Recently appointed Deputy Public Protector Advocate Kevin Malunga was welcomed to his new job at a function addressed by Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Andries Nel, and Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela on Thursday night in Pretoria.
The event also sought to introduce Advocate Malunga to key Public Protector South Africa stakeholders, including the Executive, Judiciary, Legislature, Diplomatic corps, Chapter Nine institutions and bodies from the integrity sector.
Delivering the keynote address at the event, Deputy Minister Nel quoted from a number of documents, including the first certification judgement of the Constitutional Court declining to certify the draft text of the interim constitution.
The judgement as quoted by the Deputy Minister noted that: "The independence and impartiality of the Public Protector will be vital to ensuring effective, accountable and responsible government. The Office inherently entails investigation of sensitive and potentially embarrassing affairs of government. It is our view that the provisions governing removal of the Public Protector from office do not meet the standard demanded by Constitutional Principle XXIX."
He also quoted former President Nelson Mandela on the thinking behind the establishment of the Public Protector as well as the ruling party's earlier policy considerations, leading to the establishment of the Public Protector.
Articulating the constitutional mandate of the Public Protector, the Deputy Minister told guests that he was not only bringing up such matters for Advocate Malunga's benefit but also to indicate that the country's Constitution and the institutions established by it were the product of a long history of careful policy development.
He told the house that Advocate Malunga had been appointed after 253 members of the National Assembly unanimously agreed to support the adoption of a report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, which recommended him for appointment.
Noting Advocate Malunga's impressive profile as a lawyer, including his academic achievements, the Deputy Minister remarked: "Reading his curriculum vitae, it is not difficult to identify the source of this consensus."
Welcoming her second-in-command, Advocate Madonsela, invited him to use the wealth of knowledge and experience he has acquired over the years as a lawyer and academic to contribute to the debate on the interpretation of the constitutional mandate of the office.
She said unlike Commissions that had a Chairperson and Commissioners, the Public Protector was a personalised jurisdiction in that it was both an institution and a person. This was not unique to the institution as the same applied to the Auditor General and institutions of the Ombudsman globally, where the Ombudsman was both the office and the individual.
The Public Protector added that, though investigation work was a team effort, the resultant decisions were hers alone not only because she is the Executive Authority but also because she needed to be able to defend them when taken on review by aggrieved respondents.
She informed the gathering that, as was the case with the previous Deputy Public Protector, she would delegate the Early Resolution Branch to Advocate Malunga immediately while she was still considering other possible delegations. The Public Protector invited her deputy to approach her on any matters that he might be wanted to discuss with her and not keep quiet until it was too late.
She also used the opportunity to give a comprehensive outline on the nature of the Public Protector as a personalised jurisdiction, the mandate, vision, mission, core principles, values as well as the purpose and approach of the institution.
In response, Advocate Kevin Malunga said he was "fired up" and ready to make a meaningful contribution towards helping his new office live up to its core responsibility of strengthening South Africa's constitutional democracy.
"I am fired up ... I am humbled and honoured to join an organisation that is enjoying unprecedented public confidence. I would like to assure the Public Protector that I am here to walk this journey with her," he said.
Advocate Malunga noted that he was joining the office at the time when there appeared to be unhappiness and simmering tensions over perceptions of maladministration, corruption and bad governance in the public domain.
This, he said, was seen in, among other things, the tragic deaths of more than 40 people in Marikana near Rustenburg following a violent wild cat strike at the Lonmin Mine, an incident that became the subject of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry for which he was the spokesperson.
"That pain is part of a symptom of what needs to be corrected," Advocate Malunga said, adding that his coming into the ranks of the Public Protector South Africa was about supporting the country's democracy by defending its Constitution.
"Ours is not to tinker, question or tamper with this document (the Constitution) but to defend it. We find ourselves at an uncomfortable crossroads, where vigilance and fidelity to our constitutional values has never been more critical."
Advocate Malunga further affirmed the constitutional mandate of the Public Protector, saying that it was critical that no organ of state or person may interfere with the institution's functioning.