Of all the people to end up on the naughty step this week, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela might not have been everyone’s first guess. The woman behind the state capture investigation endured a foot-in-mouth moment while discussing the suspect in the Parliament fire.
Thuli Madonsela in trouble for Parliament fire Tweet
Zandile Mafe was arrested at the scene eight days ago, and he will remain behind bars until his bail hearing tomorrow. However, the 49-year-old has been subject to intense speculation, with many suggesting he had nothing to do with the blaze at all.
The truth is set to come out when court resumes session on Tuesday. However, Zandile Mafe will be represented by a private lawyer, rather than the state-provided Legal Aid. This raised eyebrows across the country, not least with Thuli Madonsela:
“I’ve been wondering how it was possible to quickly arrange a private lawyer for the homeless Zandile Mafe, thus removing him from state Legal Aid, where there was risk of a confession. I’m curious what those who are 100% sure he is innocent know that we do not know.”
Zandile Mafe latest: Legal experts in public row
Her statement didn’t go down well with officials at Legal Aid, however. The part where she speaks about ‘the risk of a confession’ has rattled the judicial experts, and they strongly refuted any suggestion that they make clients admit guilt straight off the bat:
“Legal Aid SA wishes to reiterate that the interpretation we ‘force our clients to plead guilty’ is incorrect and regrettable. In the case of Zandile Mafe, no application for legal aid was made by the accused.”
“All of our practitioners are committed to ensuring they represent clients to the best of their ability, ensuring they don’t implicate themselves and receive a fair hearing. We’re independent, and we represent clients without fear or favour.”
Legal Aid statement
Thuli Madonsela says sorry to Legal Aid
The exchange, however, has ended convivially. Thuli Madonsela acknowledged the post shared by Legal Aid, and expressed her sincere regret about ‘any aspersions that were cast’.
See? Even those at the very top of the tree get it wrong sometimes…
— Prof Thuli Madonsela #SocialJustice (@ThuliMadonsela3) January 8, 2022