The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Thursday it was worried that business body BUSA, of which it is an offshoot, had appealed to parliament for the expulsion of advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane as public protector.
Sacci said it had not been consulted on the move by Business Unity South Africa in spite of being its greatest offshoot.
“Similarly as Sacci, we have not obtained the mandate of our own affiliates and members to call upon the national assembly to initiate such a significant constitutional action,” it added.
In a petition to newly elected speaker of parliament Thandi Modise on Tuesday, BUSA said Mkhwebane should be removed over an “accumulation of missteps and unconstitutional behaviour … since she took office three years ago, which has the effect of creating significant policy and institutional uncertainty at a crucial time in South Africa’s history”.
Other organisations including labour federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party have called on Mkhwebane to resign after her office made a number of controversial findings, but she has found support from the Economic Freedom Fighters party.
Most recently, Mkhwebane has faced criticism over a report which found that generally well-regarded State Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who was reappointed to the post on Wednesday night, violated the Constitution when he granted former South African Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay early retirement with full benefits in 2010. Gordhan is challenging the public protector’s report in court.
On Thursday, Sacci said it respected the separation of powers as enunciated in South Africa’s Constitution and that matters of disputes between any parties should be resolved through relevant tribunals, including judicial processes as in the competence of the courts.
“As a significant business organisation and social partner, we maintain an apolitical stance and do not take sides in any political or legal dispute that may arise between two or more parties at any time,” it said. “We respect the independence of the judiciary and the courts exist precisely to arbitrate such matters.”
It said drastic action such as contemplated by the BUSA proposal to petition for the removal of the head of a Chapter 9 institution of the Constitution may lead to a constitutional crisis.
“This is not something that should be taken lightly, and requires not only deep reflection, but wide and extensive consultations with our affiliated members and stakeholders in terms of our governance protocols as a body representing a wide range of constituencies in the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” it said.
Sacci said it had raised its concerns with the leadership of BUSA and was looking forward to further consultations