Home South African Mkhwebane’s advocate, Dali Mpofu, questions constitutional expert’s expertise

Mkhwebane’s advocate, Dali Mpofu, questions constitutional expert’s expertise

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Advocate Dali Mpofu questioned the expertise of constitutional authority Hassen Ebrahim, who on Tuesday gave evidence to Parliament’s Committee for Section 194 impeachment inquiry hearings.

Advocate Dali Mpofu. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Advocate Dali Mpofu questioned the expertise of constitutional authority Hassen Ebrahim, who on Tuesday gave evidence to Parliament’s Committee for Section 194 impeachment inquiry hearings, contextualising the public protector within the constitutional and legislative framework of South Africa.

Mpofu, who is representing suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane at the hearings against her, began his questioning of Ebrahim by asking about his qualifications and whether he was an expert.

Ebrahim, who was part of the ANC team that facilitated the constitutional negotiations at Codesa, said he had experience in constitution-making in South Africa and around the world,

Unsatisfied with the answer, Mpofu said: “We need to establish what you are an expert of. Are you an expert in the removal of ombudspersons and public protectors? Yes or a no?”

Ebrahim: “I prefer to say I am not an expert in that area.”

Mpofu: “So is that a no or a yes?” Ebrahim: “Yes, I am not an expert.” Mpofu then said he had just wanted to know at what level he should treat Ebrahim’s evidence and said he would treat it as just a view, “since like everyone else on the street you are not an expert”.

However, while responding to questions from MP Xola Nqola (ANC) some hours later, Ebrahim said he had 25 years of experience in constitution-making and considered himself an expert.

During the morning session of the hearings, Ebrahim listed 47 qualities that the public protector should have and told the committee he hoped it would be a helpful checklist for evaluating if and when an incumbent falls short of the requirements of their office.

He said the public protector should, among other things, be a person of stature beyond reproach, and be appropriately experienced in the law and the administration of justice, public administration and/or the legislature.

Ebrahim told the committee it was vital that the public protector be suitably qualified, scrupulously honest and have absolute personal integrity.

He said the first important function of the public protector was to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or the public administration of any sphere of government where impropriety or prejudice was alleged or suspected.

He said it was the public protector’s job to report such conduct and to take appropriate remedial action.

Ebrahim also said that the public protector was not able to investigate court judgments or matters older than two years, unless in specific circumstances.

Ebrahim advised the MPs serving on the committee to subordinate their party political interests to the institutional objectives and objectives of Parliament in holding the public protector to account.

The hearings were interrupted for 15 minutes by load shedding in the afternoon session.

They are set to continue today with testimony from ex-SA Revenue Service executive turned whistle-blower, Johann van Loggerenberg.

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