Did Adv.Madonsela redefine the office of the public protector with a political presence?

The public protector office is a chapter 9 institution assigned with a clear mandate and custodian role.  Advocate Madonsela is out 3rd Public Protector following in the footsteps of advocate Selby Baqwa and Lawrence Mushwana . In a sense Madonsela has broken barriers, firstly she broke the false glass ceiling of male dominance as she became the first female public protector.
Secondly she gave the public protector office a visibility second to none, from the known obscurity of her predecessors.
Thirdly Madonsela in her office proved more prone to court controversy at times by default and at times by design.
Her work notwithstanding various nuanced suspicions and critique remains admirable and it must be celebrated as another milestone in the SA march to entrenching democracy.
Yet her work stands in the shadow of the person Thuli Madonsela. Listening to Madonsela at any point and time in interviews he refers easily and conclusively to her work less in team embrace but in first person reference. In which she is the public protector almost distinct from the office.
It appears there is a dialectical tension in personality and role that often almost naturally ventilate in political context and definition rendering the subject of suspicion at least in ideological sense.
I must hasten to add, that it is expected that her work will attract controversy and at times stir the ire of many. So one need not constrict  critique only in dominance of courted controversy as that which is immanent in political organizations. I think that is a given though I think she brings by who she is in personality another component that fuels this critique and maybe the latter is what she risk remaining remembered for after her term expires.
It appears she comfortably and at times deliberately eclipsing her Public protector office in personality. This potentially renders her as arrogant and almost out of control in presence of mind that dictates her a law unto herself less from chapter 9 institution definition but again emanating from the persona.
Madonsela involuntarily compels us all to ask the question we never had to ask from her predecessors, that being what must take presedence the person or the office?  Equally is the person the office or is the office the person?
All public protectors share in a term based appointment thus the issue is can we afford this conflation of personality and office as a blue- print for future public protectors.
Will the next PP have to maintain this personality focus office or heighten the more sensible OFFICE focus !
What cannot be denied, is that Thuli Madonsela has redefined the office of the PP if not revolutionized for wrong or right reasons depending where and how you look at it.
I shall venture to say, some of the courted controversy has a semblance of defiance mixed with a need to be anti-establishment in which the pervasive view of objectivity is measured essentially in diametric opposition.
We must as earlier warned guard against the conflation of personality and office for these institutions in which we are all susceptible to make our preferences, convictions, political persuasions count.
Again this assessment is less on a case by case adjudication of what she presided over. That is a debate for another day.
Could her style bespeak a misinterpretation  for independence defined in claimed objectivity immanent in opposition to what is termed establishment?
Thuli runs the risk  of being defined a victim of her own conflation of who she think she is and the office she holds.
 This is precarious for a blue print of a future PP context. We must guard against the persona as the axis for justice, when the office is to naturally assume that space.
This is asking the fundamentally did Madonsela redefine the PP office and if so how equally was it done? For me Madonsela  has either wrongly or rightly redefined the office, I think more wrongly than rightly.

Making sense of Richard Calland’s comment on Zuma!

 – Is there a point when the words of your source define you 

At what point does the untested words of a source become yours, is it when you already have concluded in selection of source, the outcome of your draped academic opinion, is it possible that for some it is called research?

Let me in the beginning qualify what this note is not, it is not a note in defence of Zuma or in castigation of Mbeki. That neither in genesis nor in conclusion ensembles the focus of this note. It is rather my contention that both the aforementioned presidents of the ANC and SA are drawn into an unnecessary lame comparison essentially informed by a secret source that serves as the primary and solitary premise of the learned Calland’s opinion. This article therefore attempts a dissecting of Calland’s response in clarification as captured in the Sunday Times of September 29,2013.

Richard Calland, professor of public law at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in this season has taken the liberty (which is his right) to share with us his interpretation of what he terms the Zuma Years as it relates to the changing face of SA – Governance.

What got everyone reporting, commenting, and responding is the conclusive view he shares that Zuma simply don’t read! Yet whilst stating this he in his most recent clarification denies coining the specific set of words as ascribed to the sitting president, thus abdicating responsibility for its presence in this our current discourse. Calland nakedly chooses to hide behind a faceless long-standing cabinet member as the one responsible for the words ‘ ZUMA doesn’t read”. In journalistic terms, the cabinet minister is Calland’s secret source.

