A State Security Agency (SSA) letter that could possibly derail the chances of Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga at taking the top watchdog job, has allegedly been “misconstrued”.
After a more than 19-hour interview process, which continued in the early hours of yesterday morning, chairperson of parliament’s ad hoc committee on the appointment of the new public protector Makhosi Khoza said there had been no foul play.
The SSA letter implied that Malunga was not fit to hold office because of security clearance issues related to his Zimbabwean citizenship. Malunga, who has held the position of deputy public protector since 2012, claimed he had renounced his citizenship, however.
Khoza said yesterday that the letter was misconstrued to have been used solely during Malunga’s interview. She argued that the information contained in the SSA letter was also used during other candidates’ interviews.
She said because of the importance of the level of integrity and honesty required in a public protector, the committee had resolved in July to ensure that all 14 shortlisted candidates were vetted before the interviews took place.
The committee requested parliament to assist with the process and that was how the SSA report came about.
But Constitutional Law expert Pierre de Vos said there seemed to be no legal basis for a security report on one of the applicants to have been compiled.
“It is difficult to know on what basis the requirement was proposed, as the constitution and Public Protector Act make no requirement for top-level security clearance.
“I don’t know on what legal basis this was done. There may be a rule somewhere, but I could not find it. The question we need to ask is if the law requires this … I have never heard of this before,” he said.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said what had played out in parliament seemingly showed that “the knives were out for Malunga”, in the “documents presented and questioning of his citizenship”.
He said that it seemed those issues “were intended to embarrass him”.
“It was an awkward exchange and it didn’t put him in a positive light.
“But other candidates had also seen similar personal attacks …
“Malunga’s hope that he would offer continuity (in the public protector office) may have been negatively affected,” Silke said.
Corruption Watch’s Kavisha Pillay said the committee was just “making sure there are no skeletons in the closet”.
‘Radebe’s speech writer’
Meanwhile, claims that Malunga had been a speechwriter for Justice Minister Jeff Radebe have been repudiated.
“The office of the Minister in the Presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation and chairperson of the National Planning Commission Jeff Radebe, and the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services refute claims made during the interview of Malunga for the position of Public Protector,” spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said in a statement.
“During the interview process, the portfolio committee member Phumzile van Damme remarked that Malunga was adviser and speechwriter to Radebe.
“The office of Radebe refutes the statement or any inference made that Malunga served as adviser to him or wrote any speeches for the minister.”
Mhaga added that the justice ministry “confirmed that Malunga has never worked in the office of Minister Radebe or had any dealings with the ministry during his short stint as researcher in the department of justice and constitutional development”.
“He was appointed as researcher in the office of the chief justice on contract in 2010 and [… had] provided administrative support.”