Durban - The University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Law has thrown its weight behind Thuli Madonsela.
It condemned any attempt to undermine the office of the public protector and said that Parliament could not question her conclusions.
And the growing public support for Madonsela and her office over the Nkandla matter should be a cause for concern for the ruling ANC, political analyst Professor Stephen Friedman said on Monday.
This is after Madonsela has been the target of threats and insults directed at her by supporters of President Jacob Zuma.
Professor Karthy Govender of the School of Law said they were concerned about the attacks on her and her office.
The Sunday Tribune reported at the weekend that Madonsela was concerned about her security and was considering approaching the National Intelligence Agency to look into her concerns.
Recently someone reportedly called Madonsela an “Askari”, a term used to refer to those who collaborated with the apartheid system to “eliminate” freedom fighters.
“We are of the view that constitutional institutions should not be undermined. We believe that the president should act on the report or challenge its constitutionality in court,” Govender told the Daily News on Monday night.
“People are beginning to see the truth and this whole episode has alerted South Africans of the need to start asking questions around a whole range of issues.”
On Monday, the law school issued a statement condemning, “in the strongest terms”, any attempt to undermine the office of the public protector, whether it be by members of the executive, members of Parliament, leading politicians or members of the public.
It launched a Twitter campaign, “#Protect the Public Protector” in an attempt to rally support for Madonsela.
“The Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa (SLTSA) gave an undertaking to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in 1997 that law schools would always protect the rule of law and ensure that the foundational principles of our constitutional democracy are not undermined,” the statement says.
“The constitution must be interpreted in a manner that advances the founding principles of democratic governance, accountability, responsiveness and openness.
“An independent, effective and functional PP (public protector) is vital if we are to attain this objective. Interpretations of the constitution which advance short-term political and other parochial interests but undermine constitutional institutions cannot be countenanced,” the statement says.
The school placed on record that section 181(2) of the constitution required chapter 9 institutions, which includes the office of the public protector, to carry out their mandate without fear, favour or prejudice.
“The PP submitted a comprehensive report after an exhaustive process into the upgrading of the Nkandla complex and concluded that the president and his family improperly benefited and suggested remedial action.
“The findings of the PP may only be reviewed by a court of law, and any review of her findings by the ad hoc parliamentary committee, the MPs, the ministerial task team, the Special Investigative Unit (SIU), an individual minister or any other body or person, would be contrary to the rule of law and unconstitutional,” the statement continues.
It said Parliament had no power to determine whether the public protector’s conclusions were correct or not.
The school called upon members of the executive, the ad hoc parliamentary committee, MPs and spokesman for the ANC to stop making unconstitutional and ill-conceived attacks on the office of the public protector and to implement her recommendations.
The ANC’s head of communication, Keith Khoza, said his party challenged any Chapter 9 institution when such institutions were found to be wanting.
“It is good the office of the Public Protector gets support from the public but that does not mean she’s always right.
“On the threats to her security, the ANC has got nothing to do with that, and she had said in newspaper reports that she’d approach the police to look into the matter,” said Khoza.
He said the president’s action on the report would be determined by the parliamentary ad hoc committee.
Friedman said the growing public support for Madonsela did have an impact but did not mean that the ANC would change its attitude soon.
“The ANC can’t afford to ignore the public opinion on the Nkandla issue. Although the public protector’s response is embarrassing to the ANC, the party doesn’t want to believe that it is in the wrong.”
On Madonsela fearing for her life, Friedman said:
“In that climate I don’t think that it is irresponsible of her to request for more security.”