Whilst Calland may argue that he is not to blame for the view, he is unconsciously blind to the fact that he made the words popular with the launching of his latest literary work. He shares the views of the faceless, unknown longstanding cabinet member who clearly shares his/ her experience and preference because they had the pleasure of serving both Mbeki and Zuma.

Calland goes on and explains what the cabinet minister was referring to, namely the way in which Zuma plays his role as chairman of the cabinet, because he does not read cabinet documents or briefs that are prepared by the cabinet secretariat, at least not in great detail. Rendering Zuma in accordance to rely heavily on his instincts.

Calland’s error here is that he premises his stance on what is purely hearsay, citing one source and gives  the source’s opinion a sacrosanct presence as fact, if not truth. Is it possible that the research project is already cooked with the selection of the sample group?

Calland further in quoting his favourite (secret) cabinet minister argues, this behaviour on the part of the President has significantly altered the president and his cabinet. This whilst purportedly a mouthful, is not entertained by Calland as professional academic but rather reported in juicy journalistic fashion, you would have expected an intellectual to dissect the commentary of this one cabinet minister and to apply methodology to assess the subjectivity and or objectivity of the opinions in order to arrive at a balanced opinion.

What Calland is guilty of is often labelled as a form of gutter journalism, he has a source who shared with him this information the source is a longstanding cabinet minister who can’t be named for fear of reprisal, we must suppose? Perhaps the obvious question Calland should have asked the cabinet minister is why are you serving this cabinet if you are in such turmoil and critique of the present as the opposite of the former. 

Professor Calland deliberately sees no need to do that for it may alter the research project. In research, one may aim to eliminate the variables, for it is necessary if the outcome is already predetermined. Asking a question as directly as the above to the cabinet minister, would potentially prove a variable that may compromise the research findings and ultimately the project. It this not potential manipulation on the part of the learned professor?

Calland asserts in citation of the cabinet minister, that Zuma’s personality, leadership style, and inability to lead on issues of substance have changed the nature of the Presidency and the cabinet. He has other qualities, but attention to policy detail is not one of them.

Again, why does Calland not engage the subjects of personality, leadership, style, and inability in a scientific sense against the backdrop of presidential governance? Why does he as an academic not challenge the cabinet minister’s paradigm of these constructs? In fact, from where the synergistic  and natural congruence of thought on the subjects / constructs raised shared between the astute academic and the cabinet minister? He for no apparent defensible reason considers the cabinet minister’s word as final, allowing him/her to escape the prowess of his astute research mind. Why would Calland do that?

Calland for once don’t quote his cabinet minister when he finally speaks in his own voice, and critiques the current administration in what he refers to as ‘structural changes  in the presidency have diminished the power of the president to lead the government  – certainly from a policy making and implementation perspective’. He cites the closure of the policy coordination and advisory services, the advisory structure that served Mbeki so well, was one of the first casualties of Zuma administration and substantially weakened the Presidency as an institution – notwithstanding the establishment of the admirable Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and semidetached National Planning Commission. 

He bemoans and categorically states for fact that the policy coordination and advisory services was the Mbeki administration’s intellectual heart, its closure according to Calland left a void that has not been filled. This statement is again advanced as a matter of fact, whilst we still not entrusted with the corroborating evidence devoid of mere armchair dictate.

Calland’s, citing of structural changes in the presidency that have diminished the power of the presidency to lead, is worth unpacking. Firstly, he assumes the structure of the presidency as it was under Mbeki was the ideal, the learned Calland remains conspicuously membrane thin on this conclusion of bestowing a form of exceptionalism on Mbeki. The same he equally jibes at about freak controlling issues. One does not know who the source is of this conclusion perhaps another or the same cabinet minister.

He leads us up a romantic pathway to believe that the former structure was the ideal. He remains vacuous as to the reasons for considering it ideal, we still do not know why it was the ideal, for who it was the ideal, against what did it stand as the ideal or what is this ideal, that it warranted no change. Off course, it is acceptable and hoped for that new administrations would appreciate what works from a previous era and built on that.

Yet structures often are created and shaped by individuals. This means the individual’s passion, appetite, motive, or personality is served through the particular structure and the structure serves the particular passion, appetite, motive, or personality, with its positives and negatives. This is not unique to one individual but can easily be concluded of all of us.

