Johannesburg - Comments about the Public Protector's office by ANC MPs reflect contempt for a vital institution, Corruption Watch said on Monday.
“There are disturbing signs of disrespect for this office, and we will do all in our power as a civil society organisation to protect it,” executive director David Lewis said in a statement.
On Friday, ANC MPs on Parliament's justice portfolio committee accused Public Protector Thuli Madonsela of political posturing and suggested her powers should be reviewed.
Madonsela's relationship with the justice portfolio committee has been increasingly fraught in the past 18 months, but appeared to reach a new low on Friday when committee chairman Mathole Motshekga called for her powers to be reviewed.
Lewis said the Public Protector's office, under Madonsela, served the public objectively through exposing corruption and maladministration in the public service.
“We view the office as a crucial anti-corruption body that is well placed to speak authoritatively on the management of public resources.”
The parliamentary committee should focus on addressing maladministration rather than “shooting the messenger”.
He said efforts to weaken the Public Protector should be regarded as an attack on citizens' right to accountable and transparent leadership in government.
In Parliament on Friday, MP Bongani Bonga said Madonsela should desist from voicing views “that are political in nature”.
Motshekga dismissed a request to have Bonga's comments ruled out of order.
He said details of what Bonga implied were “public knowledge” and dismissed a call by the Democratic Alliance's Marius Redelinghuys that Bonga be made to withdraw the remark as the committee could issue no warning to Madonsela unless it had resolved to do so by vote.
Motshekga suggested that Chapter Nine institutions were duplicating each others' work, and that this was adding to the Public Protector's excessive caseload.
Addressing Madonsela, he said: “I think the powers of these institutions, including yours, should be reviewed to avoid this costly duplication.”
Madonsela pointed out that her powers could only be changed by changing the Constitution.
To this Motshekga responded that he had not intended a Constitution change.
Corruption Watch is a non-profit organisation that investigates selected reports of corruption, and conducts research to identify corruption patterns.