Lessons for Kenya from South Africa public protector


Watching a documentary like ‘Whispering Truth to Power’ makes one wish Kenya had a ‘public protector’ like the one South Africa had in Thuli Madonsela up until quite recently. The film was screened last Tuesday at Alliance Francaise courtesy of DocuBox.

Thuli’s role was to defend the South African Constitution, a task that included waging war on corruption which exploded during the years when Jacob Zuma was in power. Her office was established in 1994 soon after SA gained Independence and the heinous system of Apartheid was theoretically dissolved.

Yet one thing that has hardly changed since then is the huge disparity between rich and poor.

Nonetheless, Thuli who admits she was an avowed Marxist during the days of Apartheid, took seriously her job in fighting injustice and inequity.

It got much harder when she took up the challenge of addressing the excesses of Zuma, including his so-called 65 million rand ‘splurge’ on building Nkanda, his private home using public funds.


Thuli accused the President of violating the Ethics Act, a charge he ignored despite her outspoken style of speaking gently, what the filmmaker Shameela Seedat named ‘whispering truth to power’.

Seedat documents the tumultuous days before Thuli finally resigns, including the time she challenges the Gupta connection to Zuma in their jointly stealing millions from the public coffers. She got hit with the first instalments of ‘fake news’.

When she took on the Gupta network, which was a Mafia equivalent, she discovered the real intransigence of evil. Her personal interviews with Zuma who she worked with in ANC prior to 1994 were to no avail.

Nonetheless, the woman was unrelenting in her quest.

She endured death threats and made them known. Her detractors claimed she was ‘protecting’ white monopoly capitalists.

Before resigning, she conducted her last research into the looting connections between the Guptas, Zuma and the State agencies that were looted. Although Thuli’s report was ready, she strategically chose to see it released after she resigned.

In her absence, the report spoke for itself. It implicated Zuma in major ways that were so air-tight that it didn’t take long after that for him to be booted out of office. The Guptas had already fled the country, but the film didn’t suggest that the war on corruption is over or that the monumental gap between rich and poor in the country is about to bridged.

Nonetheless, one still wishes Kenya could boast of a public protector like Thuli Madonsela, who could fight and finally win the war on corruption.