8 July 2011
For the attention of The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Urgent request for intervention to protect the South African Public Protector
AfriForum, an independent, non-profit, South African civil rights organisation, herewith requests you to send an urgent appeal letter without delay in terms of the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to the South African government in order to ensure that the South African Public Protector and her office will be protected against intimidation, arrest, harassment and defamation.
The details regarding this case are provided below in accordance with the guidelines provided by your office for an appeal of this nature:
1) Name of alleged victim:
The Public Protector, as institution of the South African Constitution, as well as the individual currently serving in this position as Public Protector, namely Advocate Thuli Madonsela.
The contact details of the Public Protector are:
Tel: +2712 366 7000
Fax: +2712 362 3473
2) Status of the victim as a human rights defender
The mandate of the South African Public Protector as institution, and of Advocate Madonsela as individual currently holding this position, amongst other duties includes to ensure better governance and to investigate the abuse of power and corruption. In terms of your office’s guidelines, she therefore qualifies to be regarded as a human rights defender. Your guidelines also mention that people in state employment may be considered to be human rights defenders.
3) Alleged violations committed against the victim
An informant brought it to the attention of the South African media that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is currently investigating Advocate Madonsela in connection with alleged “corruption”. The informant even mentioned that Advocate Madonsela will be arrested. Media reports covering this matter are attached to this letter. After a public outcry, the Minister of Police denied that an investigation was being conducted. This prompted the South African newspaper, The Star, to publish documents that prove that Advocate Madonsela is indeed being investigated by the SAPS. The Star’s article is attached hereto as well. These documents prove that the denials are an effort to save face, after the smear campaign against Advocate Madonsela had backfired on the SAPS.
The timing of this incident, as well as the fact that the arrest is based on false and invalid allegations dating back a long time, give rise to serious doubts and concerns. The threat of police action against Advocate Madonsela comes about at a time immediately after a provisional report of the Public Protector had leaked out, according to which it has been found that the South African Commissioner of Police, General Bheki Cele, acted unlawfully in the awarding of Police lease agreements.
The police investigation is but one aspect of an intimidation campaign being waged against the Public Protector and her office. On 3 March 2011, the South African Police Service conducted an unlawful raid on the office of the Public Protector, after it had come to light that an investigation concerning the Commissioner of Police was underway. Media reports covering this incident are also attached.
You will see in the media reports that the suspicion exists that illegal access had been gained to the computer of a senior investigative official of the Public Protector’s Office. This specific investigator plays a key role in the investigation concerning the Police’s lease agreements.
This by no means is the first time that the South African Police Service has tried to intimidate people whose legal conduct has not been to their liking. For example, in August 2010 a journalist, Mzilikazi wa Africa, was arrested only a few days after he had written an article criticising General Cele. The arrest of Mr Wa Afrika was unfounded and later all charges against him were dropped.
The perpetrator is the South African Police Service. The investigation of Advocate Madonsela is being undertaken by the Police and they had also been responsible for the unlawful raid on and search of the Public Protector’s offices. It is curious to note that access had allegedly specifically been obtained to the computer of the investigative official responsible for the investigation into the South African Police Service.
5) Action by the authorities
The abovementioned events are public knowledge in South Africa. To date, the authorities have however taken no steps to protect the Public Protector. All charges against the Police members who had conducted the unlawful raid have been dropped, and the government merely denies the allegations that Advocate Madonsela is being investigated by the SAPS. Unfortunately General Cele has close ties with senior politicians in South Africa. The businessman to whom the Police lease agreements have allegedly been awarded, also has close ties with senior government leaders.
In the light of the abovementioned facts, AfriForum believes that your intervention is urgently required in order to get the South African government to ensure that the intimidation campaign aimed at the Public Protector is stopped and that steps should be taken against those responsible for this.
6) Link between the violation and human rights work
There can be no doubt that the South African Police Service’s targeting of the Public Protector has to do with her investigation concerning the Police and the Commissioner. The raid and the police investigation against Advocate Madonsela have come at the very time when serious findings against the Commissioner of Police are coming to light.
7) Who is submitting this information?
This information is provided by AfriForum, a South African civil rights organisation.
With kind regards
Pretoria, South Africa