Your job is to protect the people – nothing else. This was the advice outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela gave to her successor Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane last night.
Her advice formed part of a thank-you speech she gave at the Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban where she was honoured with the 2016 Diakonia Human Rights Award for her extraordinary courage and patriotism.
Earlier she delivered a lecture titled: How can the public assist the Public Protector to protect us.
“To my successor, the important thing is that your job is to protect the people and nobody else. In doing so, it is important to have good relationships with the government but you must not have allegiances.
“Sometimes you will have to choose between a cordial relationship and the truth,” said Madonsela.
She said where there was a breakdown in relationship between her office and some sections of government, it was not because her team had not sought to promote good relations with the government.
“It was when truth parted us, when we were asked not to continue with this investigation; when we were asked not to say anything about following cases and ultimately when we were told not to say anything about our power; our consciences told us that we have a job to protect that office.”
Madonsela advised her successor to set the tone for her team “from the beginning”.
“If you give the team the impression that Gogo Dlamini matters, then she will matter. If you give an impression to the team that there must be consistency, we won’t treat others differently to others, there will be consistency. And if you say to the team that we will always be independent and act independently, that will be so,” she said to a loud applause.
Madonsela thanked her team for a sterling job and the healthy working relationship they shared.
“Having worked with the Public Protector team, I was also grateful that it was a journey that was equally shared. It’s been said that being a Public Protector is a lonely position. I never felt lonely, not a single day.”
She also commended them for their methodical dedication to getting to the truth.
“We all knew the rules regarding what happened and what should happen and the discrepancy between what happened and what should have happened and if that discrepancy was material enough to call it improper conduct or maladministration or corruption. This was our rule book.”
She said in dealing with investigations, everyone on the team had the opportunity to make decisions. Many of the decisions that were taken by the office had been discussed by her team, she said.
“Sometimes after accepting that I was wrong and that the team was right, we had to go with the view that was held by the team.”
Madonsela said there were more than 150 complex cases that had not been investigated or had been partially investigated, many because her office did not have the resources to investigate, that might be inherited by her successor.
“There are so many investigations that we could not do because of resources, even the investigation we have done, it is because the men and women who work at the Public Protector’s office work beyond the call of duty.
“They work at night and on weekends. They are no more than 200 people,” she said.
She said if more resources were made available to the office of the Public Protector it could tackle more cases. – News24