Today all 14 shortlisted public protector candidates will be interviewed. This will bring to an end the search for the replacement of Thuli Madonsela, whose non-renewable seven-year term comes to an end in October. Madonsela’s fearlessness and ability to execute her constitutional mandate without fear or favour have earned her admiration locally and abroad.
She has done exceptionally well by maintaining the integrity of the office, whose reputation was tarnished by her predecessors, who put party loyalty above the interests of the public. One legacy Madonsela leaves behind is her courage to defend the constitution and the rule of law by protecting South African citizens from the misdeeds of the powerful. Her courage in probing the rot in public service has earned her powerful enemies within the ANC, whose rotten cadres were exposed by Madonsela.
The long list of those who were axed includes the late Sicelo Shiceka, sacked as minister of cooperative governance after Madonsela found he had wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ rands on unsanctioned luxury travel. Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde was fired as public works minister after being implicated in the dodgy R1.78 billion SA Police Service headquarters leasing deals, described as unlawful by Madonsela.
Bheki Cele lost his job as the country’s top cop after Madonsela found him guilty of impropriety in the same dodgy police headquarters lease deal. In a classic case of how the ruling party recycles graft, Cele is now agriculture, forestry and fisheries deputy minister. Another Cabinet minister who was given her marching orders was former communications minister Dina Pule, who was nailed by Madonsela for corrupt behaviour and unethical conduct.
But it was her investigation of the corruption in the security upgrades to the Nkandla private residence of President Jacob Zuma that most proved to all and sundry that Madonsela was not afraid to tackle even the country’s most powerful. This even earned her the envy of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who said in his judgment on the Nkandla matter: “Madonsela is the embodiment of a biblical David who fights the most powerful and well-resourced Goliath that impropriety and corruption by government officials are.”
The only way Madonsela’s successor can fill her big shoes is to muster the courage to carry forward her proud legacy.