An objective analyst would appreciate the prevalence of structure in political governance context as that which speaks to a number of factors. Why is Calland not dealing with this in objectivity and why is he somewhat cynically oblivious of the reality of structure in presidential governance. Calland cannot escape his personal veneration of the one-dimensional definition of intellect when he romanticizes in declaring the policy coordination and advisory services the intellectual heart of Mbeki’s administration.

In a  belated attempt at sobering from his inebriated state of a worship of a one-dimensional intellectualism immanent in a policy services unit, he seems forced to acknowledge Zuma’s unique contribution in the establishment of department of Monitoring and Evaluation.

Thus, he dovetails his cry for a lost ‘intellectual heart’ in presidency when he talks of the establishment of what he deems an admirable Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and semidetached National Planning Commission. 

Calland does not tell us why the PME of Zuma is admirable, he does not quantify any of this, except to glibly remark this for any true stopover on the subject matter may prove a proverbial spanner in the wheel for what was already concluded. Is it possible that if the presence of the PME is truly dissected the very policy formulation in implementation conundrum is being dealt with though not in its entirety but in major steps towards letting the adored policy live in praxis?

At another level, Calland does not ask why the Mbeki Administration did not see the need for a Performance Monitoring & Evaluation department. He conveniently does not engage or express an opinion whether such a solid policy formulation and implementation context the same he celebrates in ‘intellectual heart’ warranted a PME unit or not.

An objective mind would have assessed this in a comparative and didactic sense and opined as to how weak if at all a Mbeki administration proved for lacking foresight in not having the presence of this necessary PME unit. Citing this here in no sense casting any aspersion on Mbeki, the subject is Calland’s porous interpretation and conclusion in agreement with his beloved cabinet minister ‘ZUMA DON’T READ’


Calland concludes with a sense of emotional  cry with ‘ Mbeki’s presidency, as well as his style and aptitude, kept everyone very much on their  toes. He dominated his cabinets ‘

Calland quotes we have to surmise again his cabinet minister in saying ‘ JZ will look at the minister and say, so when will that happen? When can I come to you and see that you have achieved what you say you are wanting to achieve?’

The cabinet minister while entitled to his opinion and preference is not my focus. The learned Richard Calland again refuses to live up in academic astuteness to ask the cabinet minister in objectivity of mind a simple question. Is Zuma’s approach in asking these questions of his cabinet not the correct approach – or have we not dealt for too long with policy formulation until SA is known for its policies but remains weak in making these policies stand in praxis?

Is it not incumbent of Calland to attempt differentiating the leadership from a scientific and less from the colloquial   hearsay and ‘style’ claim. Is it not possible to appreciate Zuma for the leader he is who appoints leaders that must find solutions and not just identifying problems. Equally, to put their proverbial necks on the line for what they believe, as solutions.

Is it not possible that Zuma has enough intellect to appreciate his personal weaknesses and thus find people to do what he believes is the mandate of his presidency. He therefore entrust them to lead their ministries and departments in which he hold them accountable to what they say as leaders?

Calland does not see the need to challenge the cabinet minister to what could easily be a proverbial form of spoon-feed, fear based personality inspired leadership the same he insinuates Mbeki was known for. Again, there is no evidence to prove Mbeki was this dictator as is often ventilated as fact, thus again, Calland fails to honour the rules of academia when he regurgitates the opinions of some that cannot be tested. Why is  it necessary for a learned and decorated academic to prove this lazy in resorting to grapevine research and to decorate this in academic research?

Calland simply cannot afford Zuma and independence of mind and intellect as someone who potentially regard ministers as adults more so colleagues who must serve and deliver as part of the executive in fulfilling the mandate of governance. It surprised me that the academic see no need to engage or entertain this notion of leadership, or is the prism of intellectual capacity in academic credentials (the tired old song) the natural context for leadership definition? Alternatively, is leadership synonymous with intellect as defined in a myopic sense of reading? Calland must tell us what intellectualism is and why it is not present in this epoch of presidential leadership.

It appears for Calland to prove what he already concluded in assertion (Zuma don’t read) as expected would need a soundboard or yardstick. Note I consciously attribute this conclusive (bereft in professional research) assertion to Calland. My departure point for this remains though he categorically quotes verbatim a long standing cabinet minister, these words are Richard Calland’s words for he embraces, it he defends, he clarifies it and proves selective in engaging with the proverbial variables associated with this conclusion.

