The ANC’s preferred candidate for Deputy Public Protector, advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, shouldn’t be “crucified” because she worked for former minister Malusi Gigaba, who lied under oath, and Menzi Simelane, an ANC MP said after strong criticism from the DA and EFF.
The ANC nominated former finance minister Gigaba’s former legal advisor Gcaleka for Deputy Public Protector despite opposition MPs questioning her integrity and suitability for the job.
ANC MPs on the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services said they were impressed with the way she handled her interview earlier this month, and that she has a track record of investigations and legal expertise.
The DA and EFF, however, were not impressed at all.
But with its majority, the ANC contingent ensured that “comrade… I meant to say, advocate Gcaleka”, as ANC MP Nomathemba Maseko-Jele referred to her, will be presented to the National Assembly as the committee’s nomination to fill the post of Deputy Public Protector.
“Brilliant,” DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said with a snigger after Maseko-Jele’s Freudian slip.
Gcaleka is currently the legal adviser for Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu. She is a former senior prosecutor at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and legal adviser to Gigaba while he was the minister of home affairs and finance.
During her time at the NPA, as chairperson of the Society of Advocates at 2010, she gave her “unequivocal support” to the then-National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Menzi Simelane.
Simelane, whose appointment by former president Jacob Zuma was found to have been invalid by the Constitutional Court, removed experienced former prosecutor Gerrie Nel from the Glenn Agliotti case and appointed Gcaleka to the prosecuting team.
When she was interviewed on November 13, she told the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services it was the only high-profile case she prosecuted where there was an acquittal, adding she was not the lead prosecutor on the case.
She was also a prosecutor on the case against Richard Mdluli. During her interview, Gcaleka said she was against the NPA’s decision to drop the murder charges against Mdluli, and it was “fortunate” that Freedom Under Law had won a court decision that the case be reinstated.
She was Gigaba’s legal adviser when he lost the Fireblade Aviation case in which the court found he had lied.
She said during the interview the case was initiated before she was appointed and had no knowledge of the factual basis of the case. ANC whip in the committee Hishaam Mohamed said they support the nomination of Gcaleka.
He said she made a good impression during the interview and has experience running investigations.
“We’re not talking politics here, purely merit,” he said.
He said she was clearly the candidate that was “way ahead” of the others.
Breytenbach said were it not for the urgency of making an appointment – incumbent Kevin Malunga’s term comes to an end in December – she would have suggested that they re-advertised for the post, as none of the candidates impressed her.
She said she didn’t think Gcaleka dealt with the interview with the aplomb Mohamed ascribed to her.
“She continued to work for a minister who lied,” she said.
“Why would any self-respecting lawyer continue to associate with a man who lied under oath?”
Breytenbach, who was also a senior prosecutor at the NPA during Simelane’s time, also criticised how Gcaleka “conducted her at the NPA” in supporting Simelane.
She said Simelane’s first words when he started at the NPA was that he was there to carry out the policies of the governing party.
“She did nothing to protect the independence of the NPA,” said Breytenbach.
DA MP Werner Horn said the office of the Public Protector needs a “voice of reason” and his “overall impression” is that Gcaleka isn’t it.
“It will be a grave mistake by Parliament to send advocate Gcaleka there,” he said.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi questioned her integrity, as she continued to work for Gigaba after the courts found that he lied under oath and that she didn’t declare that she was an ANC Youth League member. He also suggested that she was more interested in money than justice ad indicated by leaving the NPA to work for a minister.
The other ANC MPs all said how impressed they were with Gcaleka during the interview.
After all the MPs had their first say, Horn remarked that the chairperson, Bulelani Magwanishe, hasn’t expressed his opinion.
“Can we hear whether you’re also a disciplined cadre today?” Horn asked, but Magwanishe didn’t respond.
Ndlozi said, in reference to the ANC MPs and the oaths MPs take to uphold the Constitution when they’re sworn in: “They took individual oaths! The oaths you took didn’t have colours!”
Mohamed responded to Ndlozi: “He presents an ethical argument as if the rest of us is in conflict with that.”
Mohamed said no one dictated to the ANC contingent who they should nominate, to which Breytenbach and Horn started laughing.
“We believe you,” Horn said, a hint of irony in his voice.
“Nothing shows me she is not appointable,” Mohamed continued.
“The fact that she worked for former minister Gigaba seems to be a sore point. I don’t see why.”
“He lied!” Ndlozi cried.
“We cannot crucify advocate Gcaleka because she worked with those people,” Maseko-Jele said, an apparent reference to Gigaba and Simelane.
Magwanishe said the majority clearly support Gcaleka and a vote wasn’t required.
“Please note that the DA doesn’t support this candidate,” Breytenbach said.
“Please note our rejection of this candidate,” said Ndlozi. “We don’t object, we reject. We also reject those who support her.”
The committee will adopt its report on Wednesday, and it will be presented to the National Assembly next Tuesday, in the second to last sitting of the year.