Madonsela’s Tenure Ends Soon: See What It Takes To Step Into Her Shoes


A quick look at South Africa’s Public Protector Thulisile Nomkhosi Madonsela’s tenure in office, brings to mind one of Emma Watson’s quote, which says “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”

It’s been crystal clear that the strong-willed protector has lived up to expectation. She also exemplified the idea that what really counts in the pursuit of success are resolve, determination, assertiveness, and honesty; as opposed to gender or sex.

As an advocate of the High Court of South Africa, human rights and constitutional lawyer, she is a seasoned administrative investigator, equality expert and policy specialist with over two and a half decades of post legal qualification experience. Thuli Madonsela holds a BA Law (UNISWA,1987), an LLB (Wits 1990), LLD Honoris Causa (Fort Hare, 2014) and LLD Honoris Causa (Stellenbosch, 2015).

When Thuli Madonsela’s name forwarded for the job of Public Protector, no single member of Parliament voted against her. And as a member of the African National Congress who had helped draft the Constitution, she was considered a good bet.

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Thuli Madonsela waved a Harvard scholarship goodbye just to focus on her constitution drafting role as one of the Technical Advisers that worked with the Constitutional Assembly in drafting the current Constitution.

Advocate Madonsela was appointed by the President with effect from 15 October 2009, following a unanimous vote by all parties represented in Parliament. She is SA’s 3rd Public Protector and the first woman to man the constitutional institution.

Madonsela’s tenure will end on October 19. Of course, she is not constitutionally allowed serve a second term. Therefore, a new Public Protector has to be selected. Crime Watch reports that last week, that Madonsela spoke about the prospective Public Protector.

I would say please employ a professional and, preferably, a lawyer. I know the [Public Protector] Act allows you not to have a lawyer … But I still think if you are not a lawyer, you would then be a prisoner to your staff. You would just sign because some of the legal issues would be difficult for you.

She was quoted as saying,

It should be a person who has a track record of advancing administrative justice … somebody who sees it as a calling just to help out, to deepen democracy, who cares about the Constitution and who has demonstrated that record. A person who is also compassionate. A kind of lawyer who really cares about justice. And someone who likes the truth and has integrity.

Corruption Watch’s Bua Mzansi campaign organization, in a bid to getting the public involved in choosing Madonsela’s successor, has released the results of an in-depth survey of 83 members of the Public Protector’s staff, in which it asked them what their new boss should be like.

Most of them agreed with Madonsela that the incumbent should have a strong legal background.

When asked what the most important qualification for the new Public Protector was, staff overwhelmingly said their first choice would be a high court judge (47.46%), while the majority (69.49%) said a member of Parliament would be the least desirable candidate.

Asked which qualities were most important, 82.46% of Madonsela’s staff said integrity, followed by accountability (64.91%) and transparency (54.39%).

Based on the survey, staff don’t want to see a tame Public Protector, with patriotism (3.51%) and humility (7.02%) both ranked as the least important.

While Madonsela has had to face claims that she was a “CIA spy”, her staff think their new boss should not spend too much time fretting over his or her public image.

Asked what the burning issues would be, staff said “preserving the independence of the Public Protector’s office” and “building capacity of staff members to ensure rigorous and independent findings” were most important (66.67% and 64.91%, respectively), while “managing the public reputation of the Public Protector’s office” was only a minor concern (8.77%).

According to Corruption Watch, anyone who needs to take up the post needs to meet certain legal requirements set out in the Public Protector Act, including South African citizenship and a reputation for “honesty and integrity.” The person also needs to be either:

  • A judge at a high court;
  • An admitted advocate or attorney who has lectured at a university for at least 10 years;
  • An admitted advocate or attorney with at least 10 years of experience;
  • Someone who has specialised knowledge, or at least 10 years of experience in the administration of justice, public administration or public finance;
  • An MP with more than 10 years’ experience in Parliament; or
  • Someone who has at least 10 years of experience in a combination of any of the above.

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With 239 days to go before Public Protector Thuli Madonsela leaves office, the first step is for Parliament to decide whether the justice committee or an ad hoc committee will oversee the process of appointing her successor.

Usually, an ad hoc committee is formed with each political party having seats proportional to the number of seats representing the parties in Parliament. This committee will then call for applications, and once these have been narrowed down to a shortlist, the committee will conduct public interviews.

When the committee chooses a candidate, his or her name will be given to Parliament and put to a vote by MPs, and they’ll need at least 60% of the vote. The nominated candidate will be presented to President Jacob Zuma for approval.

Having spent 7 years in office, Madonsela has already proved the power of the Public Protector under a determined leader.The ConCourt case on Thuli Madonsela’s recommendation regarding the upgrades at President Zuma’s Nkandla home will be so significant in her career and the future role of her office.

Thuli was born in Johannesburg in 1962, her parents, Bafana and Nomasonto, were informal traders. She grew up in Soweto. Her family originates from Swaziland. She attended Evelyn Baring High School in Nhlangano in Swaziland. She has received unprecedented national and international recognition, which has included her being recognized by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential people in 2014.

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