Newsmaker 2011: SA’s own woman of steel

2011-12-23 11:31

The year will be remembered as the one in which Public Protector Thuli Nomkhosi Madonsela took a few powerful bulls by the horns.

Madonsela showed her steel and refused to be intimidated while carrying out her mandate to hold government and the executive
to account.

In her two-and-a-half-year stint, she has already investigated cases against President Jacob Zuma for his non-disclosure of financial interests; against former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda’s business interests; against cooperative governance minister Sicelo Shiceka’s big spending; and, most notably, against police General Bheki Cele and the R1.6 billion police lease deals with businessman Roux Shabangu.

Her probes have forced Zuma to call for a second Cabinet reshuffle within a year.

This saw Shiceka and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde being fired, while Cele was suspended.

All of this emanated from Madonsela’s unwavering stance against political skullduggery, incompetence and corruption.

In 2011, Madonsela also survived possible “arrest”, intimidation by SAPS intelligence, and threats to her and her staff’s lives, resulting in her asking for more security and bodyguards.

In the midst of all this, Madonsela’s severely understaffed office completed investigating 14 000 of the more than 18 000 complaints she received.

The majority of complaints were lodged by ordinary South Africans dealing with bread-and-butter issues and service delivery deficiencies.

Madonsela’s reign as Public Protector has also changed the perception of this chapter 9 institution, considered ineffective and toothless under her predecessors, to being the place of first or last resort for ordinary and powerful people who want to keep government to account.

In June Madonsela famously announced that she would not be intimidated and would not stop “speaking truth to power” – something she plans to continue doing in 2012.

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