Spies, illegality, mental trauma, sharp exchanges and a married couple accused of working like a parliamentary tag team were just some of the issues that popped up during the first week of Parliament’s Committee for Section 194 Enquiry.
SPIES, illegality, mental trauma, sharp exchanges and a married couple accused of working like a parliamentary tag team were just some of the issues that popped up during the first week of Parliament’s Committee for Section 194 Enquiry.
The historic impeachment hearings into suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office will sit only twice this week during which they will hear the evidence of an as yet unnamed, but subpoenaed witness.
Committee chairperson Qubudile Dyantyi (ANC) said that although the hearings were meant to run for the week, Mkhwebane’s legal team requested that they be excused from Wednesday to prepare for a court case in which she is challenging her suspension.
That case is scheduled to be heard in the Western Cape High Court and this will result in the committee pausing its business from Wednesday this week until Tuesday next week, resuming with hearings on Wednesday, July 27.
On Friday, former SA Revenue Service (Sars) executive and self-declared whistle-blower Johann van Loggerenberg was dismissed as a witness after three gruelling days of testimony during which his struggles with mental health were revealed, as was an intimate relationship he had with Belinda Walter, a former State Security Agency spy.
However, this may not be the last that is seen of Van Loggerenberg at the enquiry as Mkhwebane’s lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu SC, said Mkhwebane reserved her right to recall Van Loggerenberg as a witness and might do so.
Meanwhile, the Friday morning session of the committee was mainly taken up with the report on the so-called “rogue unit” and the roles played by intelligence agencies, Mkhwebane and Van Loggerenberg.
The session involved a number of sharp exchanges between Mpofu and committee members.
At one point during a particularly heated exchange between Freedom Front Plus MP Corné Mulder and Mpofu over the latter’s line of questioning of Van Loggerenberg about Mkhwebane’s possession of a classified report about an intelligence service investigation, Dyanti had to intervene and ask Mpofu to “tone it down”.
The session also featured Mkhwebane speaking for the first time, even though she did not say much other than to promise to respond to the majority of questions she was asked by the committee in writing by this Friday.
When committee member Kevin Mileham (DA) challenged her on this, another committee member Omphile Maotwe (EFF) interrupted to say Mileham is married to DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone who tabled the motion setting up the enquiry.
Maotwe, who had interrupted Mileham as he was speaking, said this was why Mileham was “harassing” Mkhwebane with questions. At this point, Dyanti asked Maotwe to withdraw the remarks and when she refused to do so, Dyanti had her thrown off the virtual platform.
Meanwhile, the long expected appearance before the committee by former deputy Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay, against whom Mkhwebane also lost a case, has been postponed until after the committee’s week-long break.