Home South African Lack of Zambian government clearance stops witness testimony at Mkhwebane enquiry

Lack of Zambian government clearance stops witness testimony at Mkhwebane enquiry

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Parliament’s enquiry into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office wrapped up proceedings for the year without hearing evidence from Zambia’s Public Protector Caroline Zulu-Sokoni.

Suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Parliament’s enquiry into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office wrapped up proceedings for the year without hearing evidence from Zambia’s Public Protector Caroline Zulu-Sokoni, who had been invited to testify by Mkhwebane’s team.

Zulu-Sokoni was meant to testify in her capacity as the chairperson of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association.

However, following her recent nomination as a judge in Zambia, it emerged that she needed clearance from her government to testify at the inquiry and this process could take up to three weeks.

After the witness was sworn in, senior counsel Dali Mpofu told the committee, which was meeting virtually, that the issue of clearance had only just come up.

He said that he was, however, confident that once Zulu-Sokoni was cleared to appear by the Zambian authorities, she would be happy to come before the committee in person next year in January.

This did not go down well with committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi, who wanted to know when the issue of the “permission certificate” became known.

At this point Zulu-Sokoni spoke and told the committee that clearance was needed by all government officials wanting to leave the country, whether work-related or personal.

She said she was only informed that she would be appointed as a judge in the week before last and had also been cautioned by her office that even if her testimony was virtual, it would be better if she informed her government first.

“Even if I was not applying to travel abroad, I would have to inform the government I am addressing the South African Parliament. It is a courtesy to my government, I am not seeking approval.”

Meanwhile, evidence leader advocate Nazreen Bawa told the committee that except for Zulu-Sokoni’s statement, her team had not received any others from Mpofu and as such did not know what the plan was going forward.

The witnesses that Mkhwebane has announced she will be calling when the committee resumes include her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the DA’s Natasha Mazzone.

After Zulu-Sokoni was allowed to leave the meeting, Bawa and Mpofu were also excused so they could meet and discuss other witnesses and their statement. During clarity questions posed by committee members, Dyantyi indicated that the latest committee draft programme had been approved by Parliament’s presiding officers.

He said the programme provided a deadline to the committee and that there had been a firm indication given that that deadline would not be extended.

“We will have to finalise our work within that time frame. We will have to allocate the witness on to this programme.”

Dyantyi said that the committee would resume its hearings on January 30. According to the latest draft programme, the committee is expected to finalise its work on April 21 next year.

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