It is an intriguing thought: whoever eventually gets selected from the shortlist thrashed out in parliament yesterday to replace Public Protector Thuli Madonsela faces the unenviable certainty of retrospective comparison.
Madonsela’s tenure ends in October. Since she was appointed by President Jacob Zuma on October 19, 2009 with unanimous support from the National Assembly, the quietly spoken advocate transformed the seeming rubber stamp that typified her predecessor, Lawrence Mushwana, whose obfuscation in the Oilgate saga must rate as one of the major cop-outs of our fledgling democracy.
Madonsela has steadfastly refused to toe any line but the moral one constitutionally dictated by her mandate. This has often infuriated politicians but unequivocably endeared her to the average citizen, battered on many fronts by corrupt greed, and poor governance.
Madonsela has fearlessly chosen to tilt at the seemingly impregnable political windmills presented to her but, unlike Don Quixote, has succeeded in flattening more than a few in her uncompromising reports.
Most notably, the Constitutional Court finding in the wake of the Nkandla upgrades which ruled on the manner in which the government must deal with public protector findings and recommendations on corruption and maladministration, effectively underpinning Madonsela’s office and leaving no one above the law.
Typically, Madonsela has set herself the daunting final mission of investigating the allegations of the Gupta family’s hijacking of state-owned entities, a veritable political and economic minefield.
Replacing her will not be an easy task and it should be remembered that Zuma must endorse Madonsela’s replacement – and the president is not renowned for being forgiving.
It is vital the new public protector endorses Madonsela’s legacy without fear or favour.