Who should replace Thuli Madonsela?
When Thuli Madonsela’s name was put forward for the job of Public Protector, not a single member of Parliament voted against her. As a card-carrying ANC member who had helped draft the Constitution, she was considered a safe bet. But since her appointment, she has tackled a number of highprofile figures, including Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and, of course, President Jacob Zuma himself.
Madonsela’s term of office comes to an end on October 19. She cannot serve a second term and a new Public Protector has to be selected.
Speaking about her potential replacement last week, Madonsela suggested someone with a strong legal background.
“I would say please employ a professional and, preferably, a lawyer. I know the [Public Protector] Act allows you not to have a lawyer … But I still think if you are not a lawyer, you would then be a prisoner to your staff. You would just sign because some of the legal issues would be difficult for you,” she said.
“It should be a person who has a track record of advancing administrative justice … somebody who sees it as a calling just to help out, to deepen democracy, who cares about the Constitution and who has demonstrated that record. A person who is also compassionate. A kind of lawyer who really cares about justice. And someone who likes the truth and has integrity.”
By law, there are certain minimum requirements the new Public Protector must meet ( see box), but considering the politically fraught environment the new Public Protector will be stepping into, whoever gets the job will need more than just academic qualifications.
This week, as part of Corruption Watch’s Bua Mzansi campaign to get the public involved in choosing Madonsela’s successor, the organisation released the results of an in-depth survey of 83 members of the Public Protector’s staff, in which it asked them what their new boss should be like.
Most of them agreed with Madonsela that the incumbent should have a strong legal background.
When asked what the most important qualification for the new Public Protector was, staff overwhelmingly said their first choice would be a high court judge (47.46%), while the majority (69.49%) said a member of Parliament would be the least desirable candidate.
Asked which qualities were most important, 82.46% of Madonsela’s staff said integrity, followed by accountability (64.91%) and transparency (54.39%).
Based on the survey, staff don’t want to see a tame Public Protector, with patriotism (3.51%) and humility (7.02%) both ranked as the least important.
While Madonsela has had to face claims that she was a “CIA spy”, her staff think their new boss should not spend too much time fretting over his or her public image.
Asked what the burning issues would be, staff said “preserving the independence of the Public Protector’s office” and “building capacity of staff members to ensure rigorous and independent findings” were most important (66.67% and 64.91%, respectively), while “managing the public reputation of the Public Protector’s office” was only a minor concern (8.77%).
Next week, Corruption Watch will be sending a similar survey to MPs to complete.
Corruption Watch launched its Bua Mzansi campaign this month