Attacks taking toll on morale, says Madonsela

2014-09-11 16:38
File: SAPA

File: SAPA

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Cape Town - The "deafening noise" of criticism against Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has knocked the morale of her team, she said in Cape Town on Thursday.

"My team, which is disturbed by all the commotion, continues though to go beyond the call of duty to serve the people. The team is doing this under unbelievable capacity constraints and people's expectations," she said.

"Whilst my team is focusing on trying to do its best and even ignoring the capacity constraints, the noise that is taking place is taking a toll on the morale of the team."

She was addressing a stakeholder consultative dialogue at the City of Cape Town's chambers, one of many across the provinces, titled "Joining hands in a partnership against maladministration and corruption".

Madonsela has come under increasing attack from various quarters over her powers to investigate organs of State and take remedial action.

Government

Amid these attacks, it was announced this week that the chief executive and chief financial officers in her office had resigned.

CEO Themba Mthethwa's extended employment contract was to have expired on 31 December but he resigned last month, indicating that he had received a better offer elsewhere.

CFO Dumisani Dlamini, also resigned last month after accepting a better offer elsewhere.

Madonsela confirmed that her Western Cape provincial representative Ruthven Janse van Rensburg had also resigned.

"I don't think there is a direct relationship between the resignations and what has just happened [with the attacks]," she said.

"However it is affecting staff, in terms of people asking questions of what is going to happen with us and is government unhappy with our work?"

Confusion and controversy

She said her staff were mostly young lawyers - career public servants and patriots - who wanted to feel they were appreciated.

She reflected that there was probably a need to hold a meeting with her staff and assure them that everything was under control and no one was going to be fired.

Earlier on Thursday, Madonsela said she felt it important to re-visit what the Constitution stated on her place, powers and responsibilities, especially in light of "personal insults from some quarters and increased legal resistance, litigation and others".

She read out the provisions which stated that the Public Protector was an independent body that should be impartial, exercise powers without fear, favour or prejudice, and take remedial action.

"Throughout my years as a lawyer, I have never come across simple words that have sparked this much confusion and controversy," she said.

"What I find fascinating is the number of pseudo-experts that are dishing out advice on TV and radio every day without ever mentioning or attempting to interpret the wording in the constitution." It perplexed her that people's interpretations were that she could make recommendations only to organs of the State.

She said she was not an ombudsman without the power to take remedial action, as had been boldly advanced by a member of the executive.

The "last word" belonged to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which stated in a recent ruling that she was more than an ombudsman.

She said her reports may not be amended or reviewed by Parliament and that only a court of law could find that her process or reasons were flawed and send a report back to her to do this correctly.

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