Best choice to serve the nation?
This week the names of the 59 people vying to fill Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s shoes were announced. We look at our five favourites, the five we wish hadn’t declined nominations, and the five we are not sure about. JANET SMITH compiled their profil
THE MAVERICK: PIERRE DE VOS A well-loved social media commentator and blogger on matters mostly legal, constitutional law expert De Vos might be a popular, if maverick choice among the intelligentsia.
Quick-witted and astute, he taught law at the University of the Western Cape before moving to UCT, where he became deputy dean of the law faculty in 2011.
With an LLM from Columbia, De Vos has consistently belied his roots, growing up in what was then Pietersburg.
An early advocate for same-sex marriage and a progressive thinker in the fields of HIV/Aids and anti-racism, he is chairman of the board of the NGO the Aids Legal Network, and a board member of the Triangle Project, an LGBT advocacy organisation.
But De Vos hasn’t escaped the ire of more reactionary forces. He and his partner won the first case considered by the Equality Court in 2004 when a gay bar’s owners had to admit they had discriminated against his partner because of his race.
He also had a public argument with former DA leader Helen Zille four years later when he accused the party of hypocrisy and Zille of being “politically stupid”.
Accused of being a racist in 2009 after a radio debate with Paul Ngobeni, a professed supporter of controversial Judge President of the Cape John Hlophe, he nonetheless maintained his strong social justice calling by speaking out against evictions and Cape Town’s notorious open toilets, and standing up for social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s call for a one-off wealth tax on those who benefited from apartheid.
More recently, he took significant flak from the Afrikaner community for coming out in favour of changing the language policy at Stellenbosch University. THE PEACEMAKER: NICK HAYSOM Now a respected international figure for his work as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Haysom has built upon an impressive Struggle history.
Nicknamed “Fink”, he began his international work back in 1999, when he was involved in the high-level Burundi peace talks and held the position as chairman of the committee negotiating constitutional issues. After that he worked on the laborious and fraught Sudanese peace process, in Iraq and in the UN secretary-general’s office.
But Haysom had come off a very high base, serving as chief legal and constitutional adviser in the office of then president Nelson Mandela, and helping to select the TRC panel in 1995, before moving into a more prominent position in world peace affairs once Thabo Mbeki became president.
One of the founding partners of top legal firm Cheadle Thompson and Haysom, he might have been schooled within the privilege of Michaelhouse, but his social conscience was quickly tested. During the 1970s and 1980s he was detained three times by the apartheid government, and served with a two-year banning order.
One of Haysom’s perhaps lesser-known qualities is his artistry. He’s a previous winner of the Amstel Playwright of the Year Award.
When he was addressing the UN Security Council leader as head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan last week, speaking about how to develop confidence in their government for Afghans, he was speaking with the voice of a global leader. THE ACTIVIST: WILLIE HOFMEYR With the backdrop of an illustrious history within the ANC, Hofmeyr’s most important job has been as a Special Director of Public Prosecutions, heading the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the NPA. He’d been an ANC MP during Nelson Mandela’s administration, and that part of his career in advancing our democracy started with such promise.
That trajectory should have continued once the former trade unionist and Western Cape UDF leader was appointed deputy national director of public prosecutions in 2001, and head of the Special Investigating Unit. But his destiny was to be ultimately side-lined for his brave outspokenness.
Few know and understand the constitution like Hofmeyr does. It was an early dream. But in February, the advocate – one of South Africa’s most senior prosecutors – effectively declared war on his new boss, Shaun Abrahams, accusing him of misleading the court, sidelining him (Hofmeyr), and aligning himself with a “systematic pattern of improperly protecting” controversial colleague Nomgcobo Jiba.
Hofmeyr said Abrahams had launched an “unwarranted and unfounded attack” on his credibility in an affidavit Abrahams filed opposing a High Court bid by the DA to get Jiba suspended pending an official commission of inquiry into her conduct.
Hofmeyr, who until last year headed the successful Asset Forfeiture Unit, said in his own affidavit that he had come across efforts by politicians to manipulate the NPA for their factional purposes – something which he had strongly opposed and exposed.
Described as dedicated to legal compliance, Hofmeyr has an impeccable record. THE CONTENDER: KEVIN MALUNGA The deputy public protector was a well-liked and prodigious thinker, a lecturer in law at Wits and previously at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, when he was chosen to take up office with Thuli Madonsela.
Although not long after his appointment he disagreed with Madonsela over her strategic plan and stated his concerns in a letter to Parliament. That apparent breaking of ranks with South Africa’s most powerful woman did not have its feared follow-through – that he would develop into a political toady.
Since that incident in 2013, it appears Malunga and Madonsela have in fact drawn closer, even as their work has provided the office of the Public Protector with immeasurable political opposition – and significant support.
Malunga, who was previously a State law adviser in the Justice Department, and who also acted briefly as a spokesman of the Marikana Judicial Commission of Inquiry, has a considerable academic history.
A candidate for Doctor of Juridical Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School in the US, he is a member of several professional societies, including the American Society of International Law. Malunga did his LLM in International Law at Georgetown University, having earned his first degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.
Perhaps taking the example of his courageous boss, he has also become more public in his opinions . Expressing his views about corruption in March, he referred to British journalist Michela Wrong’s book, about corruption in Kenya, in a quote: “People have decided that it is our turn to eat, we are not going to provide value for money and who cares what you think, as long as we get paid. This is a culture I call something for nothing, which has taken root on a very aggressive scale.”