Prays Public for the Pro­tec­tor

Af­ter the Public Pro­tec­tor called for an end to hos­til­i­ties with the ANC this week, City Press sat down with her to ask how she keeps up

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Where do you draw your strength from? I have a spir­i­tual dy­namic and I be­lieve that ev­ery hu­man be­ing is do­ing the best they can. I do get up­set and ir­ri­tated, and I just have to man­age that. One dif­fi­cult mo­ment was the first tweet from the rul­ing party dur­ing the press con­fer­ence [on Wed­nes­day] and I thought we’ve done the at­tack­ing and how do we move for­ward. I always re­mem­ber that ev­ery­one is do­ing their best and if they knew bet­ter, they’d do bet­ter.

But re­mem­ber that the at­tacks have also come from a mi­nor­ity within the gov­ern­ing party.

Ac­tu­ally, ev­ery­one I meet, young and old, in high and low po­si­tions, sup­port what I’m do­ing, and I’m talk­ing about the gov­ern­ing party. If I go to Par­lia­ment I get sup­port, if I meet Cabi­net mem­bers I get sup­port, if I go to mass meet­ings of the ANC they mob me like a rock star and it gives me a sense that we’re all just or­di­nary South Africans who just want a coun­try that runs well and we hope ev­ery­one will do their best.

A lot of the peo­ple sup­port­ing me are public ser­vants be­cause the av­er­age public ser­vant does the right thing. I was a public ser­vant and I never came across a sin­gle cor­rupt per­son dur­ing our time in the depart­ment of jus­tice [while chair­ing the SA Law Re­form Com­mis­sion].

All of us were happy to make ends meet from what we were get­ting from the sys­tem.

It’s also not true that politi­cians are cor­rupt. The ma­jor­ity of politi­cians are not cor­rupt, even the ones that drop the ball usu­ally don’t drop it be­cause of cor­rup­tion. They just drop the ball be­cause in the process of do­ing some­thing, there wasn’t proper con­sul­ta­tion around the rules that reg­u­late the sys­tem.

The ones that are at­tack­ing us are do­ing so be­cause of fear, but it’s fear of the un­known.

I am a South African and I want South Africa to con­tinue to be seen as a great coun­try be­cause de­spite our mis­takes, I re­ally think we’re a great coun­try and I am not just say­ing that for the cam­eras.

Tell us more about your spir­i­tual dy­namic...

I pray and I also have a very sup­port­ive church. The Hatfield Chris­tian Church has also been very sup­port­ive. When things get tough, the church would oc­ca­sion­ally call and ask to pray for me.

Other churches have in­vited them­selves to our of­fices to come and pray with me.

Lit­er­ally ev­ery day, peo­ple send me spir­i­tual texts on emails, di­rect mes­sages and on the Twit­ter ac­count.

It’s not always re­li­gious, it’s not always verses from the Bi­ble. Some send spir­i­tual mes­sages from other re­li­gions. I am Chris­tian but I do em­brace other spir­i­tual di­men­sions.

The one mes­sage that struck me was one where the per­son said: ‘You are strong and you’ve been placed where you are for good rea­sons. You have power, use it com­pas­sion­ately, use it justly and re­mem­ber to tem­per jus­tice with mercy.’

That was from [Ba­hamas Faith Min­istries founder] Myles Mun­roe the day be­fore the press con­fer­ence. It came at a dif­fi­cult time when we were un­der heavy at­tack. That made me re­flect.

Of course, I have an ex­tremely sup­port­ive fam­ily: my chil­dren, my broth­ers and sisters. My friends and ac­quain­tances are very sup­port­ive too. Also the team here at the Public Pro­tec­tor is great. I’m the head of the team, not the boss of the team.

Are you happy with the par­lia­men­tary pro­cesses go­ing ahead in the Nkandla mat­ter while you’re un­happy about Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s re­sponse to your re­port?

I don’t dis­agree with the pres­i­dent’s re­sponse. The pres­i­dent has not re­sponded and he him­self says so. I don’t dis­agree with the par­lia­men­tary process. For me, that’s a par­al­lel process.

