by Pamela Maringa

When the former public protector, Advocate Thuli Madosela, dropped the mic at her last press conference with the words “I’m out”, it all seemed so final. These words were addressed to her successor advocate Busi Mkhwebane. The name Thuli Madonsela had become a house-hold name. Madonsela was seen as a woman of integrity, she was not easily influenced by government officials or the Gupta Family. Some of us felt a sense of lost.  It felt like South Africa lost her mother,  a mother who was protective of her children no matter what it took. She stood for what she believed in.

The country had mixed feelings about the new public protector, it seemed like she had such big shoes to fill. I still remember the conversations we had at my broadcasting class, some of the questions we asked each other were: Why her? Did she have what it took to be in that position?  Was she going to protect us as the public and stand up against the president if there was a need to? She didn’t come out as the strongest candidate. Even though I personally liked the fact that there was another woman, I wasn’t sure about her.

After some deserving candidates had been knocked off the list at the conclusion of the initial interviews, the strongest candidates were Judge Siraj Desai and the highly regarded advocate Bongani Majola. Of these, Desai was widely considered the candidate that the committee would settle on, given the ANC’s apparent leaning towards the Cape High Court nomination. Why were these candidates overlooked for this position?

Nine months later, the prediction by the EFF’s leader, Julius Malema, seems to have come true. Mkhwebani could have made commitments to President Jacob Zuma and his friends the Gupta’s. We see evidence of this in some of the decisions she has made. One of them, about changing the mandate of the Reserve Bank, has cost the country economically. After a backlash she abandoned her own findings. She seems to have overstepped her power in the process. It looks as if we have to take some of the things Malema says about ANC seriously because they appear to be true. He seems to know what is going on internally. This was shown recently too when Malema said Zuma wants to leave the country and seek asylum in Dubai.

Mkhwebani got the law terribly wrong and revealed her incompetence when, instead of admitting that she was wrong, said the drafting of the wording in the report may have created misunderstanding.  Officials should to be appointed without interference from political powers. The country needs leaders who will be uncompromised, who will swear an oath and live that with integrity by keeping their promises.

The Catholic Social Teaching tradition teaches that human dignity must be upheld and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Mkhwebani’s actions go against this principle as she fails to uphold the rights of the public. She threatens the well-being of the country by possibly exposing us to those who think they are above the law.

The public protector’s office once made us feel safe and we knew that our mother, Thuli Madonsela, was fighting for us. A house without a mother remains a house, but a house with a mother becomes a home.

South Africa, where is your mother?