Dumi's Digest: Is there a sting in Madonsela’s tale?

2013-11-11 10:00

Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela must look back at the events of 10 years ago in panic.

A decade is a long time, but some of the things that happened then bear similarities with what she has been subjected to over the past few months, especially this week.

We’ll return to this, but first, a history lesson.

Back in 2003, Bulelani Ngcuka was in top form as the national director of public prosecutions.

He had a small but very strong unit, the Scorpions, which was known for its flashy black VW Golf GTIs and arrests of high-profile suspects in the glare of the media.

Ngcuka brought fear to many criminals, including those who plundered state resources for their own gain.

He did not fear anyone and took on any case that was brought to his unit for investigation and prosecution.

He was so powerful that he even took on a fraud and corruption case involving a very senior politician named Jacob Zuma.

Zuma was deputy president of the ANC and South Africa at the time.

He was facing investigation in connection with allegedly soliciting a bribe through his then financial adviser Schabir Shaik from companies that had benefited from the multibillion-rand arms deal.

Ngcuka’s job was simple: prosecute every person accused of crime without fear or favour.

He did the investigation, probably clearly aware that it could pit him against the ruling party and that his job could be at stake. But he soldiered on.

As the investigation gained momentum and the Scorpions carried out raids for evidence, this did not please the ANC.

And then, Kgalema Motlanthe, who was the party’s secretary-general at the time, openly raised concerns about the Scorpions’ Hollywood-style raids.

What this public attack from the heart of the ANC on a state body did was open the floodgates for all and sundry to follow suit.

Fikile Mbalula, who was the ANC Youth League leader at the time, added his voice to the criticism when he said: “Why go with automatic weapons in a dawn raid as if the deputy president of the ANC is a common fugitive from the law?”

That signalled the beginning of the end for Ngcuka, and eventually the Scorpions as a whole.

At its elective conference in Polokwane back in 2007, the ANC resolved to disband the unit, which until then had a relatively successful stint in fighting organised crime.

I am drawing Madonsela’s attention to these events because she can learn lessons from them and must not be so naive as to ignore them.

This week, Madonsela faced a similar attack to that of Ngcuka when the current ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, publicly attacked her.

It’s still related to Zuma, who is now the president, and Madonsela’s interim report on the state spending more than R200?million on upgrades to Zuma’s private homestead in Nkandla.

Madonsela was reported as saying: “There’s a real chance that we may come out and say things aren’t as bad as they seem.”

This angered Mantashe, who questioned: “Who will be disappointed with the outcome of the interim report?

“This?...?removes the neutrality of the Public Protector and her conduct suggests that the president is guilty even before the report is released officially.”

In recent months, Madonsela has had fights with Parliament over her powers. Shortly after that, her deputy, Kevin Malunga, entered the fray on this and distanced himself from his boss’ interpretation of her role.

Based on the lesson from Ngcuka, maybe it’s time she finds another job. Criticism from the heart of the ANC is usually a kiss of death for any watchdog.

But then again, being the feisty public servant she has proven herself to be, maybe Madonsela won’t be willing to take things lying down and do the public a disservice in the process.

»?Follow me on Twitter @DumisaneLubisi

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