Johannesburg – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s attendance at a Women’s Day event organised by the DA is part of her constitutional obligation to be accessible to people and communities, her office said on Saturday.
“Attendance of this meeting was in fulfilment of her constitutional obligation of being accessible to all persons and communities as espoused [in] the Constitution,” spokesperson Kgalalelo Masibi said in a statement.
“It was also in pursuit of the public protector responsibilities to be independent, impartial and in exercising her powers without fear, favour or prejudice.”
On Friday, the ANC criticised Madonsela for attending a Women’s Day event organised by the Democratic Alliance.
“Madonsela’s decision to attend a political party rally was ill-considered as it opens up her office to perceptions of political bias,” ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said.
Motshekga said the public protector “rubbed shoulders” with DA leaders at the event. He argued that Madonsela was jeopardising her constitutional role of independence and impartiality.
“Attending and giving keynote addresses at political events of political parties has the potential to compromise these basic constitutional principles,” Motshekga said.
However, Masibi said the event was incorporated into the national stakeholder consultative dialogue that Madonsela launched in July which included giving “special interest groups” opportunity to interact with Madonsela.
“The public protector’s address focused on the constitutional promise to women and people of South Africa, and ensuring that the mechanisms are in place to assist the people to hold the State accountable,” she said.
“The main thrust of the public protector’s speech was on [her] role as one of the public accountability institutions… People were given an opportunity to ask questions and lodge complaints… A lot of the complaints related to RDP housing challenges.”
People were also encouraged to advise others to lodge RDP and other service delivery complaints, said Masibi.
Motshekga said Madonsela should participate in public outreach such as Women’s Day events but should seek an “impartial platform” to do so.
Masibi said that Madonsela does not decline requests by community groups that require her services.