Thuli Madonsela leaves office as the Public Protector on Friday. We look at seven major events of her seven years in office.
For many South Africans, Thuli Madonsela’s greatest victory was her investigation into the abuse of public money in the matter of whether President Jacob Zuma and his family unduly benefited from security upgrades made to his private Nkandla home.
The Public Protector’s investigation into the R246 million upgrade took two years, but her investigations and the contents of her provisional report weren’t honoured at the executive level.
6. Bheki Cele’s new police HQ leases.
Allegations of police intimidation against Madonsela started when she investigated Bheki Cele’s new police HQ leases in 2010. Her office looked at plans for the KwaZulu-Natal police’s imminent move to new premises in Durban, a transaction in breach of the constitution, which had also fallen foul of Treasury.
Swazi-born multimillionaire Roux Shabangu was involved in the move, as the police would allegedly have had to rent space from him at high cost. But while the leases were put on ice by ex-public works minister Geoff Doidge, Cele defended the R500m, 10-year Pretoria lease.
5. State capture.
Madonsela stuck to her guns and told Pres. Zuma he would not get his wish to get her to hold back on her report into state capture. The first part was expected to be made public on Friday, but the Presidency on Thursday confirmed it had made an urgent court interdict application which is likely to stall it. The president, who had been given an opportunity from March 22 to answer questions on allegations of the Gupta family’s influence in the appointment of ministers, had delayed his response.
4. Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Madonsela was among the most high-profile critics of former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s appointment to another senior position at the SABC late last month while there was still an ongoing investigation into his conduct.
Her office’s 2014 report found him unfit to hold his leadership position in a permanent capacity had been all but ignored by the public broadcaster, which then engaged in its own parallel process by holding a disciplinary hearing which cleared Motsoeneng.
The matter is continuing.
3. CIA agent.
Earlier this year, Deputy Defence Minister and Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe was compelled to remind us of his apology to Madonsela in 2014 when he accused her of being a CIA agent.
Using what is a tired old propaganda trick, he’d suggested she’d effectively set Pres. Zuma up over the public expenditure on Nkandla. But when former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils went to court – and won – last month over also being called a CIA agent by Maphatsoe, among other nefarious claims, Maphatsoe was driven to remember his apology to Madonsela. This was after he demanded at an MK tombstone unveiling that she inform the ANC who her handler was at the CIA in a bid by America to destabilise the Zuma administration.
2. The people’s favourite.
Such was the respect for Madonsela that when nominations were opened for a new public protector, her name was among those the public wished to see considered. The benchmark she had set saw NGO Corruption Watch embark on a public awareness campaign around the nominations process “to safeguard the independence and integrity of the office”.
In the end, her successor, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, was regarded as a good choice by all parties in the National Assembly except the DA, which cast aspersions on her job moves.
1. Awards and accolades won.
Madonsela was recognised by Time in 2014 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. The list included leaders, scientists, philosophers, artists and visionaries. She was also named one of the most influential Africans by New African Magazine, and won Transparency International’s Integrity Award, in addition to more than three dozen accolades, including the Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award for excellence in public interest law. These, and her record of social justice through her seven years in office, easily set her apart as one of South Africa’s highest achievers in a global context.