Search for new Public Protector ends after heated marathon sitting
Parliament’s ad-hoc committee chairperson, Makhosi Khoza, has reportedly expressed satisfaction with Thursday’s marathon interview process into the choosing of a new Public Protector.
The near-on 20 hour session, which wrapped up just after 03h00 on Friday morning, has however been met with criticism from some MP’s who allegedly described the process and length of time as unfair.
“I am very satisfied, under the circumstances. The committee took a decision to interview all 14 candidates in one day, in one sitting and we managed to do that, and I do think that the members applied themselves,” Eyewitness News quoted Khoza as saying.
Candidates were grilled by MP’s from the onset with Khoza also being forced to step on a number of occasions as tempers became strained.
Speaking first, Advocate Michael Mthembu argued that the decision of the Public Protector should be considered as binding until proven otherwise by the Court, while Adjunct Prof Narnia Bohler-Muller stated that more outreach programmes should be arranged for South Africans to better understand the role of the Public Protector.
She was however taken to task for failing to disclose an alleged incident of misconduct while studying at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, whereby she was slapped with a verbal warming for not submitting a medical certificate in line with the university’s leave policy. Bohler-Muller however remarked it was wiped off her record as she had declared the hearing.
Former Deputy Public Protector Mamiki Goodman was extensively questioned about her involvement in accusing outgoing Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, of protecting Public Protector CEO Themba Mthethwa, and for claiming Madonsela’s predecessor Lawrence Mushwana had sexually harassed her.
“How can you go back to this office without causing mayhem,” Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Justice Glynnis Breytenbach asked, to which Goodman replayed, “I don’t cause mayhem, I only right what is wrong”.
She stated that the media had blown her alleged criticism of Madonsela out of proportion, and that she had “good relationships” with both previous Public Protectors. Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Deputy President Floyd Shivambu however accused her of dragging the Office of the Public Protector through the mud in relation to the various incidents, and that it would be wrong for her to be the new Public Protector.
Goodman however countered by denying she had made the complaint against Mushwana, again blaming the media, and that she wants to promote the position of Public Protector as independent from the State.
Tempers remained on tender hooks when controversial Judge Seraj Desai was questioned about an alleged rape incident in Mumbai twelve years ago, which he claimed was withdrawn underneath oath and never convicted of.
Further quizzed by DA Shadow Minister of Communication Phumzile van Damme on the matter, Desai allegedly lost cool by stating “What offends me is the arrogance of the white middle class”. He however apologised soon after.
A nervous looking Jill Oliphant was then asked about her stealing of cellphone while gambling at Sun City, with her answer and presentation seemingly being frown upon by MPs.
Political party allegiance also came in for discussion with Advocate Nonkosi Cetwayo being asked by Shivambu and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP, Steve Swart, to explain her role in the African National Congress (ANC) after it emerged she had paid membership fees in advance. She however claimed to be “inactive” before also dismissing the former’s allegations she had a secret agenda.
Controversy then emerged after was determined that current Deputy Public Protector, Kevin Malunga, did not have the correct security clearance with Khoza stating the committee would meet with the State Security Agency on the matter.
Malunga, who was born and Zimbabwe and gave up his citizenship in 2010 to became a South African, was reportedly granted “confidential” status instead of “top secret”, with matter then being questioned by MP’s as no security clearance is needed in line with the Public Protector Act.
The committee is expected to report back to Parliament with the preferred candidate at the end of this month, at which point it would be tabled before President Jacob Zuma who will make the formal appointment.
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