constitutional Court. She is now retired.

Advocate Ntsebeza SC – is a senior counsel and has served in various positions and judicial capacities and commissions, including as an acting judge.

Advocate De Waal SC – is a senior counsel and also an academic.

The panel will start its duties on a date to be announced. The panel must determine whether there is prima facie evidence to show that the holder of a public office committed misconduct; is incapacitated; or is incompetent. In so doing, it must provide the holder of a public office with a reasonable opportunity to respond, in writing, to all relevant allegations. It may not hold oral hearings but must limit its assessment to the relevant written and recorded information placed before it. In terms of the rules, the panel must complete its work and report within 30 days. The report in turn must be scheduled for consideration by the House. The panel may otherwise determine its own working arrangements.

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