As we’ve seen, Thuli’s got game

2011-07-16 10:09

Public protector Thuli ­Madonsela is the most powerful woman in South Africa right now, and she played a masterful political game to get there.

Madonsela was recently roughed up by her enemies, which she always knew she had, and who were finally showing what they think of her nosey forays into their private affairs.

Even before the afternoon edition of The Star – where the allegations first surfaced – hit the streets, political role-players started pledging their support.

The very police who were said to be investigating her were the first to distance themselves from the allegations, with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa vowing to get to the ­bottom of what happened.

National police commissioner General Bheki Cele vowed to protect her from anyone who tries to ­interfere with her work, even though he is himself a target of one of her ­investigations.

President Jacob Zuma, who also suffered at Madonsela’s hand when she declared he broke the law by not declaring his business interests, came out in support of her shortly after the allegations surfaced.

That he felt the need to pre-empt fingers pointing at him says a lot about him, not about Madonsela.

In fact, to find a politician or ­government official willing to be critical (and on-the-record) about Madonsela is like trying to find a white ­person who supported ­apartheid. Not possible.

Madonsela played a good game. Not crying wolf when the two police officers came to “collect documents” from her office – it became known in civilian-speak as a police raid – won her many brownie points.

So when she publicly complained that she was worried about her ­safety and independence, she was taken seriously, as the steady stream of press releases in support of her show.

To top it all, she cleverly negotiated the curveball of “you only investigate the ANC” by announcing that she will also reopen investigations into dodgy tenders and wrongdoing during apartheid.

This investigation may not amount to much but it sends a ­powerful message that no one ­escapes Madonsela.

After the allegations surfaced she did not, like many before her, run for cover, switch off her cellphone and stay locked up in her office. She did exactly the opposite.

She was available to newspapers and TV shows, sporting her elegant but far from extravagant blue jacket and single string of pearls.

She told the world she was scared and fearful, but the woman we saw looked like she knew the power was now with her. She has the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re on the right side of the law.

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