Post-Thuli Madonsela: Which candidate has what it takes?

Star attraction: Thuli Madonsela, more than any one else, has defined the role of the public protector. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Star attraction: Thuli Madonsela, more than any one else, has defined the role of the public protector. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

When in 2009 Parliament last sat down to select someone to re-commend to the president as the public protector it initially went poorly.

In the first call for nominations, a large number of those who stepped forward were, in the words of that committee, “young graduates under 25 looking for employment”.

Since then, current protector Thuli Madonsela has been named one of the most influential people in the world and, to wide acclaim, has beaten ministers into submission.

So, although the full 73-name list for the process to find Madonsela’s successor does feature a few very dark horses, it also has candidates that are – on paper – more qualified than Madonsela was when even the opposition parties in Parliament signed off on her selection.

These are some of the more interesting, if not necessarily likely to be chosen, candidates.


Mohale Maluleke
  (Practising advocate)

  In a covering letter, he writes that it is important that the public protector should also protect the state from its citizens, because the state is “itself peopled by citizens who have an equal claim to the protection of their policies, decisions, reputations and careers against mistaken or malicious accusations or suspicions”.

Krish Naidoo
  (Legal adviser and consultant to the ANC)

In a covering letter, Naidoo writes: “I have the ability to transcend narrow political affiliation because my interest in applying for the position is to leave a legacy for future generations and not to increase the aggregates of a political party.
In essence, my view is that, more than fulfilling the legal obligation of being the town’s sheriff over public resources and the exercise of public power, the public protector, in our young democracy, should also help build the town.”


Pierre de Vos
  (Law lecturer and constitutional expert)

The only candidate with a prominent blog, De Vos has a proven ability to write for popular consumption, which bodes well for reports he would pen as protector. But the selection committee may be more focused on the fact that he is on the advisory council of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, which has been a thorn in the side of the executive – and may also note that he was a complainant in the public protector’s investigation that brought President Jacob Zuma to book on Nkandla.

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh
(Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre)

More than a decade with Lawyers for Human Rights put Ramjathan-Keogh in daily conflict with the government but she never came as close to publicly embarrassing the state as she did with the litigation centre since 2015. Parliament will not have forgotten that it was the centre that brought the action to have Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrested when he was in South Africa a year ago, forcing him to flee the country with what looked like criminal connivance from the very top. Ramjathan-Keogh has been considered a troublemaker ever since.


Mamiki Goodman
(National Gambling Board; former deputy public protector)

Under her maiden surname, Shai, she had a brief stint in the spotlight as Madonsela’s deputy – mostly when she tore into her boss in Parliament. On her way out, with a term that ended in November 2012, Goodman told Parliament’s oversight committee on justice that she had been victimised by Madonsela, whom she also accused of all manner of sins, most notably of having an anti-ANC bias. The saga also featured allegations that the Democratic Alliance had paid bribes to fast-track some investigations. At the time, Goodman said that leaving the deputy protector job would be the equivalent of a release from prison.

Willie Hofmeyr
(Deputy head of public prosecutions; former chief Scorpion)

Some CVs are dry. Hofmeyr’s is not one of those. “He has a top-secret security clearance,” it starts. “He has been arrested about 40 times, but has no criminal conviction apart from paying an admission of guilt fine of R50 after an illegal protest march by UCT [University of Cape Town] students after the 16 June 1976 student uprising in Soweto.” Hofmeyr is with the National Prosecuting Authority, and has run the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Scorpions, working in conjunction with and in parallel to many public protector investigations. He also helped to draft the Constitution.

Kevin Malunga
(Deputy public protector)

He has, by his own count, acted as public protector 30 times since his appointment in December 2012 as Madonsela’s deputy, so he can certainly guarantee continuity in the position. Not that the public would really know; Malunga sports almost 100 times fewer Twitter followers than his boss. Malunga publicly broke ranks with Madonsela in 2013, telling Parliament he had more respect for it than she did, but the two have since given every appearance of a cordial and professional relationship, politely agreeing to disagree on occasion.

Themba Mthethwa
(Ombud of the community schemes service; former chief executive of the office of the public protector)

Mthethwa resigned as chief executive of the protector’s office just three months shy of the end of his contract in December 2014. His office made noises about better prospects elsewhere but he never spoke publicly about the move. But his tenure in running the business side of the protector was sometimes clearly fraught. In 2012 he was the target of anonymous allegations, from within his own office, of fraud, as well as other more lurid transgressions. That was against the backdrop of what sometimes verged on civil war about how – and how respectfully, or otherwise – the protector should deal with the government and the ANC.


Nick “Fink” Haysom
(United Nations director; Nelson Mandela’s adviser)

Haysom faded from public view in South Africa thanks to successive – important but often behind-the-scenes – jobs at the United Nations, recently as director for political affairs in the office of the secretary general. But, for six of the most crucial years of South Africa’s demo-cracy, from 1994, he was legal adviser to Nelson Mandela. Haysom’s struggle credentials include meeting an exiled Oliver Tambo to bring him news of the excesses of Winnie Mandela’s kidnap-happy football club. And people in the legal fraternity tend to sit up a little straighter when they talk about him.

Sharise Weiner and
Zarina Kellerman

Honourable mentions in this category go to high court Judge Sharise Weiner and government adviser Zarina Kellerman, who both list Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron as a reference.


Nonkosi Princess Cetywayo
(Civil law enforcement sheriff of a high court)

She advised then-minister of intelligence Lindiwe Sisulu in 2001, and worked for Baleka Mbete, speaker of the National Assembly (and possible -presidential contender), both in Parliament and elsewhere.

Phillip Dexter
(University of Cape Town religious scholar)

A very public departure from the ANC to the Congress of the People (Cope) makes for the wrong sort of political connections. But he lists Deputy President (and serious presidential contender) Cyril Rampahosa as a reference.

Dali Mpofu
National chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters

His current political affiliation gets only a passing mention in a two-page CV that starts with his birth in 1962 and ends with his 2015 appointment to an “insourcing team” at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet writes about politics, society, economics, and the areas where these collide. He has never been anything other than a journalist, though he has been involved in starting new newspapers, magazines and websites, a suspiciously large percentage of which are no longer in business. PGP fingerprint: CF74 7B0F F037 ACB9 779C 902B 793C 8781 4548 D165 Read more from Phillip de Wet

Client Media Releases

Survey rejects one-sided views on e-tolls
Huawei forms partnerships to boost ICT skills development
North-West University Faculty of Law has a firm foundation
Humanities lecturer wins Young Linguist Award
Is your organisation ready for the cloud (r)evolution?