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Pretoria - Deputy Public Protector Mamiki Shai - set to leave the post at the end of the month - is to appear before Parliament on Tuesday to explain some of her concerns about her boss, Thuli Madonsela.
MPs insist that the public hearings into the complaints are not a “witch-hunt” but merely part of their oversight work - a response to suggestions that Madonsela is being targeted because of some of her unfavourable findings against senior ANC politicians.
Shai raised several concerns about Madonsela’s management in a letter to Speaker Max Sisulu, who referred the matter to the National Assembly’s committee on justice and constitutional development.
The committee agreed on Thursday that Shai would appear before it on Tuesday in a session that would be open to the public.
Madonsela has invoked the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (Paja) in an attempt to guarantee that she would be allowed to sit in on the meeting.
There were mixed feelings during the committee’s deliberations on Thursday as to whether Madonsela should be granted an opportunity to respond to whatever claims would be brought against her.
DA MP Dene Smuts suggested the meeting be moved to some time next year and, since Madonsela had invoked the act, that the committee should “reconsider the whole process” and “take advice from the parliamentary legal advisers on what provisions of the constitution or statute come into play when we conduct an investigation like this, so that we are on firm ground and set a good precedent”.
But ANC MP John Jeffery said the matter required urgent attention. “My worry is this was referred to us some time ago and we need to make a start.
“I think the reason the public protector is invoking Paja is maybe she thought she was going to get excluded. The meeting is open to the public, anyone can come in,” he said.
He suggested, however, that Madonsela not attend but send someone to listen on her behalf.
“One does need to keep stressing, this is not a witch-hunt… we have been asked by the public protector herself and the National Assembly to conduct the inquiry; this is us conducting the inquiry,” Jeffery added. “Hopefully, when the public protector comes on Tuesday and sees that this is not an inquisition, she will feel better”.
Committee chairman Luwellyn Landers said the meeting was “not intended as a formal hearing; it is just for us to obtain clarity, nothing more”.
Cope MP Luzelle Adams said that even though the meeting was simply to obtain clarity from Shai, Madonsela would, at some stage, still need to answer for whatever was put to the committee. “So if she wants to be here then we must let that happen.”
Consensus was finally reached that, if Madonsela were to attend the Tuesday hearing, she would be allowed to sit in and, if necessary, make contributions.
Shai’s complaint against Madonsela centres on allegations that she withheld a report on an investigation of the DA-run Midvaal municipality until after the local government elections last year and that she shielded a senior staff member from a fraud charge. She was also accused of adopting a “Hollywood style” in playing to the media.
Meanwhile, the committee finalised its nomination of Marikana Commission of Inquiry spokesman Kevin Malunga, for deputy public protector when Shai’s term of office expires at the end of this month.
Smuts said Madonsela and Malunga would make a “dream team”.