Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela denied on Thursday that she insulted the ANC when she reportedly likened voters to abused spouses.
“The public protector denies unreservedly the allegations that she insulted ANC voters,” her spokeswoman Kgalalelo Masibi said.
“In fact, she said nothing about the ANC and the elections that have already taken place.”
On Wednesday, the ANC submitted a formal complaint to the SA Human Rights Commission over what it termed “demeaning racial material and insulting media commentary” that undermined the constitutional rights of ANC voters.
An article published by The Star on the Independent Online website containing comments by Madonsela were raised as examples of this “insulting” material, with ANC chief whip Stone Sizani deeming the alleged comments “highly unjustifiable for a person in her position”.
In the article from May 30, Madonsela was reported to have said at a University of Johannesburg function that South Africans did not vote for the current government because they endorsed maladministration, but because they hoped that things would change.
“Abused women don't stay because they enjoy the abuse, they stay because they hope things will change,” she was quoted as saying at the time.
Sizani said Madonsela's “metaphorical comparison” not only mocked voters but was offensive to women experiencing abuse.
However, on Thursday, Masibi issued a statement which provided a transcript of Madonsela's statements, as well as a video link to footage of her speaking at the event.
Masibi said that in response to a question posed to her about whether certain leaders who had been appointed should be in those positions, Madonsela had said the following:
“Again, that is not my place to decide who should be in leadership, it's for society. What I can say though, which we were discussing with my team, is when society puts people in leadership, it doesn't necessarily mean you should repeat what you did yesterday.”
Madonsela went on to say people sometimes voted for different political parties, both provincially and on a municipal level.
“Often the people they will vote in are people who made mistakes previously. I don't think it is necessarily an endorsement of wrongdoing. It is probably in the hope that this time you are going to do things differently and you are going to do things better. It's like an abused spouse, really.”
Madonsela said abused spouses might stay because they would think of their partner as having once been a childhood sweetheart and a person who once loved them and continued to proclaim love.
“But they don't stay because they enjoy the abuse and they are giving you a licence to continue abusing, they stay with the hope that you will change your ways.”
The ANC also complained about a cartoon published on the Eyewitness News website that depicted government ministers and voters as clowns, as well as a picture tweeted by DA MP Mike Waters that showed dogs lining up to urinate on a photograph of president Jacob Zuma.
Sizani said these materials were part of an “unprecedented public onslaught” directed at ANC voters since the country's general elections on May 7 which denied them the right to dignity, freedom of association, and political choice.
DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said Waters had admitted that his tweet was “ill-conceived and offensive and had apologised profusely” and the party considered the ANC's complaint to the commission as “a little bit of an excessive action”.
EWN editor-in-chief Katy Katopodis said the decision of the ANC to lay the complaint had been noted.
“They are well within their rights. The process just needs to take its course.”