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The Public Protector - last five candidates

By Danielle van Wyk

After a gruelling session of interviews that took place last week, the adhoc parliamentary committee that was established to appoint South Africa’s new Public Protector whittled the esteemed list down from 14 to five candidates from various backgrounds. 

Interestingly, struggle veteran Willie Hofmeyer and Thuli Madonsela’s deputy didn’t make the cut. But the remaining five do hold a respectable amount of clout and know-how, particularly with legal background. 

Justmoney decided to take a look at the people behind these five names. 

The candidates

1. Judge Siraj Desai: Having conjured a lot of media around his candidacy thus far, Judge Desai comes in as the African National Congress’ (ANC) favourite for the position. 

“Desai is an experienced High Court Judge. He worked as an attorney for AM Omar, South Africa’s first post – apartheid Minister of Justice. Desai is the former chairperson of the National Council for Correctional Services where he served for 14 years. In 1996 he took up the position of deputy chairperson of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa. 

“Between 1991 and 1995 he was the chairperson of the ANC Woodstock Branch. Desai is the founding member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers. He is also a council member of the Cape University of Technology and board member of the District Six Museum. A discrete intelligence report reveals that Desai has a single active business interest in a civil society organisation and presents no concerning risk factors,” documented Corruption Watch. 

However, concerns have been raised about Desai’s conduct and character, as he has been implicated in a few altercations with colleagues including Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe. His public spats have resulted in one MP calling for someone with a ‘cool head’ to be put in the position of Public Protector. 

2. Sharise Weiner: “Weiner is currently a Judge of the High Court and previously a senior advocate, with bar admissions in Lesotho, England and Wales. While in practising her areas of specialisation have been in corporate law,” stated Corruption Watch. 

Weiner has also previously served as a part-time Commissioner for the CCMA, and while she hasn’t made very many judgements relevant to the ‘role of a Public Protector’, she has experience with rulings against abuses of power. 

“A discrete intelligence report reveals that Weiner has a single active business interest in a community based organisation and presents no concerning risk indicators,” Corruption Watch further added. 

3. Bongani Majola: Professor Mazola declined a nomination for the position of Public Protector in 2002. He is an advocate of the High Court and ex-member of the Johannesburg Bar council. 

“He obtained a Masters of Law degree from Harvard Law School in 1988 and has previous experience as the National Director for the Legal Resources Centre. He occupied the post of Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Limpopo. Majola was appointed as the deputy chief prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR) in 2003 and was subsequently promoted to Assistant Secretary General of the UN and Registrar of the UNICTR in 2013,” highlighted Corruption Watch. 

4. Muvhango Lukhaimane: One of the three females up for the position, Lukhaimane currently serves as the Pension Funds Adjudicator (PFA). 

“She is admitted as an Advocate of the High Court and obtained various qualifications such as a B Iuris, LLB, LLM, as well as an MBA,” added Corruption Watch. 

She stems from a background of dealing with pension funds as she was previously employed by the likes of ‘Eskom Pension and Provident Fund, Sanlam Employee Benefits and Liberty Personal Benefits.’

Promoted to the post of PFA after just one year of serving as the deputy adjudicator by finance minister Pravin Gordhan, Lukhaimane is a well-respected businesswoman. 

“Commended for clearing the backlog of complaints at the Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator in 15 months. A discrete intelligence report reveals that Lukhaimane has no active business interests and presents no concerning risk factors,” detailed Corruption Watch. 

5. Busisiwe Mhkwebane: Currently the Director of the Country Information and Cooperation Management Unit for Home Affairs, Mhkwebane is the final candidate of the shortlisted five. 

“She obtained a B Proc and LLB from the University of the North and a Diploma in Corporate Law and a Higher Diploma in Tax Law from the University of Johannesburg. Mkhwebane is an advocate of the High Court and previously worked in the Office of the Public Protector for a period of seven years during which time she was mainly a senior investigator but ultimately rose to the position of acting provincial head,” Corruption Watch stated. 

Mkhwebane has dedicated a large portion of her career so far to immigration issues with a background in senior positions for the Department of Home Affairs as well as the South African Embassy in China. 

The interview process

The interview process has come under scrutiny by both political parties and the media of late. 

“The Democratic Alliance (DA), earlier this month, already took issue with the mismanagement of the Public Protector interview process which risked jeopardising the selection of a fit and proper candidate to continue the fight against corruption. This is after 14 interviews, some of which were over an hour long, were jammed into a single day, with overflow into the early hours of the following morning. The last candidate was called in for his hour long interview at 01:45 in the morning, after the panel had already spent almost 19 hours in the Chamber,” stated the DA. 

According to some commentators on social commentators the interview process ended as late as 3am. 

The committee is said to meet on these five when they reconvene this Wednesday in aims of reaching a consensus on one name to put forward as the recommended new public protector. 

The report explaining the process and reasoning behind choosing that person is then set to be tabled before the National Assembly at month end. 

The successful candidate would need to have the backing of all the political parties. 

Current Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s term ends on the 1 October. 

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