Parliament, Thursday, 11 April 2024 - Following the completion of the preliminary assessment of Commissioner Mr. Mbuyiselo Botha's potential removal from the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) by the Independent Panel of Experts, which was appointed by the Speaker in March, Parliament has now published the panel's findings in the Announcements, Tablings, and Committee (ATC) Reports for the attention of Members of Parliament. The report is also available on Parliament's website.

The establishment of the panel followed a motion submitted by Honourable Fikile Masiko MP on 1 November 2023 proposing an inquiry under section 194(1) of the Constitution for Mr Botha's removal from his position at the CGE on grounds of alleged misconduct. The National Assembly, adhering to its constitutional obligations and rules, formed this panel to conduct a preliminary assessment. The panel was appointed on 7 March 2024 and they reported to Parliament on 10 April 2024.

The assessment by the panel involved a detailed review of various submissions and evidence, including a comprehensive set of documents totalling 124 pages and an audio recording from a CGE plenary meeting on 20 July 2021. Despite repeated opportunities, Mr Botha, represented by his attorneys, did not provide a substantive written response to the allegations, focusing instead on queries about procedural aspects and the nature of the evidence.

The panel found prima facie evidence that Mr Botha made disrespectful, demeaning, and humiliating remarks about fellow commissioners. This conduct appears to violate the constitutional obligations of dignity, respect, and equality, foundational to the CGE and its mandate.

The panel noted that Mr Botha’s actions potentially breached several legal and ethical standards, including those enshrined in the Constitution, the CGE Act, and the Commissioners’ Handbook. These actions compromise not only the individual standing of the commissioners involved but also the public perception and integrity of the CGE as an institution.

The evidence suggests a failure on Mr Botha’s part to uphold his fiduciary duties towards the CGE, including the duty to act in good faith and the best interests of the organization. This aspect of misconduct is critical, given the public trust and responsibility vested in the role of a commissioner.

In light of these findings, the panel recommended that the National Assembly proceed with a formal inquiry into the allegations of misconduct against Mr Botha. This recommendation is in line with the panel’s mandate and the provisions outlined in section 194 of the Constitution and the applicable rules of the National Assembly.

The rules of the National Assembly states that once the panel has made its recommendations, the Speaker must schedule the recommendations for consideration by the Assembly, with due urgency, given the programme of the Assembly.

Should the Assembly resolve to proceed with a section 194 enquiry, the matter will be referred to a committee for a formal and comprehensive inquiry. This inquiry will be conducted in a manner that upholds the principles of fairness, justice, and transparency.

The National Assembly and its committees are acutely aware of the need to maintain public confidence in the processes of governance and the integrity of institutions like the CGE. Every step in this process will be taken with a commitment to these principles and the overarching goal of upholding the highest standards of public service and accountability.

The National Assembly, guided by its rules and the Constitution, remains dedicated to ensuring that all proceedings in this matter are conducted with the utmost respect for democratic values and the rule of law. The integrity of the institutions supporting constitutional democracy, like the CGE, is paramount, and any actions that might undermine this integrity are subject to the most rigorous scrutiny and due process.

Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo