Speaker weighs in on Madonsela


National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu (pictured) will meet Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Public Protector Thuli Mandonsela this week. “Mr Max Sisulu, has noted, with grave concern, recent reports in the media concerning the Public Protector, Ms Thuli Madonsela,” a statement issued by his office says.

“The Office of the Public Protector, like all other chapter 9 organisations, is accountable to Parliament for its activities, as the Constitution prescribes.” Sisulu, on behalf of the National Assembly, said the Office of the Public Protector enjoyed “the full confidence of Parliament”, the South African Press Association reports. “The Public Protector must be able to perform her functions without fear, favour or any hindrance.”

The Star newspaper last week reported that police were about to arrest Madonsela in connection with business transactions she concluded with the Department of Justice while she served on the SA Law Reform Commission. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa denied any knowledge of a pending investigation or plans to arrest her. Madonsela is currently investigating police leases worth R1.6-billion for buildings in Pretoria and Durban. She has previously said national police commissioner General Bheki Cele and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde were guilty of improper conduct.

Madonsela last week dismissed the Star newspaper report that claimed she was wanted for fraud and corruption as “baseless” and “malicious”. She has questioned the timing of the article – which was published on the day she was expected to release the second report into the Durban police lease – saying it was designed to scupper her investigations into the deals signed with businessman Roux Shabangu.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe also rejected outright that there was any investigation of Madonsela. He said there had been an inquiry into a possible conflict of interest at the time Madonsela was operating a business while rendering a service to his department. His office had twice investigated whether Madonsela had a duty to disclose that she was operating a profitable business while serving as a member of the commission, and she had been cleared of any wrongdoing. “This means the inquiry is consequently closed,” said Radebe, adding that Madonsela “did not violate any prescripts or laws”. He emphasised that at no stage had his department reported the matter to the police for criminal investigation.

Radebe defended Madonsela, saying: “This office, together with other democracy-supporting institutions, must always be supported and protected by all of us and not be attacked or undermined through the employment of tactics of whatever manner.” Radebe said the Public Protector must enjoy the confidence of all South Africans. “For this to be safeguarded, all of us must work towards strengthening and supporting it as opposed to attacking and weakening it in the process.”

The Presidency echoed Radebe’s statements yesterday, saying that Madonsela’s office should be “respected and given space to do its work. The Public Protector as an institution of state should be allowed to do its work without fear or favour and without hindrance,” said President Jacob Zuma’s office.