MPs on Thursday whittled down the shortlist of 14 candidates interviewed for the position of public protector to five.
Following some heated deliberations by the ad hoc committee set up by parliament to nominate a new public protector, Judges Sharise Weiner and Siraj Desai, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Pension Fund Adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane and Professor Bongani Majola will go through to the next round.
While there was consensus that Weiner, Mkhwebane, Lukhaimane should make the cut, MPs clashed over whether Desai and Majola should go through to the next round.
Several ANC MPs suggested Desai should qualify for the new shortlist because he was a judge with 20 years’ experience on the bench.
“I support the candidature of Judge Desai and I think that, like many of the people who have spoken, we are in agreement about his knowledge of the law and that indeed he’s an excellent judge,” said ANC MP Amos Masondo.
DA MPs objected fiercely, citing Desai’s visible anger and “volatility” when questioned during his interview about his poor health, allegations of sexual assault brought against him in India in 2004 and reports of frequent clashes with peers in the legal profession.
“Because he does not have the right temperament for the job, I don’t think he’s suitable for it,” said DA MP Phumzile van Damme.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Floyd Shivambu cited similar concerns, adding that Desai was not qualified to handle the financial aspects of heading the public protector’s office. He said Desai’s track record as a jurist was, however, “excellent”, pleading with his fellow MPs to leave him be on the bench.
“Let’s save the judiciary of South Africa by not stealing one of the most excellent judges. Let’s leave him in the Bench to continue delivering excellent judgments,” he said.
The opposition parties also accuse Desai of having a political bias, given his open support for the ANC, an accusation the ANC’s Masondo dismissed.
“Judge Desai is not anybody’s yes man and I think that this is very important if we are to ensure going forward that the independence of the office remains firmly in place and that the work the office is supposed to do gets done,” said Masondo.
In the end, the parties agreed Desai would remain on the shortlist, noting the objection of the DA.
Bongani Majola, an advocate who previously served as registrar for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR), also ran into a problem when Shivambu objected to his candidature because he practised as a prosecutor during the apartheid era “when black people were criminalised by the state”.
After committee chairwoman Makhosi Khoza intervened, calling Shivambu’s comments unfair, he was the last name to be added to the last round of five.
MPs meet again next week to see if they can choose one of the five to succeed Thuli Madonsela as public protector when she retires in October.
– African News Agency (ANA)