Public Protector ‘to be called to order’

2013-05-19 10:00

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MPs will tomorrow send a letter to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, asking her to explain why she claimed this week that her staff were being manipulated for political gain.

At its meeting on Tuesday, members of Parliament’s justice portfolio committee took the unprecedented step of writing to Madonsela asking that she clarify her comments, which appeared in The Times that day.

Madonsela reportedly told the daily newspaper that unnamed people were being “unreasonable” and “indifferent to human suffering” because they were more concerned with protecting the image of a political party or friends.

She also said there were attempts to get rid of her and to distract her from performing her duties.

DA MP Dene Smuts said committee members raised Madonsela’s comments even though the matter wasn’t on the agenda.

Smuts said they were unanimous that the Public Protector should tell them “whether these quotes reflect what she said, or she must correct it if necessary”.

She said: “Depending on her response, we will take it further from there.”

The committee’s members, Smuts said, were not considering removing Madonsela, but that the comments attributed to her were “so serious that we would like her to explain or correct”.

Committee chairperson ­Llwellyn Landers said the letter would be sent tomorrow.

The decision by the MPs follows Madonsela’s appearance before the portfolio committee earlier this month, where they questioned some of her investigations and

accused her of creating the perception that she was “untouchable”.

Her newly appointed deputy Kevin Malunga afterwards wrote to the committee saying he “regrets” her interaction with MPs.

There are rumours of friction between Madonsela and Malunga, but the former said she had discussed her concerns with Malunga and he “denied some of the things he was quoted as having said in the media and undertook not to violate the media policy again”.

Madonsela said she hadn’t received the letter from the justice committee yet, but wanted to meet Parliament Speaker Max Sisulu, his deputy Nomaindia Mfeketo and Landers to discuss concerns around what she alleges to be the manipulation of her staff.

The Law Society SA (LSSA) has defended Madonsela, a step she welcomed in a statement on Friday.

Kathleen Matolo-Dlepu, one of the co-chairpersons of the LSSA, which governs and regulates the attorneys profession, told City Press her body had decided to get involved because there was a “spat which really affects our legal system”.

She said: “We didn’t say (parliamentarians) didn’t have the right to question, but how they did it in this particular instance (during the meeting earlier this month) was really unacceptable.”

On Thursday, Matolo-Dlepu and co-chair David Bekker released a joint statement in which they said questions posed to Madonsela by committee members were “wholly inappropriate”.

The statement also said the “subsequent actions of (Malunga) in seemingly ‘apologising’ to Parliament for the responses of the Public Protector can be described only as an attempt to ingratiate himself with those who may appoint the next Public Protector”.

But Landers hit back at LSSA on Friday, saying the body should “fully acquaint itself with what happened before complaining about the tone of the questioning by committee members”.

He quoted the Constitution, saying that chapter 9 institutions, like the Public Protector, are accountable to the National Assembly and must report on their activities at least once a year.

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