I see the par­lia­men­tary process as com­ple­men­tary and I would like to en­gage with Par­lia­ment if it feels my process is un­der­min­ing its process be­cause my un­der­stand­ing is that our democ­racy works be­cause we have a com­ple­men­tary over­sight frame­work. Dif­fer­ent in­sti­tu­tions re­in­force each other.

With me having writ­ten to the pres­i­dent, it adds to that par­lia­men­tary process be­cause fi­nally they would have the pres­i­dent’s com­ments on my re­port.

But now they only have the pres­i­dent’s own ini­tia­tive, which is a gen­eral state­ment on his ob­ser­va­tions on what hap­pened there, but he’s not say­ing whether he agrees or dis­agrees with me.

He is not say­ing what he is go­ing to do to fix his branch of gov­ern­ment. My un­der­stand­ing of the vi­sion be­hind the Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­bers’ Ethics Act is that Par­lia­ment is not the head of the ex­ec­u­tive – the pres­i­dent is, so the ex­pec­ta­tion is that the pres­i­dent fixes his house and then just no­ti­fies Par­lia­ment on how he has fixed his house.

You have asked ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe to ex­plain his com­ments about you...

He says I run around the world bad-mouthing my coun­try. I love my coun­try. In African cul­ture we say you don’t re­lieve your­self up­stream. So if peo­ple see South Africa as a con­fused and dys­func­tional democ­racy, I sink with South Africa, my chil­dren sink, my chil­dren’s chil­dren sink.

I spoke at the African Union’s 50th an­niver­sary and you have to read what I said there about my coun­try and how our democ­racy is built to last.

Am­bas­sadors are always happy and they say my of­fice is one of the of­fices they use to show that democ­racy is work­ing.

The sys­tem is not used to rub­bish the coun­try, it’s used to show we have checks and bal­ances, and if some­thing goes wrong, there’s the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral, the Public Pro­tec­tor, the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit, the me­dia and the courts. We are a strong democ­racy.

Do you think there is deliberate ig­no­rance of the Con­sti­tu­tion when it comes to the Public Pro­tec­tor’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions?

You guys in the me­dia kept push­ing that the Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­bers’ Ethics Code change and you kept push­ing to change the law it­self so that a re­port about the pres­i­dent goes to some­one else.

Right now if that had been com­plied with, we wouldn’t be having a prob­lem with the pres­i­dent having to de­cide on a re­port about him­self be­cause it’s un­fair on him and presents a con­flict of in­ter­est.

The jus­tice depart­ment just de­layed the process, but it has sent us a draft.

The way for­ward would be to con­clude that process. We fol­low up on re­me­dial ac­tion be­cause the last let­ter we wrote to the pres­i­dent about that was a few months ago when we asked where is that process be­fore we re­leased the [Nkandla] re­port.

We wanted to find out who are we go­ing to then deal with and the pres­i­dent re­sponded gra­ciously that the process of re­view­ing [the Ex­ec­u­tive Mem­bers’ Ethics Act] was started by the depart­ment of jus­tice, but some­how there was a de­lay and it’s not con­cluded yet.

What do you want to do when your term comes to an end in 2016? Have you been ap­proached to work on any project when your term ends?

Well if you’re ask­ing me if the DA has re­quested me to stand for them in 2019, no, that has not hap­pened. I have been ap­proached by var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions to go into academia and teach. But I in­tend go­ing into le­gal prac­tice be­cause I never re­ally got into it. I also want to rest for a year and maybe start writ­ing some­thing – maybe that will in­clude teach­ing as well.

But I will def­i­nitely not go into pol­i­tics be­cause I had a chance to be an MP in 1994 when I was asked by Cosatu to join Par­lia­ment with the likes of Su­san Sha­bangu.

There have been many op­por­tu­ni­ties to go into pol­i­tics, but each time I was nom­i­nated by my ANC branch in Pre­to­ria, I always de­clined.



Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela at her of­fices in Pre­to­ria

Or­son Welles: I don’t pray be­cause I don’t want to bore God

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