MPs are raising hopes for a public protector on the first day of interviews

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MPs are raising hopes for a public protector on the first day of interviews

Lawyer Tseliso Tipanyane during his interview in Parliament on Wednesday for the position of Public Protector.


The first day of interviews by a special parliamentary committee to select the country’s next public protector began Wednesday, with lawmakers challenging four of the eight candidates vying for the top job.

The committee, which includes various MPs from different political parties, is tasked with finding a replacement for the suspended public protector Blessed Mkhwebanewhich faces possible removal from office due to alleged misconduct and incompetence in some of its investigations.

MPs have until the end of this month to recommend a suitable candidate to the National Assembly to be selected for appointment after receiving a briefing on Tuesday at the results of the screening process of the eight candidates selected for interviews, all of whom were approved.

READ: Eight public protector hopefuls given all clear but EFF won’t dismiss Gcaleka’s complaints

If approved by the President Cyril Ramaphosathe successful candidate will become the country’s fifth public protector and serve a non-renewable seven-year term as Mkhwebane’s term ends in October.

During the first day of interviews, defenders Tseliso Tipanyane and Kwena Ntseva faced a tough time from MPs who questioned their experience, qualifications and vision for the public defender’s office. The candidates were also grilled on several topical issues, including their proximity to politicians and government officials and how they would handle potential conflicts of interest.

Lawyer Tipanyan emphasized his leadership qualities and promised to deal with corruption in the government.

Thipanyane, a former chief executive of the SA Human Rights Commission, said he had the makings of a leader capable of leading such a critical Chapter 9 institution mandated to support and strengthen the country’s constitutional democracy.

He said he is a fit and proper candidate to lead the public defender’s office because he is intelligent, humble, reliable and disciplined.

Tipaniane said:

I think I have these qualities. I have certainly been a servant of society, and my experience indeed shows that I have appreciated the importance of humility. It’s really about vision and the ability to lead.

Advocate Ntsewa – a self-employed lawyer specializing in the legal areas of corporate governance, personal injury, contract, employment, corporate, mining, criminal, family, constitutional and administrative law – describes himself as fair, honest, principled and inclusive.

Lawyer Tommy Ntseva in Parliament

Lawyer Kwena Ntsewa during his interview in Parliament on Wednesday for the position of Public Protector.

He said he would consider every complaint before him equally and without prejudice.

“There will be no small or big case that is important or less important because every complaint that goes to the public protector will be considered the same,” Ntseva said.

He added:

We work in the context of the rule of law, where access to justice should be common for all.

READ: Section 194 inquiry adopts final report recommending Mkhwebane’s permanent removal from office

Both candidates were questioned about their closeness to politicians. Ntseva said he would not let his previous work with politicians influence his decisions as a public protector.

“I’m trained as a lawyer to be able to act honestly, reasonably and fairly. That’s ingrained in my training,” he said.

Ntseva added that he will also ensure that no one in the Office of the Public Protector is involved in party politics.

“As a leader, you have to join forces to focus on the strategic goal of the office you’re dealing with,” he said.

He added:

The strategic objective or vision of the Public Protector is to eradicate corruption, mismanagement and impropriety. And you have to rally all forces around this goal and, unfortunately, those who are unwilling will have to back down to keep the office running smoothly.

The two candidates also spoke about the need to increase funding for the Public Defender’s Office and make it more accessible to citizens.

“The funding of the office is insufficient and needs to be increased,” Ntseva said. “I am calling for the creation of an anti-corruption or good governance fund to fund the institution that would pool resources from various government departments and state-owned enterprises.”

Ntsewa said he would also continue with the road shows undertaken by the office to engage with communities in the work of the public protector.

He said:

People see the Public Defender’s Office as this elite organization, and you have to make sure you can reach out to peripheral and remote areas of the country to make sure the Public Protector has an impact and is accessible to everyone.

Candidate interviews continue, with defenders Oliver Josey and Lynn Marais next on the hot seat.

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