7 'skeletons' that came out of the Public Protector interview closet

Cape Town - The committee tasked with finding Thuli Madonsela's replacement left no stone unturned in establishing whether candidates were fit and proper for the job. Some interesting events emerged:

1) Booze accuse

Advocate Muvhango Lukhaimane, who was interviewed just before 01:00 on Friday morning, was put through the paces regarding a charge of common assault and dealing in liquor illegally.

She told the committee that she was never on the scene where the alleged selling of liquor (without a licence) took place.

The charge came from a corrupt officer, she told MPs.

2) Taking a gamble

Cellphone theft and reckless driving were brought up when Jill Oliphant sat in the hot seat. On the theft accusation, she explained she had gone gambling at Sun City a few years ago when she found a phone next to a machine. She gave it to her husband to hand in later but a security guard accused her of stealing. The matter never went further.

She was charged with reckless driving after almost hitting a car while changing lanes at an intersection. Oliphant said she employed an expert to prove the intersection was dangerous and the matter was not pursued.

3) Conflict and suspense

Mamiki Goodman, a former deputy public protector, was reminded by the committee that she once accused Madonsela of being biased and had also accused former public protector Lawrence Mushwana of sexual harassment.

She denied accusing Mushwana of this and said she had a good relationship with both.

During the interview, it also emerged that she was currently on suspension as a chief compliance officer at the National Gambling Board. She received a letter saying she had called her boss biased but said to the committee she had apologised and thought the matter was over.

4) Let's be civil

Advocate Michael Mthembu, the first to be interviewed, was questioned about two civil suits he had not declared in the questionnaires, including one by Nedbank. He said he had made financial mistakes in the past, but had grown.

5) Getting a lecture

Narnia Bohler-Muller, who became a full professor at 32, was told that the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University wrote to the committee to say she had been found guilty on several counts of misconduct.

The university had mentioned charges of disclosing confidential information and failure to report to a head of department.

She replied that there was a disciplinary hearing because she submitted a medical certificate to the wrong person. This led to a verbal warning and she had thought this was now off her record, she said.

The allegation of disclosing confidential information did not make sense to her. She told the committee she agreed to edit a doctoral student's work but then told him she had changed her mind because it might be seen as unethical. He apparently reported to the faculty that she had helped him pass.

6) Security glitch

While not a skeleton as such, Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga's security clearance and his birth in Zimbabwe were hauled out during the lengthy interview process.

According to the State Security Agency, he did not meet the requirements for top security clearance, due to his current status as a naturalised citizen.

Malunga was naturalised as a citizen in 2010, having been born in Zimbabwe, and would only be eligible to gain full clearance after 20 years of citizenship.

Malunga has been Madonsela's deputy for four years.

7) When tempers flare up

An agitated Judge Seraj Desai apologised to DA MP Werner Horn on Thursday during his interview when questioned about a rape accusation he had faced - and his seeming battle to control his temper.

In 2004, South African Aids activist Salome Isaacs claimed he raped her in his hotel room while they were attending the World Social Forum in Mumbai. She withdrew the charge and a Mumbai court found the evidence was baseless.

Desai said he was neither acquitted nor convicted and the charge was withdrawn under oath.

The DA's Phumzile Van Damme asked him if he had a cool head or not, referring to public spats he had been part of.

Desai said he had lived a colourful life. He mentioned his feud with Judge John Foxcroft, who found struggle hero Allan Boesak guilty of theft and fraud in March 1999.

Desai had represented Boesak.

EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu asked Desai if he could handle the pressure of the job, seeing as he could not handle questions from MPs, which caused Desai to apologise.

(Thulani Gqirana, News24)

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