The journey into the search for a new public protector has not been that easy.
The parliament has been long gone in the Public Protector interviews, trying to pick out that single candidate who will fit into the shoes of Thuli Madonsela whose tenure in office is about to end.
Public nominations so far presented 21 candidates including the incumbent Thuli Madonsela and her deputy, Kevin Malunga.
14 candidates have undergone series of diplomatic and sensitive questionings by the members of the parliament who have left no stone unturned in digging up secrets, criminal records and personal behaviour of each candidate for all to judge during the interview process.
Among the candidates interviewed include:
- Advocate MM Mthembu,
- Judge Sharise Erica Weiner,
- Advocate Chris Madibeng Mokoditwa,
- Busisiwe Mkhwebane,
- Judge Serajudien Desai,
- Adjunct Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller,
- Advocate Mamiki Thabitha Goodman,
- Jill Claudelle Oliphant,
- Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh,
- Advocate Kevin Sifiso Malunga,
- Willam Andrew Hofmeyr,
- Muvhango Antoinette Lukhaimane
- Professor Bongani Majola, and
- Advocate Willie Hofmeyr
Thousands of questions were raised during the Public Protector interviews. Candidates had to defend their past professional decisions, their mistakes and not declaring some of the glaring findings by Corruption Watch.
Nothing was considered negligible in the 20 hours interview, including cell phone theft accusations, drunken driving charges and questions about security clearance.
Among the Strong questions asked during the Public Protector interviews include:
Malunga’s Security Clearance
During the course of the interviews, the candidates were questioned on the Nkandla report and subsequent court judgments, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s visit to South Africa, and on security clearance.
However, what seems to be more crucial in the Public Protector interviews process was the interrogation of what most would say was an heir-apparent to the position, Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga.
Before Malunga’s interview even began, the committee tasked with choosing a successor for Thuli Madonsela received and briefly discussed a letter from the State Security Agency, saying Malunga was not fit to be public protector because of his security clearance.
According to Malunga, he is a South African citizen, born in Zimbabwe, with family ties in both countries. However, the State Security Agency stated in a letter that his clearance was categorized as top secret, invalidating him from the running for the post.
In reply to this, Malunga said: “I denounced the Zim citizenship in 2010 and … will have to follow up if it was concluded. I got South African citizenship in 2010.
To this, African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart expressed concern that Malunga was able to become deputy public protector despite security clearance concerns that were uncovered only years after he was appointed to his current position.
The committee resolved to get more answers from State Security regarding the status of his clearance
Schabir Shaik Versus Jacob Zuma Corruption Charges
At the early hours of the interview session, Advocate Willie Hofmeyr – head of legal affairs at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was asked by the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu what had been the reasons behind charging Schabir Shaik for corruption but not charging Jacob Zuma for the same, even though the latter was allegedly part of the same corruption relationship.
To answer this Hofmeyr said he said he had done a “hell of a lot of work” on the Shaik case, which was a big case, and had also had reservations about not charging Zuma
“I’m not coming to be public protector to protect anyone, other than the public. The decision that was made in 2009 [to drop charges] … ultimately the situation was that credible, irrefutable evidence came to our attention that the previous head of the Scorpions and the NPA were meddling with politics.
“We were very concerned that a permanent stay of execution [against Zuma] would be brought. We had quite a lot of debate about whether the courts or the NPA should make the decision. Mokotedi Mpshe made the decision, we knew it would be litigated, and that is right.
“We knew it was a difficult decision, and history will tell us if it was right. I tried to preserve the integrity of the NPA.”
Is Low Economic Growth the Main Reason Why SA has Problems?
This was a question thrown at Advocate Nonkosi Princess Cetywayo. There, she gave no direct answer but pointed out that her highlighting of the limited resources in South Africa meant that every cent needed to be used properly.
Association with the Ruling ANC
The parliament at the Public Protector interviews, also made sure that all candidates vying for the seat of public protector are free from party bias.
Advocate Nonkosi Princess Cetywayo was also interrogated over her association with the ruling party, and whether it would affect her work, should she get the job.
Answering this, Cetywayo denied that she would ever demonstrate an ANC bias. EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu repeated his question of whether she was a member of the ANC. She said she was not “an active member of the ANC”. She denied even knowing when meetings of the ANC took place.
“The moment that you take a particular responsibility, you reconcile yourself to that duty. This office is put there by the constitution to serve the public, not the ANC. I’ve been in the positions of serving … I’ve served different political parties. I’ve never had any political party complaining about partiality. I’ve worked with politicians all my life; I think they could attest to my respect for a position I am given at a particular point in time,” she answered.
The Controversial al-Bashir Case
In one of the Public Protector interviews, ANC MPs raised the spectre of regime change and the ghost of foreign control of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the interview of Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, the head of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). The centre successfully went to court for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir last year.
The Controversial al-Bashir was allowed to leave the country after attending the June 2015 African Union summit – and government set off on its own lawfare, appealing its legal defeats in this case all the way to the Constitutional Court