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Mon Dec 05 18:36:30 CAT 2016

SA desperately needs another Thuli Madonsela

The Times Editorial | 2016-03-29 00:26:27.0

The ANC sidestepped a potentially humiliating defeat in the National Assembly earlier this month when, after a year of trying, it withdrew

its third attempt to have former MP Cecil Burgess appointed to the crucial post of inspector-general of intelligence.

Burgess, who is regarded by the opposition as an intelligence hawk, played a key role in pushing "the secrecy bill'' through parliament.

Normally, the ruling party is able to use its simple majority in parliament to rubber-stamp appointments. But, in this instance, because of the vital civilian oversight role performed by the inspector-general, a two-thirds majority was required, forcing the ANC to attempt to solicit the support of opposition parties.

Now that Burgess is no longer in the running the ruling party will probably have to choose a candidate who is at least acceptable to the opposition.

This can only be good for our democracy, particularly in light of allegations that sections of our intelligence services have been manipulated to protect President Jacob Zuma, and that state agents have spied on certain non-government organisations.

There is a fair amount of urgency about the appointment too - the country has been without an intelligence watchdog since Faith Radebe's term ended in March last year.

Later this year, ANC MPs will be faced with an even more important dilemma: whom to nominate to replace Thuli Madonsela, whose seven-year term as public protector expires in October. This time around, the nominee would require the support of only 60% of MPs.

It might be tempting for some ruling party MPs, whose leaders have found themselves at the wrong end of Madonsela's rulings, to support a more malleable individual.

That would be a disastrous mistake. If anything, the ANC should be boasting about the extraordinary integrity and courage of Madonsela, who has done her job without fear or favour, even when her findings reflected extremely poorly on the president.

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