For the past six months Corruption Watch’s public awareness and engagement campaign, Bua Mzansi, has focused on the appointment of a new public protector as the incumbent, Thuli Madonsela, ends her term in office on 19 October 2016.
The Office of the Public Protector is tasked with investigating improper practices at any level of government, and in state-owned enterprises and statutory councils. Thus, it is of utmost importance that the appointee is suitable for the position, capable of acting with the highest integrity, and independent from political, executive and other outside interference.
One of the key activities of the Bua Mzansi campaign was to develop a persona or ideal model of the next public protector, based on public opinion. Between December 2015 and July 2016, Corruption Watch surveyed staff members in the Office of the Public Protector, Members of Parliament, and the general public. In total, 1 221 individuals participated in the public protector persona survey.
The report was written by Gary Pienaar, Kavisha Pillay and David Lewis and has now been released. We intend to use the consolidated results of these three surveys to guide aspects of the appointment process, as well as to facilitate a dialogue on the expectations of the new public protector. This persona will also serve as notice to the next public protector, whoever that is, that his or her performance will come under the close and active scrutiny of the South African people.
The results highlight some significant and notable trends. Firstly, there are clear preferences for the types of qualifications that should be held by an ideal public protector. A total of 66% of respondents indicated that the ideal candidate should be either a judge, or an admitted advocate or attorney who has practised for at least ten years. They ranked these qualifications as ‘most important’.
The ideal set of skills identified by respondents reflects a strong preference for three in particular, namely leadership, analytical and investigative and communication skills.
Respondents were asked to rank the three most important values that the next public protector should hold dear. Given that ethical conduct is a core element of the Office of the Public Protector’s mandate, it is perhaps unsurprising that integrity was resoundingly endorsed. Values of transparency and accountability also scored highly. Consistent with earlier responses, respect for rule of law and independence are beliefs rated highest by respondents.
This persona survey, though it is not wholly representative, can be an example of meaningful public participation in legislative processes. The public have developed a persona of the ideal public protector and will be paying close attention to whether or not Parliament will appoint an individual who meets their criteria.
For more detailed information, download the public protector persona survey.