Committee hears of Madonsela's governance failures

Deputy public protector Mamiki Shai. (David Harrison, M&G)

Deputy public protector Mamiki Shai. (David Harrison, M&G)

There is no love lost between the outgoing deputy public protector Mamiki Shai and her boss public protector Thulisile Madonsela.

This was evident during a meeting of Parliament’s oversight committee on justice, when Shai briefed it about the allegations of maladministration and governance failures she made about Madonsela in letters to the legislature.

Speaking to the committee, Shai painted herself a victim who was denied resources to do her work, sidelined and bullied by Madonsela and a victim of fraud.

"It really kills the self-esteem. You can't even think unless you are told to think. I know that from the December 1, I will be under nobody's power and I will be able to be free.
For me it’s freedom again," said Shai.

Her contract as the deputy public protector ends on November 30.

Shai said she had worked well with Madonsela at the beginning but had a fall-out after Shai had made recommendations on anonymous letters, which implicated both Madonsela and CEO Themba Mthethwa.

Also contained in the dossier that Madonsela sent to speaker Max Sisulu for investigation, was an anonymous letter from the staff of the public protector's office.

Among the claims made in the letters are that:

  • Bribes were received from the Democratic Alliance to the office of Public Protector to fasttrack investigations.
  • Madonsela put pressure on Shai to change reports and destroy evidence.
  • Forgery of Shai's signature by a senior staff member to give himself a performance bonus.
  • Withholding a report on the DA-led Midvaal municipality until after the local government elections.
  • Madonsela’s discretionary jurisdiction on what to investigate.

MPs were not happy, however, as Shai couldn't give details of the allegations made, but she argued that her invitation to Parliament had stated that she would brief the committee and she did not prepare detailed information.

Several members of the committee pointed out that normally they wouldn't consider anonymous complaints, but that Madonsela had asked Parliament to investigate the complaints.

They also labeled the majority of the complaints as "petty", "nonsense" and another MP said it was office politics that shouldn't end up in Parliament.

"We are expected to attend to office politics," said the DA's Dene Smuts. "I don’t think it's appropriate for Parliament to do so."

Smuts said she thinks a filter should be found to make sure matters like that didn’t end up in Parliament. Smuts noted that Shai "has not been a happy camper" during her tenure.

ANC MP John Jeffery said it was important to give an opportunity to writers of the anonymous letter to see the committee in-camera. “We need to get to a situation where these anonymous complaints must stop and they must stop because people feel that their problems are being dealt with,” he said.

The committee vowed to establish whether there had been any offences committed.

Committee chairperson, Luwellyn Landers invited the whistleblowers to come forward, saying it was extremely difficult to give credence to the anonymous letters.

Madonsela will appear before the committee in 2013.

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