Here’s hoping Thuli’s legacy will not be tainted

2016-10-23 06:01
Janet Heard

Janet Heard

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The acrimonious dispute over Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report played itself out for two years in the justice portfolio committee. Now the committee is set for an ugly new battle that is unfolding over the former Public Protector’s state capture report and even beyond that, her legacy.

The spirited committee is chaired by Mathole Motshekga, rudely labelled by the Congress of the People as one of the “bumsucker” ANC members of an ad hoc committee who rammed through Parliament a report on Nkandla that was subsequently declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.

Backing Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s report last year, Motshekga trashed Madonsela’s findings and declared: “We should not, and cannot, apologise when we say the report of the Public Protector is misleading and has misled the nation.”

Motshekga and other MPs who showed contempt for Madonsela’s report were then seemingly thrown under the bus after President Jacob Zuma did an about-turn and conceded to the Constitutional Court that the findings were in fact binding.

Motshekga gave a warm welcome to her successor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in the justice committee this week. All MPs appeared genuine in wishing her well, even from the DA, the only party pooper party that refused to back Mkhwebane for the post.

As an observer, it felt paranoid and unfair to prejudge Mkhwebane, despite my own reservations about her securocrat utterances and ties with the secretive State Security Agency, where she has worked as an analyst for the past four months. Mkhwebane has big shoes to fill and needs to be given a chance to stamp her own mark.

But my unease did not subside this week. There was a problem from the get-go. According to the parliamentary programme, Madonsela was scheduled to deliver the annual report herself two days before her last day in office. But on the eve of her visit, the committee postponed delivery by a week.

Madonsela is not perfect, and MPs have a duty to call her to account. But had she been allowed to present her own report, she could have had the opportunity to answer to criticism by MPs who punched holes in the state capture report and lashed out about foreign donor funding, irregular spending, poor staff morale, the naming of her reports and the integrity of her office.

But left largely to newcomer Mkhwebane, she did nothing to defend Madonsela’s conduct. Instead, the specific problems raised were the springboard for Mkhwebane to map out, in a scripted manner, how differently her office would operate in future.

And as Mkhwebane’s first week in office came to a close, it became clearer that she has no qualms about throwing her predecessor under the bus, much to the delight of anti-Madonsela campaigners who are intent on reversing the legacy of her gutsy term in office.

Heard is Media24’s parliamentary editor

Read more on:    busisiwe mkhewebane

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