“The media is the one saying I hate Thuli Madonsela. I don’t hate Advocate Thuli Madonsela. We work together. Even though the audio [of Madonsela’s interview with President Jacob Zuma] was released, we spoke and she was requesting information because she was getting a lot of media queries,” Mkhwebane addressed reporters at a press conference marking her 100 days in office.
“I told her not to worry because that information is of the Public Protector so we would handle it from our side.”
Mkhwebane started off the briefing by paying tribute to her predecessors — Madonsela, Advocate Lawrence Mushwana and Judge Selby Baqwa — for collectively laying a “solid foundation”.
“I inherit a strong institution, with sound systems and a dedicated, skilled, experienced and hardworking team. With this combination, I have no doubt in my mind that we will do our best to realise my vision of taking this institution to the grassroots, where many of our people are yet to taste the fruits of democracy, said Mkhwebane.
“That this has been a bumpy sixteen weeks for the Public Protector South Africa is obvious. However, it was not unexpected. I have worked here before, from 1999 to 2005. But never before have I observed so much public interest in this institution.”
She said over the last couple of years, the Public Protector office has grown from being “just another obscure institution” with a great potential to make a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s young democracy, to being a beacon of hope for South Africans from all walks of life.
Asked to explain the “bumpy” experience, Mkhwebane singled out the numerous allegations against her in the media.
“I think the allegations which have been made on me. Sometimes I found myself having to prove myself to people that I am here to work, to deliver services and I am not bringing any agendas. But I must say it has been a good reception from the staff. Nothing bumpy from the staff but it is only the reports that are out there in the media,” said Mkhwebane.
The Public Protector announced that since taking over the office, matters of overall performance have been improving despite being under-funded.
“Regarding the overall performance of the Public Protector SA against the targets set in the Annual Performance Plan, we have improved from 11 percent in the quarter preceding my arrival to 32 percent by the end of December. With a little under two months left, we are pulling out all stops to ensure that we achieve more on the 45 strategic goals that we have set for ourselves by March 31, 2017, she said.
“On resourcing, the Public Protector is one of the most under-funded institutions when one looks at its broad mandate and jurisdiction. This financial year, we have been allocated R263.3 million. Only half of our organisational structure is funded, which means we operate at half our potential.”
From February 16, Mkhwebane will kick-start a four-month nationwide stakeholder engagement roadshow that will see her “criss-crossing the country”, interacting with a varied network of stakeholders including provincial premiers, members of executive councils and provincial legislatures, the general public and political parties represented in Parliament.