The decision by the parliamentary committee tasked with finding a new public protector to nominate a candidate by the end of August has been criticised by the opposition, who claim the unnecessary haste could jeopardise the entire process.
Incumbent Thuli Madonsela steps down at the end of October and a Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee sat for a marathon 20 hours of interviews with 14 shortlisted candidates on Thursday. The interviews started just after 8am on Thursday morning and ran into the early hours of Friday morning.
On Friday, parliament issued a statement saying that the committee had mandated the chairperson Dr Makhosi Khoza to propose dates for its next meeting, when the committee will deliberate on the candidates’ interviews and decide on which candidate to recommend to the National Assembly by August 31.
The statement read: “The Committee agreed on this after concluding yesterday’s interview process, involving 14 candidates who were shortlisted from more than 70 applicants and nominees competing for the Public Protector position.”
However, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and committee member Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach said the “undue haste” with which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) was to conclude the selection was putting the entire process at risk.
“The mismanagement of the public protector interview process risks jeopardising the selection of a fit and proper candidate to continue the fight against corruption,” Breytenbach said. “This is after 14 interviews, some of which were over an hour long, were jammed into a single day, with overflow into the early hours of the following morning.”
The last candidate was called in for his hour-long interview at 01:45 in the morning, after the panel had already spent almost 19 hours in the Chamber.
“This follows a shortlisting process which left a lot to be desired, with MPs having to make decisions on reams of documents hastily handed out to them during the shortlisting meeting,” Breytenbach added.
She said despite objections from the DA and other opposition parties, the chairperson had pushed on with the process.
“This was all because ANC MPs had been given marching orders to ensure the process is completed by the end of August,” she said. “And indeed, though the public protector process is under tight time constraints, it is well established that proper process cannot be ignored simply due to urgency.”
She further called into question the fairness of the interview process, saying: “Due process is not merely a set of technicalities, nor is it simply about being fair to each of the candidates (though it certainly has not been). It is about properly assessing which candidate is best qualified to hold the crucial office of public protector. It is almost impossible to do this when both the candidates and the panel are utterly exhausted by the time the interviews are held.”
– African News Agency (ANA)