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Parliament - The spokesman and state law adviser to the Farlam commission of inquiry into the Marikana shooting emerged on Monday as the frontrunner for the post of deputy public protector.
Kevin Malunga was tipped by the African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance, the Congress of the People and the African Christian Democratic Party to succeed incumbent Mamiki Shai, whose term expires at month's end after considerable strife with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Malunga, an advocate whose academic qualifications include a stint at Georgetown University Law Centre, was one of four candidates who were interviewed by Parliament's portfolio committee on justice.
He withstood a grilling from DA MPs Dene Smuts and Debbie Schafer over opinion pieces he wrote while still an academic, criticising the party for asking the courts to overturn political decisions.
Malunga notably criticised the DA for its eventually successful court bid to have the appointment of Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions declared invalid.
In 2010, he wrote in a newspaper op-ed piece published in The Witness: “If anything the recent dashes to the courts by the DA especially are an indictment of the weak state of opposition politics in South Africa. Why else would they constantly abuse what is a critical tier of the government to settle political scores?”
On Monday, Smuts asked Malunga how he felt about the case with hindsight, adding that it was at her urging that the party took the matter to court.
He replied that he respected the decision of the court and had come to realise that “we cannot completely separate politics and law”.
But he indicated that he still believed courts should not be abused as a political forum.
“It is more elegant for a political party to scream as a political party than to squeal in a court of law.”
Schafer asked Malunga whether he would suspect politicking when the DA approached the Public Protector to probe allegations of corruption and maladministration.
He replied that he hated corruption with passion and would tackle any case that raised “a real sense of concern”.
He also assured political parties that he would investigate anybody regardless of their position, even if it were the president.
“It is not a popular mandate, regardless of who you investigate.”
Malunga was asked by the ANC how he viewed Madonsela's decision to address a DA Women's Day event, a move that earned her severe criticism from the ruling party.
Madonsela said recently she had believed it was part of her mandate to be accessible to all communities, but she would in future be more cautious.
Malunga responded: “Politics being what it is, you use whatever political football you've been given at the time.
“I think she found herself in a very precarious position... because of the nature of the office. I would recommend that in future somebody exercises great caution.”
Malunga served as a senior adviser in the office of former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo after lecturing in law for a decade at the universities of Natal and the Witwatersrand.
His background also includes working on an ANC policy document that advocated a mixed electoral model.
Other candidates include advocate Motlatjo Ralefatane, a member of the Road Accident Fund board, and former MTN legal and regulatory adviser Lahlang Somo.
Political parties said they preferred Malunga, but would still deliberate and contact the referees on candidate CVs before making a recommendation to Parliament.
The committee is due to conduct a public investigation into allegations of nepotism, favouritism and political bias made by staff in Madonsela's office in anonymous correspondence, reportedly authored by Shai.
Madonsela has asked Parliament to investigate the complaints, and has said the persistent allegations were threatening to destabilise the chapter nine institution. - Sapa