Beef with Thuli is office politics, say MPs

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. File Photo: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Members of Parliament have dismissed most of the complaints against Public Protector Thuli Madonsela made by her outgoing deputy as “internal office politics”.

This was how Luwellyn Landers, chairman of the National Assembly’s justice oversight committee, on Tuesday described the bulk of complaints presented against Madonsela’s office by Deputy Public Protector Mamiki Shai.

Shai is to vacate her office on Friday to make way for the new appointment, Kevin Malunga.

She said she had worked under “unbearable” conditions under Madonsela. In the office there were no clear divisions of power and an unsatisfactory delegation of tasks, she claimed. There was also no proper code of conduct or dispute resolution system - and a climate of victimisation when staff members of the 250 to 300-strong public protector’s office wanted to come forward with complaints.

Shai did not want the next deputy public protector to experience what she had experienced, she told the committee.

Shai said she had been determined to finish her seven years in office, but Madonsela was “somebody I would not want to work with or even befriend after the 30th [of this month]”.

“I came as an expert in law with a lot of qualifications and so much to give… It kills the self-esteem when you cannot think unless you are told to think, or initiate unless told to initiate.”

Shai was questioned on a dossier she submitted to Parliament last month. In it she criticised the way Madonsela handled cases and raised allegations of nepotism, favouritism and political bias, as well as depicting Madonsela as power crazy.

The committee also dealt with anonymous complaints forwarded to it.

In a meeting that lasted more than three hours, Shai described how, when she was sick in hospital after a “terrible accident” in 2010, she’d been visited by a senior staffer and pushed to sign a document which, it later emerged, was used to facilitate a bonus for the chief executive of the public protector’s office.

She said the matter was being investigated by the police but was unable to provide the committee with the case number or the name of the investigating officer.

Among Shai’s complaints were the criteria used by Madonsela for sending staff members overseas.

She also complained that “documents are manipulated and signatures pasted on documents - as I had that experience myself”, and alleged that external firms and friends of the chief executive were getting inflated tenders.

An irate Dene Smuts of the DA said the “very busy” committee had sat for hours and “been expected to read documentation at least six inches high from various sources… to attend to what is essentially office politics. I do not think it is appropriate for a committee of the National Assembly to have to attend to such matters,” Smuts said.

“A filter will have to be found to ensure something like this does not progress to this point again.”

Shai “has not been a happy camper… this is clear. But her season is now over. I don’t wish to express sympathy or otherwise, that would not be appropriate.

“What we have to establish is whether there have been actual offences [or] potential disciplinary transgressions... the appropriate place to take that matter further is when we invite the public protector herself early in the new year.”

Landers said the committee had agreed to look at the complaints because Madonsela had asked it to. He would highlight issues she should respond to when she attends a committee meeting next year.

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