Protecting the Public Protector is protecting institutional democracy in South Africa. The office of the Public Protector was established in order for Government to limit the perversion of integrity and corruption in state departments. Advocate Thuli Madonsela, since coming into office in 2009, has fulfilled this mandate flawlessly.
Under her watch, she has left no sacred cows and has vigorously pursued and investigated various public figures such as; EFF Party Leader Julius Malema and ex- police Chief Bheki Cele. As a result of her probes, two prominent Ministers were removed from their positions; the late Sicelo Shiceka and Mrs Gwen Mahlangu- Nkabinde. Currently, president Jacob Zuma has been taken to court to enforce recommendations made by Madonsela after an investigation into the president’s private residence in Nkandla.
Despite the sterling work she has done in the office, she has faced heavy criticism particularly around her findings on Nkandla. In a Mail & Guardian article titled “Who protects the Public Protector” (04 Aug 2015), Adv. Thuli Madonsela indicated that the “hysteria and mudslinging” around Nkandla was not only from government or Parliament but rather from all and sundry including the spokespersons of the governing party in and outside of parliament.
Since being in office Madonsela, dubbed the Iron Lady of South Africa by Corruption Watch (08 March 2013), has been under immense spotlight. Her belief is that corruption is an insidious plague that has a whole range of corrosive effects on society such as; undermining democracy and the rule of law; the violation of human rights; erosion of the quality of life; and an enabler of organized crime and other threats to the flourish of human security.
Whilst protecting South Africans and democracy, Madonsela has herself become vulnerable to; an erosion of her quality of life, her work being marred by threats and the sullying of her integrity. In working for Government, it goes without saying that it is the responsibility of Government to protect the work, the integrity and life of any Public Protector.
In addition to that, it is in the best interest of the country and its citizens to ensure that this office which, is highly revered everywhere, is protected and safeguarded by all those who have an interest in sustaining this hard won democracy. The interest of the Public Protector is the protection of all citizens of the country. Therefore, it goes without saying, that the office of the Public Protector should also be protected and safeguard by the state and its citizens. By protecting the Public Protector, citizens are protecting and safeguarding the democratic principles by which this country is grounded on.