Public Protector Thuli Madonsela held a press conference in Pretoria today aiming to respond to ongoing accusations against her office in relation to the Nkandla scandal. The event was exactly one week after the leaking of her infamous letter addressed to President Jacob Zuma, which coincided with a disruptive protest of EFF MPs in parliament over Nkandla.
“The purpose of the briefing is for the Public Protector to clarify her office’s understanding of the architecture of the country’s constitutional democracy and explain in detail how her office deals with investigations – from start to finish. This will include the history of interactions with organs of state, including The Presidency,” a statement from her office had read in the lead-up to the event.
The press conference started with Madonsela identifying why she had called the event:
“We believe we’re going through a difficult moment regarding the role of this office and there are chances to find common ground.”
She also clarified early on into the press conference that her office “ought to be respected and its dignity upheld,” hinting at the ANC’s recent scrutiny of her office, with some ANC heavyweights accusing Madonsela of collaborating with the EFF to cause deliberately disorder in parliament, effectively weakening President Zuma dwindling public support.
Soon after her opening statements, Thuli Madonsela began identifying the recent issues that have been challenging her office, saying that the leak of her recent letter addressed to President Jacob Zuma was a serious “problem” and adding that the accusatory statements made against her by the ANC after the event only “compounded the problem.”
She mentioned that she could only reveal that the leaking of the letter was attributable to a politician, but did not divulge any details about the party-political affiliation of said politician. Madonsela’s had made previous claims that the ANC had leaked the letter itself, but told a reporter later at the press conference that she would not name the source of the leak.
The Public Protector also specified that despite recent attacks against her office by the ruling ANC, it had been the ANC twenty years ago, which had insisted on the establishment of a Public Protector’s office at the dawn of SA’s democracy.
Madonsela has widely been hailed for her role as the Public Protector, however, the ANC seem to continue discrediting her on account of her treatment of Nkandla despite these accolades.
Madonsela emphasised that she would be requesting a formal meeting with President Zuma in the expectation of finding a mutually agreeable way forward. She also mentioned that it was her hope that the controversial matter of President Zuma’s private homestead at Nkandla would be resolved without having to resort to taking action in courts, adding that she had advised the President on the best way forward already.
It is unclear whether this was a direct reference to her Nkandla report, in which she had demanded that the President repays a portion of the costs attributed to the “security updates” at his KwaZulu Natal homestead. The president has shirked that responsibility so far, dragging out the final word on Nkandla perhaps beyond the days of his presidency.
In her closing statements, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela reminded her critics that she esteems her treatment o the ANC to have been fair thus far, implying that this may yet change:
“Even if Parliament is not happy (with me), hysteria and mudslinging is not the way to go. You don’t throw mud at someone and remain with clean hands.”