'Move on from arms deal'

2009-11-05 21:11

Pretoria - The newly appointed Public Protector says there is not much she can do about the controversial arms deal.

"Going back to the arms deal, I don't know how much I could possibly contribute," Thulisile Madonsela told reporters at the National Press Club in Pretoria on Thursday.

"I could contribute to what should have happened, but at what cost?"

Madonsela, who took over the post from Advocate Lawrence Mushwana two weeks ago, was being questioned on Mushwana's decision not to investigate an element of the deal.

She said the protector's office had a prescription period of two years which made it difficult to probe old elements of the deal.

"I'm not saying that we shouldn't investigate the arms deal, but I think from our side we would like to go forward and investigate the new things coming to us."

"If it is a new area in the arms deal that hasn't been prescribed then we would do that," she said.


Madonsela said the protector's job was to make sure that state conduct was accountable.

But more importantly it was to "ensure that whatever has been taken away through the improper conduct by the state is restored".

A "pre-investigation" into hotel stays by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was underway.

"This is still a pre-investigation. We don't have a case regarding the minister," Madonsela said.

The preliminary probe would look into whether Mthethwa's conduct was in line with rules in the executive handbook.

"We have to at least see whether what happened can be turned into a fully fledged investigation," she said.

This process had to be finalised within a month.

Perceptions her office was a "lapdog" would be tackled through talking to political parties and the general public, she said.

"Tell us yourselves, what do you want us to do, why do you think we are a lapdog... what are your expectations from this department? We are governed by the rule of law, whatever we do we have to make sure that we hold people accountable."

"We only find fault in people if what they did was unlawful, unjust or unreasonable... we want people to work with us... if we paint everyone with the same brush, if we make every high profile South African corrupt and criminal, the real criminals will have joy because there will be no stigma."

Top complaints

Madonsela said in her brief time in her position she had found the top complaints received by the office were about local government, home affairs, grants, the government pension fund, the unemployment insurance fund and workers' compensation.

The office had also received many complaints about police conduct, which she would refer to the Independent Complaints Directorate as it was better positioned to deal with them.

Her office would meet leaders in various government departments to discuss the complaints she had received about them. She said the government's response and readiness to co-operate with her office was a mixed bag, with some co-operating speedily and others dragging their feet.

Madonsela justified the "golden handshake" of R7m received by Mushwana, saying it was provided for in a 2002 Government Gazette.

Mushwana was appointed chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission, taking the helm of the Chapter 9 institution from Jodi Kollapen.