Columns 1.9.2016 06:30 am

A pleasing first impression

The Citizen Editor Steven Motale is pictured in his office. Picture: Michel Bega

The Citizen Editor Steven Motale is pictured in his office. Picture: Michel Bega

The woman who will be our next public protector seems to be a commendable choice.

With so many things going wrong in our country, it is natural every step that government takes will be subjected to serious scrutiny by citizens. One matter that has not escaped public interest is the appointment of the new public protector to replace Thuli Madonsela, whose seven-year non-renewable term comes to an end next month. While her fearlessness has made Madonsela the darling of the public, she undoubtedly has during her tenure earned herself very powerful enemies.

Some of her investigations have claimed big scalps, something that made her a thorn in the eyes of many within the ruling party. This led to suspicions that the ANC would go out of its way to rectify its “mistake” in appointing the next public protector by using its majority in parliament to replace Madonsela with a blind party loyalist. However, judging by the transparent and robust selection process, these perceptions might well prove to be groundless.

The ANC-dominated parliamentary ad hoc committee in charge of appointing a new public protector has selected an individual with impeccable credentials who reportedly has also been endorsed by many opposition parties, including Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters. Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s name will now be put forward to the National Assembly in the next few days before receiving President Jacob Zuma’s signature.

Mkhwebane, who boasts a string of university degrees, made such an impressive presentation to the committee she convinced all that she got selected purely on merit and not for any other unsavoury agenda. While her competence and qualifications are unquestionable, Mkhwebane’s final test lies in her ability to act independently and fearlessly in investigating improper conduct, maladministration and abuse of power in state affairs.

Mkhwebane will also be under constant surveillance by Madonsela’s critics who accused her of cherry-picking high-profile cases, while neglecting her primary task of protecting the public from indifferent public servants and poor service delivery by the state. If her presentation to the ad hoc committee is anything to go by, Mkhwebane appears to be the most suitable candidate to emulate her predecessor and even silence Madonsela’s detractors.

During her interview, Mkhwebane cited her desire to increasing access to the public protector’s services for all communities, which she said could be achieved by extending the public protector into local district offices, such as magistrate’s courts. She also expressed her wish to introduce innovative ways to deliver services promptly within the metered resources.

A piece of advice to the esteemed advocate. Once appointed, please don’t be naive to the point you believe that those who endorsed you will eternally be supportive of you in carrying out your mandate of busting corruption.

There will be times when a few of the same people who happen to be custodians of the public purse find themselves in conflict with what the office you are about to occupy stands for.

Fearlessly exposing these rogues will determine whether you truly have that sacred attribute of a model protector of citizens – loyalty to the constitution and the people of SA.

 

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