Cape Town - There are only six more months left in office for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, but before one of the country’s highest profile corruption buster calls it a day, she wants to have an audience with Parliament.
Madonsela said it was “an accident of history” that the justice minister speaks on behalf of the public protector, because he formerly spoke for the now defunct position of the Advocate General.
“Constitutionally speaking, that’s improper,” Madonsela told Parliament’s justice and correctional services portfolio committee on Thursday.
“I would like to address the plenary before I leave as public protector. We are not an entity of the department of justice.”
Even if it did not happen before she left office, Madonsela said she hoped that, in future, there would be complete removal of the public protector from the justice department.
She advised her successor never to allow the justice minister to speak on behalf of the public protector in Parliament.
Her position was an executive authority in its own right, she said.
It was neither an “entity”, nor an “office”, and was not accountable to the justice department.
In what was likely her last appearance before the committee before her term ends in October, Madonsela said it was time that the Public Protector’s Act was revised to clarify issues of remedial action.
In reference to comments made by Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffrey in the National Assembly during debate on a motion to impeach President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, Madonsela said: “I’ve never been confused about the powers of the public protector. The person who presented a distorted view in Parliament knows the truth. All he needed to do was to present the whole court papers.”
After a scathing attack on her last year over her findings into the Nkandla security upgrades, the committee on Thursday refused to heed to a request from the DA and the ACDP that they apologise to Madonsela in the wake of last week’s Constitutional Court ruling.
The ACDP’s Steve Swart reminded the committee that it had accused Madonsela of misleading the public with her Nkandla report.
The DA’s Werner Horn said an apology would only be proper to “normalise” relations with the public protector. But ANC MPs took turns to shut down their requests.
Chairman Mathole Motshekga said the Constitutional Court had not made reference to the committee in its ruling.
“I don’t want to create party political disputes. We are not going to use this forum to revive the debate. No parties disagree with the court,” he said.
ANC MP’s also tried to stop the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu from trying to engage Madonsela on her interpretation of the impeachment debate, saying the committee had gathered to discuss budget requirements.
“It looks like the ruling party is acting under an illusion that the public protector was confused about her powers and that is part of the justifications why the president violated the constitution,” said Shivambu.
But Motshekga said no political party was challenging the judgment, and thus there was no need to ask the public protector to comment on the court’s findings.
The ANC’s Loyiso Mpumlwana said the party welcomed the Constitutional Court judgment because it clarified the extent of the public protector’s powers.
“Nobody had an idea about the binding effect of the remedial action. Not even the public protector knew at least until April 2014. It has clarified things not clarified earlier. Now we are clapping hands.”
Taking a swipe at Madonsela for allowing her son to drive her official car, which he crashed in 2012, the ANC’s Chane Pilane-Majeke requested Madonsela to stick to the matters at hand. “Whether people look at it like something negative for the ruling party, we see it as a celebration of constitutional democracy in South Africa. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world.”
Speaking after the meeting, Madonsela said she was neither expecting nor disappointed that the committee did not apologise to her. She told the committee that she would be happy to return to present her final annual report, which is usually due in October, but was unsure whether a date would be set before her departure.
Madonsela said she had hoped that the process to select her successor would already have begun, so that she could have discussions with that person and hand over properly.