His claim of a non-reading Zuma is made evident in a maximum symbol of Mbeki as predecessor of Zuma. In typical freedom of ‘intellectual –licence’ and mind he advances Mbeki as the reader even to the point of having read too much thus imbuing a sense of fear or intimidation in his cabinet and those who served his administration. This conclusive view as expressed by the learned Calland, presents a number of challenges. Does the munificence of one dimensional intellectualism afford Calland this behaviour.

In summary :

Firstly, Calland must still scientifically explain this conclusion, for we need to know on what devoid of the hearsay of a cabinet minister (his primary sample in research terms) and claim of maximum symbol of an Mbeki it is raised.

Secondly, Calland blunders in that he narrowly in snapshot analysis dictate remains a trapped mind hostage in convenience of comparison. He does not tell us if Nelson Mandela read, and thus how his reading or non-reading influenced his leadership in comparison to an Mbeki. Against what criteria was Mbeki assessed if Zuma is done with his predecessor as maximum symbol.

He therefore  deliberately does not share the trajectory of presidential leadership from the advent of our democracy to give a substantive canvas yet he unilaterally appropriates  the cabinet minister’s opinion in garments of fact and ultimately truth. It would have helped to hear how different a Mandela was to an Mbeki certainly, there is at least one cabinet member Trevor Manual who could have helped the issue of cabinet leadership & management as explained by Calland. After all Trevor Manual served all three presidents.

He deliberately quotes a cabinet minister to keep his entire theory in a Zuma and Mbeki paradigm. The danger with this is that he becomes susceptible for accusations of proving choosey only because he already had concluded what he has to defend in research. Therefore, the typical sample appears twigged, because you already have your answer and just need to find a way to defend it.

Thirdly, Calland simply cannot rise above his personal obsession with a president of intellectual substance defined in his constricted pangaea of what intellectualism means and which he proverbially violates in casting it in a unilateral mould policy formulation and engagement. I can forgive Calland as I have told another friend who is a foreign affairs specialist for having enjoyed Mbeki, only because he shared a common pet subject and area of interest.

Often the sterling work done in the current DIRCO context of international relations in the Zuma era is scoffed at only because some want to see an Mbeki who had a special affinity, finesse, appreciation and gifting for such and thus shone his brilliance in it. Yet presidents are not just about international affairs policy and diplomacy. Barack Obama is the typical example is he is generally abhorred in the foreign world but remains a domestic success for where it concerns real and superficial American interests. In fact I fail to appreciate that DIRCO talks so little about its success in this epoch.

Calland’s last blunder is his subliminal attempted dictate though in question as to how one organisation could elect so opposing leaders in subsequence. He cast these into what he terms the ‘philosopher king and anti-intellectual’ paradigms. Calland negates the history of the African National Congress in election of its leaders as mirrored in all twelve presidents.

He proves a victim of snapshot analysis when he remains trapped in the 11th president of the ANC as the defining one, he fails to appreciate that the ANC has always elected leaders for their unique contributions and have not chosen leaders equal to their predecessors in sense of uniformity. He fails to accept or even attempt to research the previous ANC elections to appreciate its presidents. the African National Congress.

At the risk of stretching it, is Calland not trying to dictate to the ANC who and what it must elect. If he is attempting such dictate, from what arrogated towers and predicated on what  intellectual mind?

In conclusion, Calland has not told us what Zuma don’t read and what he reads. He has not explained the success of this presidency for appointing a cabinet that delivers the very policies of Mbeki’s Administration.

In the end, Calland has contributed nothing new to the discourse of political leadership he has said little from an objective mind. He has in my assessment fallen victim to the very defects of research when he violates the basic research rules, only because he chose his sample, he minimised the variables, and thus twigged the outcome to favour what he already concluded, ‘Zuma doesn’t read’.

Maybe it can be asked if Richard Calland is reading, or does he read not enough of what Zuma really is doing in SA Governance. Sometimes sentiment can even blur the sight of the very ‘intellectuals’, some of us have always known that intellectuals have blind spots, that often makes them look ‘dof’ only because they are human.

I shall ask again at what point does the untested words or opinion of one source become yours, is it perhaps when you already have concluded upfront to agree in the selection of your source, for some its called research. Our public intellectuals again claiming the high towers of public discourse exemplified in intellect to dictate who read and does not read


Clyde N.S Ramalaine