Thuli Madonsela is at fault

2016-11-09 13:47

When someone or something is "at fault", it is usually when there is something that impairs or detracts the physical perfection of person or a thing. This is one of those. Ms Madonsela's handling of the recorded interviews between her former office and Mr Zuma detracts the physical perfection of the the stature of the former public protector.

Ms Thuli Madonsela audio recorded the interview with Mr Zuma. In the interview if you listen carefully, Ms Madonsela does not tell Mr Zuma and his representatives that the audio recording will be made public. So, she is the only one in the interview process who is aware of the recording and the subsequent intended publication of the recording.

Following the television channel that broadcasted the interview, Ms Madonsela was asked about the ‘leaking’ of the report to ENCA. Ms Madonsela refused to comment about the alleged ‘leaking’. Yesterday, 08th November, Ms Madonsela broke the silence (as it were), she admitted to ‘deliberately leaking’ the report to a broadcaster of her choice (not that of the public), the ENCA in this case. It’s possible that the public broadcaster would not have aired the interview considering the negative public perceptions regarding the SABC. However, I’m interested in the principle and the rationale behind the idea to make the recordings public without informing the affected parties (Mr Zuma and his representatives in this case).

So we know now who leaked the recordings to the media. The beloved former Public Protector leaked the recordings. Giving reasons for leaking the recordings, Ms Madonsela said; “as a public protector‚ I made a decision that my interview with the president must be made public”‚ but added she had done so not to show “evidence of state capture” but “as evidence that I gave the president a chance to answer me”. This is unethical.

As a researcher myself, I would never record the interview with a participant without making the participant aware of the recording of the interview and what I (as a researcher) intend to do with the recordings. So on my consent form/letter of consent between myself and the research participant, I will have to indicate clearly that the interview will be recorded and that the recordings will be made public. This is important to make the process transparent but also, it is a sign of respect for my work as a researcher and respect for my participants. During the interview, the participant might raise issues that they would rather not have the general public know about. This was the case also during the interview Ms Madonsela had with Mr Zuma.

Mr Zuma made reference to his ill-health in the interview and I doubt if he wanted the whole world to know that he was not feeling well during that time, and the publication of the interview WITHOUT his consent is a clear breach of the ethical code (I would hope) that guides the ‘contract’ between the ‘accused’ and the prosecutor. Just like it would be unethical and a breach of research code of good practice in my line of work. I’m convinced the same code applies in Ms Madonsela’s previous line of work.

Also, during the interview, the president's legal representative also read the president's diary, giving details of the president's  departure and arrival times to different presidential assignments. The release of such information could be a potential breach of security code of the president.

It is clear to everyone who is following the current affairs in our country that our country is in trouble. One man (Mr Zuma) has collapsed most of what our country has managed to achieve since 1994. His insidious being was captured on the 16th of February in parliament by the leader of the main opposition, Mr Musi Maimane. Maimane said;

“We can blame apartheid. We can blame the global financial system. We can even blame Jan van Riebeeck.

But in our hearts, we know what the problem is. We have allowed those in power to become bigger than our institutions, breaking them down bit by bit.

We have allowed one powerful man to get away with too much for too long. This man is here in our presence today.

Honourable President, in these very chambers, just five days ago, you broke Parliament.

Please understand, Honourable President, when I use the term “honourable”, I do it out of respect for the traditions and conventions of this august House.

But please do not take it literally. For you, Honourable President, are not an honourable man.

You are a broken man, presiding over a broken society.

You are willing to break every democratic institution to try and fix the legal predicament you find yourself in.

You are willing to break this Parliament if it means escaping accountability for the wrongs you have done.”

Mr Maimane’s speech will go down in the history of the country’s parliament as one of the most heartfelt, most eloquent, most revealing and most frank speech ever read to the country’s sitting president.

Mr Zuma has brought South Africa to a position that we managed to avoid since 1994, a position that most African countries found themselves in post-independence. Jean Francois Bayart’s 'politics of the belly’ have become so obvious in Mr Zuma’s leadership and administration. He has reduced government to himself, his family and business men who will help him advance the appetite of his never satisfied ‘belly’. He is concerned with satisfying his immediate and personal interests and dreams--wrongfully and unlawfully using the apparatus of the system of the state.

With that being said, as a constitutional society we need to observe ethical processes that do not infringe on other’s constitutional rights, especially if we are charged with upholding the principles of our constitution. And in this case, Ms Madonsela has in my view failed to respect the constitutional rights of Mr Zuma and his representative.

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