Ramaphosa wasn’t biased when he suspended Mkhwebane, argues DA

ramaphosa wasnt biased when he suspended mkhwebane argues da

JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Alliance (DA) said there was no bias on the part of President Cyril Ramaphosa at play when he suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Mkhwebane was facing off against the DA and President Cyril Ramaphosa in the Constitutional Court on Thursday over her suspension.

READ: Mkhwebane dealt another blow in bid to return to office

In September, the Western Cape High Court found that Ramaphosa’s decision to suspend Mkhwebane the day after she had sent him questions about the Phala Phala scandal was tainted by bias and set it aside.

The ruling is now before the Constitutional Court for confirmation and for appeals from the DA as well as the president.

READ: Mkhwebane’s fight to hang on to her job, continues in the concourt

The DA’s legal counsel Advocate Steven Budlender said looking at the fact that the president suspended Mkhwebane almost immediately after she wrote to him about her investigation in isolation – then there might be an apprehension of bias.

Advocate Budlender said this isn’t the correct approach.

In response to questions from Justice Zukisa Tshiqi about the timeline, Budlender’s told the court that it had to be taken into account that the process of suspending her started back in March when the President first informed her he was considering it – as well the various delays that followed.

Budlender also said the “reasonable, well-informed, thoughtful and objective observer” knows this and “understands what brought us there”.

He argued that – looked at with the bigger picture in mind – there is no reasonable apprehension of bias and the order should not be confirmed.

Even if the court finds against them and rules the decision was invalid, though, he argues it should suspend its order so someone else can make the decision.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s legal team told the Constitutional Court he didn’t score any personal benefit from suspending Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane because the Phala Phala investigation continued under her deputy, Kholeka Gcaleka.

The Constitutional Court is currently hearing an appeal against the Western Cape High Court’s September order declaring Ramaphosa’s suspension of Mkhwebane, invalid and setting it aside.

The president and the DA now want that ruling overturned.

The High Court found that given the nature of the allegations made against the president regarding Phala Phala, involving monies not earned by the president in his official capacity, it was reasonable to assume the investigation would relate to the president’s private interests as well.

And, as a result, it found there was a strong argument to be made around a risk of conflict of interests.

Advocate Geoff Budlender, for the president, argues, that the investigation continued under the leadership of her deputy, Kholeka Gcaleka, who then became the acting Public Protector, and that he still had to answer her 31 questions.

So nothing changed and the president knew this was how things would pan out.

Justice Selby Baqwa questioned him on whether the timing should have given the president cause to pause and consider delegating the decision to his deputy.

But Budlender responded that there would always be investigations against the president and that couldn’t stand in the way of his carrying out his constitutional functions.

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