Madonsela and MPs make up

2013-06-05 22:31
Thuli Madonsela (Picture: Volksblad)

Thuli Madonsela (Picture: Volksblad)

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Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and MPs mended fences on Wednesday after months of tension.

Madonsela apologised to Parliament for showing frustration in a recent, heated exchange with members of the justice portfolio committee about the mandate of her office and the extent of its independence.

In turn, committee chairperson, ANC MP Luwellyn Landers, apologised for doing the same in the 3 May meeting where Madonsela briefed the committee on her office's budget and strategic plan.

"While I do not regret what I said, I do regret how I said some of the things. In retrospect, that is not the way an ombudsman should conduct himself or herself. I should have requested a proper parliamentary debate on matters in which I had a different view," Madonsela said.

She spoke during a workshop with Parliament's ethics committee, and called her remark an unconditional apology to all of the legislature.

Landers said he subsequently met Madonsela in his office.

"We met for a cordial chat in my office and I, in turn, apologised for my outburst on that fateful day," he told Sapa.

Madonsela ‘insulted’

In the committee meeting last month, Madonsela became exasperated after MPs from the ANC and the DA questioned her decision to take on certain cases, and asserted: "I'm insulated on decisional independence."

ANC MP John Jeffery took issue with her investigation into a complaint by former National Consumer Commission member Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi against trade and industry department director general Lionel October, which he believed belonged in the labour court.

Madonsela found that October had abused his power by interfering in the commission's human resources operation.

The DA demanded faster feedback on two complaints the party had brought to her office, and criticised her findings on reparations by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as "nonsense".

Madonsela invoked not only the law, but UN guidelines on the powers of ombudsmen to defend her stance.

"Not even Parliament can tell you investigate this case or don't investigate that case," she said.

Landers objected when Madonsela went on to suggest that a workshop be held to brief MPs about international norms in this regard.

He said a debate on the exact meaning of section 181 of the Constitution - which holds her office accountable to the National Assembly - was in order, but outside elucidation was not.

Madonsela had asked MPs to support her request for a R100m budget increase as corruption had reached "stratospheric" proportions.

Apology

In a television interview later last month, Madonsela reiterated her organisational independence and said she was protected from "contemptuous pronouncements".

"It's improper to ambush the public protector. That case was outside the year under review," she said, referring to the ANC's objection to the labour matter investigation.

DA MP Dene Smuts said it did not appear that Madonsela's apology on Wednesday was unconditional.

If the Public Protector failed to accept her accountability to the National Assembly as set out in the Constitution and Public Protector Act, "then I'm afraid we need further discussion", she said.

Jeffery has repeatedly said he wished to debunk a perception that the portfolio committee was persecuting Madonsela.

"If we are critical, it does not mean we are out to get her, to roast her, to remove her or anything like that."

Yet, tension was already evident last year when ANC members on the justice committee suggested Madonsela's salary was excessive.

It is on par with that of provincial premiers and senior judges.

They proposed capping the salary for the position, then retreated.

Read more on:    trc  |  da  |  un  |  anc  |  john jeffery  |  luwellyn landers  |  thuli madonsela  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013  |  politics

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