Public Protector advocate Kholeka Gcaleka has addressed remarks made by DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, who insinuated that Gcaleka slept her way to the top. Gcaleka described Breytenbach’s comments as “unfortunate” and emphasized her commitment to her role as the public protector of the Republic of South Africa.
Gcaleka, speaking at the Cape Town Press Club, acknowledged that she has faced severe criticism in her position as deputy public protector. However, she emphasized that she remains accountable to the parliament and is focused on leading the institution in a manner that is independent, impartial, and fair.
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Regarding Breytenbach’s comments, Gcaleka stated, “Yes, her comments were unfortunate. I found them very unfortunate, especially at this stage of our democracy. But again I had to remind myself that we operate in a very complex environment and, truth be told, I am the public protector of the Republic of South Africa.”
Gcaleka emphasized that her priority is to ensure that the institution serves all and conducts itself in a manner that is not prejudicial against anyone. She stated, “For me to discharge these constitutional duties, I have to remove my personal feelings. I have an institution I need to lead, not only for me but for the people of South Africa.”
Gcaleka dismissed the notion that Breytenbach’s comments give her sleepless nights, stating that her CV, career, and experience speak for themselves. She believes that the work she has done in the past and will continue to do will speak for itself.
During a parliamentary debate on October 19, Breytenbach opposed Gcaleka’s recommendation for public protector and insinuated that Gcaleka’s rapid promotions in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) were due to her relationship with former NPA boss Menzi Simelane.
Gcaleka addressed concerns about trust in the office of the public protector, stating that it will depend on the quality and integrity of the work produced by the office.
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She highlighted the quality assurance team in place, led by the COO at a higher stage and by herself at the final stage. Gcaleka assured that every report she signs is approved through this quality assurance process.
She emphasized the importance of checks and balances within the institution, even with herself as the head of the institution making the final decisions. Gcaleka stated, “We don’t always agree, but at least there is accountability and transparency, even if I must make the final decision.”
Gcaleka believes that these mechanisms will build public trust and improve the standard of reports produced by the institution. She acknowledged that when she was appointed as acting public protector, the institution was vulnerable but has since gone through a process of rebuilding.
Gcaleka concluded by stating, “We are an institution on the path of healing.”