South Africa’s deputy defense minister has accused her of being a spy for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). There’s a contract on her on her life by a Western Cape gang that she’s taking seriously, and she has been forced to investigate her boss — the person who hired her, President Jacob Zuma.
It’s almost a relief that Oct. 15 is the end of Thuli Madonsela’s seven-year term as South Africa’s public protector.
A search for her replacement is underway, with at least 60 percent backing needed by Members of Parliament in the National Assembly before the president confirms her appointment, according to Eyewitness News.
As a human rights lawyer, Madonsela helped shape the new South Africa in the post-apartheid era. She was one of the 11 technical experts who helped the Constitutional Assembly draft the country’s final constitution in 1994 and 1995, according to an earlier AFKInsider report.
As public defender, Madonsela’s job falls somewhere between a government watchdog and a public prosecutor, New York Times reports. Most of the reports her office releases concern low-level government corruption, but the ones that get the most attention are her investigations into Zuma.
Three months after Zuma was first elected in May 2009, he used state funds to renovate his private residence near the rural town Nkandla in KwaZuluNatal. An investigation into abuse of public funds resulted in Zuma paying back $543,000 after being ordered to do so by the Constitutional Court, Newsweek reported.
Accusations in 2015 that Madonsela was a CIA operative have been made afresh now that she is investigating Zuma again — this time for being unduly influenced by the Gupta family.
The Guptas, an Indian business family with close ties to Zuma, allegedly exerted political influence over him — something called state capture.
The office of public protector is an independent institution tasked with investigating misconduct in state affairs. For doing her job, Madonsela has been criticized by prominent members of the governing African National Congress including Collen Maine, president of the ANC Youth League.
Maine accused Madonsela of being a CIA agent and a “stooge of white monopoly capital” for initiating a probe, Newsweek reported.
Madonsela said she had no choice but to begin the most recent Zuma investigation after Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, filed a complaint under the Executive Members’ Ethics Act. That triggered the investigation and the public protector has to investigate under such circumstances, she said.
Madonsela said she’s making progress in the investigation into state capture and the president is cooperating. She plans to release a report before her term ends, according to Business Day Live.
Allegations that Madonsela was a spy first came up in 2015 and were raised again by the ANC Youth League following its national executive committee meeting over the weekend, Times Live reported.
This week, Madonsela has been accused of being sympathetic to Israel.
Times Live reported that Madonsela said in a Sept. 26 tweet, “During @PublicProtector#MediaBriefing tomorrow we’ll expose, among others #theliesbehind the hysteria over my supposed support for Israel.”
“That appeared to be a reference to a statement from ‘Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa’ in which it said it ‘is shocked that…Madonsela participated in a fundraising event on the 21st of September 2016 with the Israel United Appeal-United Communal Fund,” Times Live reported.
ANC member Pedron Nndwa filed a police report on Sept. 18 alleging that Madonsela is a U.S. spy, the Sowetan reported.
Youth league spokesman Mlondi Mkhize said Madonsela hasn’t refuted claims that she enjoys close relations with the U.S. intelligence. “In Zulu we say ‘ukuthula ukuvuma’, meaning to be silent is to confirm the allegations,” he said, according to the Sowetan.
At a press conference Tuesday in Pretoria, Madonsela said that the attacks and “schizophrenia” aimed at her was designed to distract her from her work. “For goodness sake, people, calm down. Let us not be in childish games,” Madonsela said, according to Business Day Live.
“We will not be distracted,” she said, promising to continue to act without fear or favor. “If you don’t do anything wrong then the report will vindicate you.”
Madonsela’s office received a text message in April alerting her to a murder plot against her by a prominent Western Cape gang, Eyewitness News reported in May. The informant said her murder would be made to look like she died of natural causes, not in a car accident.
A tip said a gang boss was paid 740,000 rand (about $60,000) to orchestrate the murder.
Madonsela was appointed South Africa’s public protector in 2009 and is used to controversy, according to New York Times. Many of the thousands of cases her office handles each year are resolved through mediation. None has been as divisive as her investigation of Zuma.
In addition to U.S. spy accusations, she has been accused of working for the opposition Democratic Alliance party; acting like she was God; being racist toward the ANC and abusing her power.
She can ignore most of it, she said, but the accusation by the deputy defense minister that she was a CIA spy really got to her. It “was the saddest moment of my career,” she said, according to NYTimes. “That is the A.N.C. that I grew up loving.”