The first salvo was fired by EFF leader Julius Malema, who walked into a meeting of the ad hoc committee selecting a candidate to nominate to the National Assembly, and said: “I just came to ask that we don’t appoint Judge Desai.”
Malema ventured that Desai dared to treat members of the committee with contempt when he was interviewed for the post earlier this month because he knew that he was the favourite of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to succeed Thuli Madonsela.
I just came to ask that we don’t appoint Judge Desai
He said Desai’s failure to answer questions about the protest against rape culture staged as President Jacob Zuma spoke at the election result centre in Pretoria earlier this month showed an insensitivity to the pain of rape victims and the way he had spoken to MPs bode ill for his ability to deal with ordinary citizens.
“There is nothing for the poor there, because the poor raise extremely petty things … some of the times you are going to have to listen to things you think are extremely useless, but to poor people they are very important,” Malema said.
He added if Desai was ready to snap at MPs in a session screened on national television, he would do far worse when faced with “an ordinary poor person in the township where there are no cameras”.
EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu accused Desai of “egg-walking around politicians” by ducking the question when he was asked bluntly whether he accepted that Zuma had committed any wrongdoing in the Nkandla scandal.
“He should have demonstrated much more courage,” Shivambu said.
At the time when he was asked the question, Desai had replied that given the Constitutional Court judgment on the Nkandla project, he would agree that there had been fault on the part of national government.
Madonsela had found that Zuma was enriched by the upgrade at state cost to his private home and the highest court held earlier this year that he had failed to respect and uphold the constitution by not heeding her directive to repay a portion of the money spent.
The DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach said Desai had interviewed poorly, and it was plain that he was not a fit and proper person for the post.
“He cannot control his temper, he cannot control his tongue,” Breytenbach said, and therefore he would not be able to handle the pressure of the post held by Madonsela for the past seven years.
He will be little more than a puppet
Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) also gave Desai the thumbs down, while a few ANC MPs said his 30 years on the bench made him ideally suited for the job.
ANC MPs argued that a candidate and fellow judge lauded by opposition parties, high court Judge Sharise Weiner, needed to gain more experience in cases relating to human rights.
The committee was choosing between four candidates – Desai, Busisiswe Mkhwebane, Muvhango Lukhaimane and Bongani Majola.