An inquiry into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will now not go ahead, after African National Congress MPs in the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services shut down the process on Wednesday.
From the beginning of the proceedings, MPs seemed to be on different pages, with ANC MPs claiming they had not received the requisite documents that all other MPs had received.
Then, the majority ANC caucus disagreed with all the opposition MPs that they had agreed, on October 10, to hold an inquiry into Mkhwebane's conduct at a committee meeting.
ANC MP Madipoane Mothapo said they had only agreed to "look into the matter" at portfolio committee level. Her colleague Loyiso Mpumlwana said they had to still decide if there "was a need" for an inquiry.
Committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga -- whose initial statement on October 10 read: "Portfolio committee agrees to hold inquiry into request to remove public protector" -- also backtracked to agree with his ANC colleagues.
Opposition MPs were not happy.
African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart said it was on record that the committee had decided between setting up an ad hoc committee to hold an inquiry, or whether to hold the inquiry themselves.
They had decided to hold an inquiry themselves.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Sam Matiase said they already agreed to hold the inquiry. That was the first question they had asked themselves on October 10.
Democratic Alliance MP Glynnis Breytenbach said it would be highly irrational to dismiss the matter now based only on a letter of request to begin proceedings.
They needed to summon witnesses to deal with the merits of the case.
"I cannot stress enough the need to act rationally here. That is something we learnt from the Nkandla judgment," she said.
Both Motshekga and ANC whip in the committee Makgathatso Pilane-Majake shut down the objections.
Motshekga said they only agreed to "look into" the matter, and they must now decide if there was a basis, as per National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete's referral to the committee.
'No axe to grind'
Pilane-Majake said the DA was trying to push "preconceived ideas" about Mkhwebane.
She said it was known the DA had never supported Mkhwebane, and had labelled her a spy during her interview process.
Mpumlwana again said there was "no basis" to discount the Public Protector's work a year into the job, just because the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria set aside her report into the ABSA/Bankorp bailout.
Swart, however, said that he had supported Mkhwebane during her interview. He therefore had "no axe to grind", and it was clear that they now have "considerable prima facie" evidence to hold an inquiry into her decisions.
ANC MPs had also conceded they had not received, and therefore had not consulted, the annexures in the DA's initial request to hold the inquiry, he said.
The matter was put to a vote, and the ANC used its majority, along with National Freedom Party MP Sibusiso Mncwabe, to throw the matter out by 6 votes to 4.
The DA had hinted at court action during the meeting.
Deputy Public Protector
MPs also agreed not to probe the conduct of Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, which had also been initially requested by the DA.
The party wanted to probe Malunga's conduct in allegedly closing a case into municipal fraud in the Ekurhuleni municipality.
The committee received a letter from Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane stating the case in question had in fact not been closed, and is still being investigated.