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Pan Macmillan

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Thuli Madonsela Talks to The New York Times About the Nkandla Report: “The Saddest Moment of My Career”

InspiredThuli Madonsela, as Public Protector, is an important guardian of South African democracy. For this reason, she is one of the people profiled in Inspired: Remarkable South Africans Share their Stories.

Marc Shoul recently wrote an article about Madonsela for The New York Times. In it, he details the Public Protector’s investigation of security upgrades and renovations to President Jacob Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla.

The report was monumentally weighty, in terms of investigation work required, actual bulk, and its potential impact on South African society. In the article, Madonsela says that although she knew her report was just, she was anxious about her presentation and how it would be received.

The vitriolic backlash from the report has been serious. About being accused of being a CIA agent by Kebby Maphatsoe, Madonsela says: “It was the saddest moment of my career. That is the ANC that I grew up loving.”

Read the article:

Madonsela was appointed South Africa’s public protector by Zuma himself in 2009 and is used to controversy. Many of the thousands of cases her office handles each year are resolved through mediation, but about a fifth are “very difficult” cases, including the investigation she is now conducting into the possible diversion of funds meant for Nelson Mandela’s funeral. None, however, have been as divisive as her investigation of Zuma.

After Madonsela released the Nkandla report, she was accused of acting as a covert agent for the Central Intelligence Agency; carrying out an agenda on behalf of the mostly white opposition Democratic Alliance party; acting as she if were God; being racist toward A.N.C. voters; and overreaching her office’s powers. The Congress of South African Students, an anti-­apartheid black student organization, said her nose was ugly (it later retracted the statement). Her staff tried to hide the hate-­spewing anonymous letters that arrived from around the country. She could ignore most of the vitriol, she said, except for the accusation that she was a C.I.A. agent, made by the deputy minister of defense, Kebby Maphatsoe. “I was sad that people would stoop that low,” she said, shaking her head. “It was the saddest moment of my career. That is the A.N.C. that I grew up loving.”

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