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.