The Public Protector is a Constitutionally established office, but a political appointment in terms of the Public Protector Act. The role of the PP is to investigate complaints against the State and State-run institutions. The Act describes the scope to include investigations into maladministration, abuse of power and dishonesty. Despite the fact that she is appointed by the President, she is required to exercise her functions independently of any external influence. She has the status of a High Court judge.
The challenge for any Public Protector is to deal with complaints against organs, officials and Ministers of State fairly, transparently and without fear or favour. It is a bit like being appointed by the CEO of a large company as a type of internal Ombudsman and then having to investigate complaints against the CEO without feeling fearful, allowing yourself to be intimidated and maintaining your independence, despite the fact that you might have to make findings adverse to the person who employs and pays you.
Advocate Thuli Madonsela has worked tirelessly during her term of office to investigate and expose corruption, bungling, fruitless expenditure, fraud, rigged tenders, abuse of power and every other ugly aspect of South African bureaucracy. She has brought down a number of Ministers and other people in high government office. Her biggest, or perhaps most high profile task has been to investigate and report upon the web of lies, deceit, corruption, disingenuous-ness, sycofancy, opulence and wasting of public funds which together make up the sorry tale which is #PresidentZuma's extravagant homestead at Nkandla. Few public officials in this type of role have the opportunity or obligation to investigate complaints against #1.
In the face of extraordinary resistance from all the President's men, unwarranted abuse and mockery from the #ANC, obstructive behaviour, disingenuous competing investigative bodies comprising those most implicated in the scandal, threats, intimidation, public criticism, defiance and contempt from Ministers and #JacobZuma himself, the Public Protector has gone about her work quietly, courageously, impeccably, transparently, fairly and with her integrity intact at all times. Any lesser person would have bowed to the pressure, but Thuli Madonsela has a job to do, and she does it well. She has uncovered Nkandla for what it is: a scandal that would have brought down the President of any other country which shows any respect for the Rule of Law.
Save for those who are exposed from time to time by her work, she has the support and admiration of most South Africans, including this one, and has influenced the thinking of the country and the world about the state of South African politics.
What does it take to be influential? It seems to me that the qualities required include unwavering commitment to the task at hand, a ruthless quest for the truth, a willingness to dig into the deepest reserves of courage and above all an unfaltering engagement with one's personal integrity.
#ThuliMadonsela, you rock!