Madonsela’s office under severe pressure
Cape Town - Of the more than 2 000 complaints dealt with by the public protector’s office in the Western Cape in a year, 100 involved the City of Cape Town.
But Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said this had more to do with the larger population in the metro, than the level of unhappiness experienced.
Other municipalities such as Stellenbosch, Drakenstein and Saldanha ranged between 25 and 18 cases.
Speaking at Thursday’s annual stakeholder consultative dialogue with government at the Civic Centre, Madonsela said most of the cases that crossed her desk related to “bread-and-butter” issues, rather than the high-profile Nkandla matter relating to President Jacob Zuma’s R246-million upgrade of his private residence.
Madonsela has taken a pounding from the ANC and others in government about her power to investigate organs of state. In the latest attack, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Kebby Maphatsoe insinuated that Madonsela was an agent for the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Madonsela said on Thursday her team was evaluating Maphatsoe’s response before she would decide on her “next move”.
But mayor Patricia de Lille was full of praise for Madonsela’s work.
“We do sometimes debate about your remedial action to be taken. But we are inspired by your office. You have taken the office of the public protector to new heights. We’ve learnt that you don’t try and fight with the public protector. You are going to lose.”
De Lille said the city had established a dedicated forensics, ethics and integrity department to deal with corruption.
“Corruption steals from the poor and we need to make sure that every cent of ratepayers’ money goes to what it must be spent on.”
She added that the city’s tender and bid evaluation processes were open to the public.
A “massive” campaign was also under way to show people how to complain.
De Lille said most of the complaints logged at the city were from more affluent residents.
“Poorer people do not complain.”
And this led to people getting angry and turning to the streets, she said.
De Lille said many turned to the public protector for help “because they can see that someone is listening to them”.
However, it was important for the city to open the channels of communication with residents.
“Then fewer complaints will come to us and to the public protector.”
Madonsela welcomed the city’s moves to deal with maladministration and corruption.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” she quipped.
“You root it (maladministration) out on your side and whatever slips through; we will help you with. When things are not right we will whisper to you.”
Advocate Ruthven Janse van Rensburg, of the public protector’s Western Cape office, said most of the matters reported to the public protector involving the city council were referred to the city’s own ombudsman. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with the number of cases,” he said.
Van Rensburg is the latest member of Madonsela’s team to announce his resignation. Madonsela said that while she did not think there was a link between the attacks on her office and the resignations, she was aware that her team were feeling the heat. “The noise that is taking place is taking a toll on the morale of the team.”
She said her team operated under “unbelievable capacity constraints”. In Gauteng, there were 3 000 cases currently, and only 11 investigators to do the work.
Madonsela said she was glad the “whole debacle” of the Nkandla report was dying down, and that her office would continue with what it had always done - investigation and remedial action.
However, she used the forum to remind those present that under the constitution, the public protector had the power to fix problems by taking appropriate remedial action.
Accusations that she considered herself above the law, and the personal insults and legal resistance, suggested it was time to revisit the constitution’s position on the role of the public protector.
Madonsela cited various sections of the constitution which pointed to the independence of the public protector.