Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says she was not surprised by President Jacob Zuma’s decision to capitulate in the Constitutional Court because the president had never said he would not pay back the money. In an interview with City Press, Madonsela also said while she has not experienced personal animosity from Zuma, her invitations to government events had gradually disappeared over time.
While she is hailed for her fierce independence, Madonsela has often come under fire from the governing ANC for exaggerating her powers.
“My invitations to events were either eaten by our dogs (which we don’t have), or got lost in the post office,” she said, laughing.
Madonsela said while before she was invited to different government functions, recently it was only to the state of the nation address where she was being invited. Last year she did not even crack a nod to the annual Presidential Awards function, where she always used to feature.
Madonsela said she had a cordial meeting with Zuma before the court case last week, adding that while the president had always accused her of jumping the gun and not being a judge, he had “always said he is waiting for all these other processes to conclude”.
“My argument was that those processes by Parliament and the police minister were flawed and unlawful.”
She said there was a flawed understanding of the separation of powers.
“Separation of power means I cannot do your work, but it allows for me to do oversight on how you exercise your authority.”
At best, Zuma could be accused of placing people who worked under him in a difficult situation, she said.
“If I say I did nothing wrong and I [appoint] someone, who is my subordinate, to find the possibility that I may have done something wrong, [that is difficult].”
Madonsela said it was clear people did not understand the principle of unjustified enrichment, which resulted in Zuma being ordered to pay for nonsecurity features.
Madonsela was pictured smiling when the lawyer acting for Parliament, Lindiwe Nkosi-Thomas SC, made her submission and was being grilled by the judges this week. But she says her grinning was misunderstood. “When she just started, I said her argument will be based on parliamentary democracy [meaning you cannot