Johannesburg - The gloves have come off in the battle between Thuli Madonsela and the ANC, with the party saying it is “concerned” about her behaviour and the public protector taking to the internet to express her frustration with its attacks on her office.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said Madonsela’s conduct prejudiced the work of Parliament and its committees.
Appearing alongside him, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte told the media the public protector was a “populist” and behaved as if she were superior to the constitution and Parliament.
She was referring to Madonsela’s writing a letter to President Jacob Zuma last week, expressing her dissatisfaction with his response to her report on the upgrades carried out at his homestead at Nkandla.
Addressing the media after the conclusion of the party’s national working committee meeting on Monday, they said Madonsela was targeting Zuma and treating him as her personal project instead of dealing with the Nkandla saga through the relevant institutions.
“As a chapter nine institution, she has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the office of the public protector in discharging her responsibilities,” Mantashe said.
“This means she should not undermine another arm of state that she deferred to, to further process a report that she compiled.
“The national working committee holds the view that the public protector’s office is not above the constitution and the laws of the country and cannot be seen to be operating above these.”
Madonsela must give Parliament space to process her report.
Mantashe accused her of behaving like a political institution and criticised her for her statement that a senior ANC member had leaked her letter.
“Once the public protector begins to behave as a political institution, there is trouble. (She) must get out of the political space.”
The ANC did not want to see Madonsela leave her office before the end of her term, Mantashe said.
“We don’t want to remove the public protector, we want (her) to do her work correctly and behave correctly… She must finish her term, but she must not abuse that term.”
The public protector serves a seven-year term which may not be renewed.
Duarte said Madonsela was responsible for the breakdown in relations between her office and the ANC.
“We believe where differences have arisen, it’s because of the attitude of the public protector,” she said.
In the National Assembly yesterday, ANC MP Zet Luzipho in comments he said were on behalf of the ANC caucus, said Madonsela’s “conduct seeks to undermine this institution” because of her letter to Zuma.
Luzipho was ruled out of order by the Speaker.
Responding to the attacks, Madonsela sent out a series of tweets on Tuesday afternoon.
“Can someone please say how exactly is the deepening of accountability a weakening of parliamentary democracy?” she tweeted.
Under the hashtag #constitutionalism, Madonsela said South Africans should face the truth that “what’s embarrassing the country are attempts to subvert the rule of law & not administrative scrutiny”.
“We are in trouble when politicians meddle in the investigation processes and leak documents then cry foul.”
If all South Africans respected the constitution and the law, “there would be no crisis”, Madonsela said.
The office of the public protector was the only “constitutional institution given the power to take appropriate remedial action”.
Among other comments on Tuesday, Mantashe said: “Of major concern among other unfortunate actions in her conduct has been the public protector going on road shows, including international trips, where she speaks on matters that are still under process and the outcome not known.
“Unavoidably, the country is Duarte urged Madonsela to name the senior ANC member she said had leaked her letter to Zuma.
Mantashe questioned the timing of Madonsela’s letter to Zuma, saying it had coincided with the the Economic Freedom Fighters’ disruptive behaviour in Parliament.
“Even more curious is that some MPs claim to have seen the public protector in the parliamentary precinct on the same day,” he said.
On Monday, Madonsela said she had noted with “deep concern” the “extraordinary and unwarranted attacks” on her person and office by the ANC and others. She called on the parties to respect the constitution and allow her to do her job. Her office had powers under the constitution to take action.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said his office noted Madonsela’s response to the party’s criticism of her decision to write to Zuma: “We vehemently reject her wild and baseless accusation that we don’t respect the constitution and that we are interfering in her lawful duties.”
The Centre for Constitutional Rights said Madonsela was within her rights to report on the government’s conduct.
“Apart from investigating maladministration and abuse of power, in terms of section 182, the public protector also has the power, as regulated by legislation, to ‘report on that conduct’ as she sees fit and in her sole discretion, ‘take appropriate remedial action’.
Political Bureau and The Star