Shortlisting the five candidates for the job as South Africa’s new Public Protector is serious business.
But on Thursday the lively banter between the chairperson of Parliament’s ad hoc committee tasked with finding a new Public Protector, Dr Makhosi Khoza, and EFF MP Floyd Shivambu at times provided quite the sideshow.
The ever cool and composed Khoza seamlessly manoeuvred between keeping MPs at bay and almost motherly chiding Shivambu, who just could not resist playing the wayward child.
“You know honourable Shivambu, you have such a fine brain. But when you get angry, you lose it!” Khoza sternly told him.
“I’m not getting angry!” Shivambu replied with a smile.
The pair had been arguing over the merits of Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh’s bid to become the new Public Protector. This after Shivambu accused the SA Litigation Centre, where Ramjathan-Keogh is director, of being funded by US state security, which “supported bin Laden, but then killed him”.
A touch of revolutionary flair
The meeting itself was livened up by chairperson Khoza’s colourful personality throughout.
Khoza made it clear at the start she was not keen to spend another marathon 18 hours cutting the last 14 candidates down to five.
Fighter Shivambu added his revolutionary flair to the proceedings, saying early on that the State Security Agency’s letter vetting all 14 candidates “must fall”.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach had called the letter “shocking” and “shoddy”, and said it should be ignored when considering the candidates.
From then on, “must fall” became the go to phrase for whether a candidate would stay on the shortlist or be removed, to the point where chairperson Khoza had to intervene.
“Wait, we cannot say that. You are influencing me,” she eventually said, smiling.
“I cannot allow MPs to continue saying candidates must fall. It’s not appropriate as the chair.”
Hint of tenderness
At one point, Khoza even suggested DA MP Phumzile van Damme and ANC MP Dr Patrick Maesela take an argument they were having over “value judgments” outside, as it was evolving into a personal tiff.
Shivambu then switched to “caring mode” in attempting to dismiss those candidates he deemed unworthy to be on the list.
“We should let Mr [Bongani] Majola continue to teach post-1994 law at Wits law school, so he can learn what happened to black people during apartheid,” he said.
He accused Majola of being neutral during the anti-apartheid struggle, while most other black people were criminalised.
On Judge Siraj Desai, Shivambu said: “Let’s save the judiciary by not stealing one of South Africa’s best judges. Let him continue to serve on the bench.”
He eventually agreed to both Majola and Desai’s names being included on the list for further debate.
Judge Sharise Weiner, Judge Siraj Desai, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Muvhango Lukhaimane and Bongani Majola all made it through to the next round of deliberations.
The nine candidates who failed to make the final shortlist were: Adv Kevin Malunga, Jill Oliphant, Adv Mamiki Goodman, Adv Michael Mthembu, Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller, Adv Nonkosi Cetywayo, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, Willie Hofmeyr and Adv Chris Mokoditwa.
The parliamentary ad-hoc committee will meet again on Wednesday next week to debate and present the one candidate it will put before the National Assembly. But the last word still went to Khoza.
After announcing that Majola was on the list, she told Shivambu with a cheeky grin: “That’s the list, sorry!”