DA opposes consideration of Kholeka Gcaleka for Public Protector

Issued by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP – DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
19 Oct 2023 in News

Note to Editors: The speech below was delivered by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP during the vote for a new Public Protector in Parliament this afternoon.

The possible appointment of Kholeka Gcaleka as the Public Protector of South Africa has raised several questions, and it has certainly underscored the fact that the appointment process of the Public Protector needs to be re-evaluated.

This time around, with respect to all candidates, the process delivered a crop of potential candidates who were fundamentally so far below par for a job of this magnitude, leaving the Ad Hoc committee, in my view, with no choice but to abort the process and re-advertise the position. Not one single candidate of the 8 shortlisted, in our view, met even all the minimum standards.

Other parties will argue here today that Kholeka Gcaleka is an outstanding candidate who has proven herself fit and able to perform the functions of the job required. Precisely on what basis they argue this escapes me. Ms Gcaleka meets the minimum educational requirements, and that is true, it is also the only positive thing one can say about her in her quest to be Public Protector.

She currently occupies the position of Deputy Public Protector and has done so for around 2 years. For most of that time, she has also been Acting Public Protector, while the impeachment process of Busisiwe Mkhwebane has run its course. Of course, all of this could have been avoided, and close to R100 million saved, and used for more constructive purposes, if 7 years ago this House had given more consideration to the arguments of the DA, the only party to oppose the appointment of Ms Mkwhebane.

You did not listen then, perhaps you should listen now.

It cannot in all honesty be said that Ms Gcaleka has been the most effective and efficient Deputy PP, nor can it be said that she has been a perfect stand in. In fairness, she did walk in to a deeply troubled and dysfunctional office, and has gone some way in correcting the office set up, and improving performance.

Given that she has had free reign over the office, and has had the assistance of some very experienced staff members, it is not enough to persuade us that she is ready to take on the top job.

One of the fundamental principles of the Public Protector’s role is independence and impartiality. It is essential for the PP, whomsoever it is, to act without fear or favour and to serve the interests of the public and the Constitution. The PP must not, cannot, be swayed by political considerations. It is a tough and lonely job, not allowing room for any improper influence or personal predilictions.

Now Ms Gcaleka does not come to this point without a past. She was a prosecutor in the National Prosecuting Authority, with some experience in litigation. Not investigation, as that is not the job of a prosecutor. She was not there long enough to be described as an experienced litigator, and while there, did not conduct herself with distinction. A serious question mark must exist over her personal judgement and her independence.

She was peripherally involved in the Mdluli matter, which cannot be regarded as a success, since his conviction was on the basis of such watered down charges that the murder of Mr Oupa Ramogibe remains unaccounted for to this day.

Her very cosy relationship, some say intimate relationship, with her boss, the rather odious Menzi Simelane, led to speedy promotions and her very vocal and active support of his role in the capture of the NPA. One cannot leave her role in the Glen Agliotti acquittal out of consideration either.

Having played her part in the destruction of the NPA, Ms Gcaleka moved on to the office of then Minister Malusi Gigaba, that tail wagging acolyte of the Gupta brothers, and social media fame, not for good reasons.

There Ms Gcaleka was employed as his legal advisor, but failed to advise him in any fashion or form of the dangers of corrupt behaviour, of selling his soul, such as it is, to the Gupta brothers, nor did she with any apparent success advise him against the devastation that his behaviour with regard to State Capture was wreaking on South Africa.

The Public Protector plays a crucial role in ensuring accountability and transparency in government. South Africans have high expectations from this office, given its history and the need to combat corruption and maladministration.

The public having witnessed the excrutiatingly poor performance of the interviewed candidates, will know that Ms Gcaleka, far from shooting the lights out, merely scraped though the interview as a result of the advantageous position she has by being in that office.

The Public Protector’s office demands a high level of ethical conduct and integrity. I am afraid, on her own history, Ms Gcaleka does not meet that high standard. We should not settle for less. We should not settle. This position is too important to settle for possibly the best of a very mediocre bunch. Is this the type of dubious mediocrity we want to appoint into one of the most important offices in our Constitutional democracy.

I should think not.

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