PROMINENT late Zimbabwean nationalist Sydney Donald Malunga’s son, Kevin Sifiso (pictured), who was running for the influential post of South African Public Protector — given a high-profile by its incumbent corruption-buster Thuli Madonsela — failed to make the shortlist yesterday under a dark cloud of controversy.
By Hazel Ndebele
Initially considered by many as one of the front-runners or the heir-apparent until interviews and attendant grilling started last week, Kevin became entangled in citizenship, security clearance and full disclosure issues which jeopardised his prospects, in fact sealed his fate.
The parliamentary ad hoc committee interviewing the applicants met yesterday in Cape Town to deliberate on the suitability of the 14 candidates vying for the job, including Kevin’s security clearance issues.
The committee, chaired by ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza, whittled the number of applicants down to five.
The final five candidates for the role of the next public protector are Sharise Weiner, Siraj Desai, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Muvhango Lukhaimane and Bongani Majola. Kevin failed to make it onto the shortlist. The ad hoc committee will reconvene at 1pm on August 24 to discuss the shortlisted candidates as it seeks to find Madonsela’s replacement whose seven-year term ends next month. Her successor takes over in October.
MPs interviewed the candidates in a marathon session in parliament last Thursday.
Skeletons in applicants’ closets were discovered, including drunk-driving allegations, cellphone theft accusations, charges of public fighting and illegally selling of liquor and non-disclosure of information material to competence and integrity requirements, during the process.
Although Kevin was until yesterday still in the running in the heated race and was widely regarded by some as professionally and capably suitable for the job as he is already Madonsela’s deputy, three issues stood on his way: citizenship, security clearance and full disclosure.
The citizenship issue came into focus after South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) entered the fray, saying Kevin was not suitable for the position as he was born in Zimbabwe and thus could not get top security clearance needed to become public protector. He only qualified for confidential — not top secret — security clearance, it said.
Some lawyers, however, said legally, candidates do not need SSA clearance to get the job as that was mainly a political and security consideration.
Officially, SSA also said Malunga arrived in South Africa in 2005 and became a citizen by naturalisation in 2010.
Questioned about this by the committee‚ Kevin said he was a bona fide South African citizen as he has renounced his origional Zimbabwean citizenship.
“I denounced (renounced) the Zim citizenship in 2010 and I will have to follow up if it was concluded. I got South African citizenship in 2010,” Kevin said. “I have family in Zimbabwe as well as South Africa‚ and I travel both countries very frequently. If the State Security Agency does not understand that, I feel very sorry for them.”
Asked by reporters after his interview last week‚ Kevin said it was up to the committee to make the final decision and would not comment further while the process was still on.
The committee also challenged him on full disclosure grounds, saying he failed to divulge some issues in the questionnaire. These include a driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated charge which was later withdrawn and failure to pass his Wits University Law School probation period as a lecturer.
Kevin has been South Africa’s deputy public protector since December 2012. The public protector’s office is one of South Africa’s critical constitutional institutions tasked to investigate officials’ conduct in public administration. It mainly investigates impropriety and corruption.
Its most recent high-profile case is President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla scandal. Kevin also worked as the state legal adviser and spokesperson during the Marikana Judicial Commission of Inquiry. He was also a legal advisor dealing with policy co-ordination and monitoring at the Ministry of Justice. Besides, he also served as an aide and researcher to the committee on institutional models in the former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo’s office where he was also chief-of-staff.
Kevin was born in 1974 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He went to Hillside Junior School in Bulawayo, Mzingwane High in Esigodini 40km south of Bulawayo and then proceeded to study law for a BA in Law in Swaziland.
He obtained his LLB at the former University of Natal and an LLM from the University of Georgetown in the United States. He is currently studying for a PhD with the University of Wisconsin, also in the US.
Kevin’s father, the remarkably candid Malunga, was a senior PF Zapu official and MP for Makokoba in Bulawayo.
As a leading political actor, civic leader and outspoken MP, he was targeted and persecuted by President Robert Mugabe’s regime for political reasons. Resultantly, he was arrested on false politically motivated charges alongside other senior Zapu leaders and top Zipra commanders in the 1980s for allegedly plotting to overthrow government.
Malunga died on August 28 1994 in a mysterious car accident. He was buried at the Heroes Acre in Harare on September 3 the same year.