Brag about Madonsela
Long after Jacob Zuma has vacated the Union Buildings, South Africans looking back at his presidency would probably single out his appointment of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as his greatest contribution to our democracy.
In fact, with ANC branches currently assessing the performance of Zuma and other leaders they voted into office at the 2007 party conference in Polokwane, the president's supporters should be trumpeting the soft-spoken anti-corruption crusader's successes as "evidence" of Zuma's determination to root out graft in government.
Unlike her predecessors - Selby Baqwa and Lawrence Mushwana - Madonsela has demonstrated fierce independence in carrying out her constitutional duties.
In its 16-year history, the public protector's office has never enjoyed as much public confidence as it has under Madonsela.
Before she took over, the office was largely viewed by opposition parties, the media and the general populace as little more than an appendage of the ANC.
Instead of fulfilling its constitutional duty to protect the public from those who abuse power, some argued, the office was there to absolve politically-connected individuals caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
When Zuma named Madonsela as Mushwana's successor, commentators wrongly assumed she would be Luthuli House's lapdog.
She was from one of those struggle-aligned lawyers associations, wasn't she?
Wasn't she one of those professional cadres the ANC "deployed" to help draft the 1996 Constitution?
Didn't she work for the Justice Department?
Then surely, like her predecessors, she had been put there to toe the party line, sceptics argued.
But now, after her investigations led to the dismissals of wayward ANC bigwigs like former cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka, former public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and former national police commissioner Bheki Cele, no one can still accuse Zuma of having hired a lackey.
In fact, one of her first published findings was against Zuma himself after he failed to declare his private interests to parliament as required by law.
Instead of the ruling party hailing her as one of the Zuma presidency's successes, she is increasingly being viewed as an irritation - a cadre deployment that went horribly wrong .
While Luthuli House continues to issue public statements welcoming her findings and professing the ruling party's support for her office, there are murmurs of discontent with some even privately questioning the motives of those who advised Zuma to give Madonsela the post.
She likes playing to the public gallery too much, her ANC critics say, and, in the process, is playing into the hands of the opposition.
There are those who have gone as far as to accuse her of being in cahoots with the opposition and other "counter-revolutionary" forces supposedly hellbent on selectively using constitutional provisions to undermine the "national democratic revolution".
Of course, her accusers have no evidence to back their claim, hence their reluctance to go public.
So it must have been a big "gotcha" moment for her detractors when Madonsela appeared on television addressing a DA gathering on Women's Day.
ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga wasted no time in slamming her for potentially compromising the impartiality and independence of her office through her decision to attend the function.
"Attending and giving keynote addresses at political events of political parties has the potential to compromise basic constitutional principles," said Motshekga.
"With the perceptions of the public protector's closeness to the party, members of the public will be justified to ask how she will in future treat complaints against the administration," he said.
But Madonsela defended her decision to speak at the DA event, saying it was in line with her constitutional duty to be accessible to the public.
"We meant to convey a message that we do not care who you are affiliated to, you will get our service because you are citizens and residents of South Africa," she said on Monday.
But given how politicised her role has become - with both the ANC and the DA often using her findings to score political points against each other - perhaps it was ill-considered for her to attend and address such an openly party political event.
Over the past three years in office, Madonsela has done much to imbue the public with confidence in her apparent lack of political bias and fidelity to the rule of law.
She should not undermine all her hard work by taking part in events that may create public perceptions that she has aligned herself with the opposition.