Pretoria - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Thursday urged the ANC to rein in party members who have launched personal attacks against her over the Nkandla report.
But politicians who criticised her office did not faze her, she said.
“I’ve served the ANC. I was in the trenches. Some of these people criticising me are old enough to have been in the trenches with me, but they were not.
“They were not there when it was tough. We wanted to build a South Africa we could be proud of.”
Her comments follow ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe saying her conduct prejudiced the work of Parliament and its committees.
And the party’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte accused Madonsela of being a “populist” who behaved as if she were superior to the constitution and Parliament.
This came after Madonsela sent a letter to President Jacob Zuma expressing her dissatisfaction with his response to her report on the taxpayer-funded upgrades at his homestead Nkandla. The letter was leaked to weekend newspapers.
In his reply to Madonsela’s Nkandla report, Zuma indicated that Police Minister Nathi Nhleko had to determine if he should pay back any of the R246 million. This week, Nhleko indicated he had not yet started his investigations.
On Thursday, Madonsela said she would not charge Mantashe and Duarte with contravening the Public Protector Act. “Issues are not always solved by litigation. All I ask is that people think before talking. I appeal to leaders of the ANC to rein in these people who have no respect for fellow human beings.” Name-calling and mudslinging were not helpful to democracy, she said.
Though Madonsela has declined to take legal action, AfriForum on Thursday laid criminal charges at the Brooklyn police station against Mantashe and Duarte for insulting the public protector.
AfriForum deputy chief executive Ernst Roets said: “There is a law against insulting the public protector to defend her from attacks by high profile people.”
Madonsela had become a target for doing her job, Roets said. Afri-Forum did not consult Madonsela before laying the charges. Madonsela said AfriForum was entitled to lay charges as a civil organisation wanting to protect her office.
She stressed that her office was only accountable to Parliament and not senior government or political leaders. If Parliament had problems with her methods, it could summon her to appear at the National Assembly, she said. “The president has never taken exception to my work. It is actors outside the state who do so. I’ve not made any state actor my personal project. The idea is to be consistent and follow the rule of law.”
Madonsela said she had reliably been informed that her letter was leaked by a senior politician, adding she would not take responsibility for dishonest people. She would now request a “quiet” meeting with Zuma “with a view to a way forward that enables my office to continue to be a resource to his government”.
Madonsela said she was not worried in all her history as public protector. She had only subpoenaed one person - Communications Minister Faith Muthambi. This was to explain how Hlaudi Motsoeneng was appointed to be a permanent chief operating officer at the SABC after her report found him guilty of maladministration.
“I have never considered abusing my powers. What usually happens is we find solutions with each other.”
She said Zuma’s office had sent her a letter acknowledging receipt of her letter.
Mantashe has denied the leak originated from the ANC and claimed it had come from Madonsela. She had leaked every report she wrote and blamed it on divisions within the ANC, he charged.
Mantashe also suggested that Madonsela had worked with Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters, whose MPs heckled Zuma to repay the non-security upgrades costs to his Nkandla home.
Madonsela said: “I’ve been accused of being a ghost; of being at two places at the same time - Pretoria and Cape Town. I’ve been accused of being a DA member. When did I join the EFF?” She described her critics as “hooligans. The ANC has to guard against hooliganism masquerading as party spokesmanship. You do not throw mud and your hands remain clean,” she said.
She said she would continue doing her job, fearlessly. “At my first meeting with the president, he stressed that I do my job without fear or favour. There was no public interest in the leaking and publishing of a private letter. It just amounted to interference in the workings of my office,” she said.