Fearless Public Protector
As Parliament begins the process of appointing a new Public Protector, many are anxious about whether its members will be inclined to select a lackey, one who will owe loyalty to the MPs rather than to the office the new candidate holds.
The incumbent, Thuli Madonsela, has set the bar high. She has been fearless, judicious and exemplary in her seven years in office.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa is one of those who is concerned. He believes that, because of the ever-increasing levels of corruption in the country, the majority party will select a yes man or woman.
Civil society has encouraged the public to be involved in every step of the process so they have a say in the outcome (see graphic in news).
The governing ANC has insisted that the selection process be an open one and that there should be no concern about manipulation. But the party has the majority of MPs on the committee and they could outvote any objections to their choice.
In Parliament this week, at the first meeting of the ad hoc committee tasked with selecting the suitable candidate, all the political parties reiterated their commitment that the process be fair and transparent.
To allay fears, the committee agreed to a number of things, including live TV broadcasts of the proceedings and that all applicants’ CVs be made public.
These are positive steps. But Parliament corridor talk was all about why the ANC had deployed mostly junior MPs, apart from Amos Masondo, to the committee. Could it be that the more junior they are, the easier to control them from the outside? Will Luthuli House eventually choose the Public Protector?
Madonsela has said incumbents come and go, but the institution remained and had to be respected. Let’s hope the MPs running this process will operate according to the same spirit.
Any inclination to challenge the independence of the next Public Protector to prevent their being “the next Thuli Madonsela” would be selfdefeating. Around the world, governing parties often fail to reckon they might one day lose power and will, in turn, need the very institutions they may have undermined. We can only hope our MPs are bigger than that.