Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. File picture: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is saddened by the personal attacks she has had to endure since she took office, she said on Thursday.

“Really they sadden me because I think they are unwarranted,” she told Sapa.

“However, they do not impact on the work I do because the work I do is clearly defined by the constitution and the law. My team and I follow that.”

Madonsela has been at the receiving end of much criticism with many of her reports but has in recent days found herself at the centre of attacks from the African National Congress.

The two have been engaged in a heated war of words since the leaking of a letter she had written to President Jacob Zuma.

She reportedly wrote to Zuma last week about the R246 million spent on upgrades at his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

In her letter she reportedly cautioned him that he was second-guessing her recommendations that he repay part of the money spent on features unrelated to security, such as a swimming pool, cattle kraal, amphitheatre, and visitors' centre.

In his reply to Madonsela's report on Nkandla, Zuma indicated that Police Minister Nathi Nhleko should determine if he should repay any of the money.

Since then, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has publicly criticised Madonsela and suggested she was working with Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters.

Madonsela rejected Mantashe's claim that she was in Parliament when EFF MPs heckled Zuma last Thursday. He suggested this was proof that she was part of the EFF's “offensive” against Zuma.

She said she was in Pretoria at that time with Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

“I have been called names and presented as a ghost in Cape Town. I would like to put that behind us,” she said.

Madonsela said she accepted that people would always have differing views and opinions but the manner in which those were expressed had to be respectable.

“We do understand that there will always be tension so I'm not saying people should not criticise. Even though you're doing the right thing people will criticise you because what they think is in the interest of democracy at any given time might be coloured by their own self interest as a particular party,” she said.

Madonsela said the way discomfort with her office was being communicated in other parts of the country and parties was not contributing to nation building.

She gave an example of how the Western Cape government handled conflicts with her office.

“The scuffles happen quietly. People think everything is hunky dory. They happen quietly and then we call each other and we sit and say guys this needs to be sorted out,” said Madonsela.

She appealed to other sectors of society to emulate such behaviour and to refrain from mudslinging and name calling.

“It's quiet conversations that are very mature that sort out things, rather than screaming at each other,” she said.