Former public protector Thuli Madonsela said in very clear language that she has no interest in being the head of state.
Speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Monday, Madonsela chuckled at the prospect and said she was "neither qualified to be president ... [I have] no interest in that job". She said part of the reason why public institutions had been rendered dysfunctional was that competent people were taken out of their comfort zones and placed in other jobs "like a fish out of water".
Such a person does one's best but that best "is not good enough", she said, in obvious reference to her capabilities as a politician. But she said that South Africa "does deserve a good president".
Asked whether she foresaw political changes in South Africa's landscape — such as the sweeping from power of corrupt forces in state government — Madonsela said that as South Africa "struggles to rebuild itself ... to find its way back to the north star that inspired [early ANC leader] Pixley ka Seme ... we do need [such] a president".
Referring to the apartheid period she said it was "terrible to be a Cinderella as black people [were] under apartheid". That had been a terrible recipe for conflict.
There was now a danger of creating an environment "where whites feel like Cinderella" and that too would be a recipe for conflict. She also expressed concern that there was now a narrative about the evils of white monopoly capital, and believed this was a mask used by corrupt people as, in Africa, there has been a tendency to use the ethnic ticket when governance goes wrong.
Madonsela's type of president is one who builds a united country where there is growth "and redistribution".
"As long as the face of poverty is black and female and the face of wealth is white and male, that is a recipe for disaster."
Pondering whether the next president should be a man or a woman, she said she would prefer a woman president. "I would love it to be female," she said, but warned that if that woman was "a proxy" — for dark forces or wrongdoing — that would "be worse than having a man".
.@ThuliMadonsela3: I would hate to have a female president that is a proxy. Because that would be worse than having a man— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) January 16, 2017
Asked from the floor of the function — held at the Cape Town Kelvin Grove Club — who is really in charge of the South Africa government at present, she laughed. "We officially ... we have a government." The audience roared in agreement.
Earlier during the conference, she said that if Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former MP Vytjie Mentor lied about being offered jobs by members of the Gupta family, then this too must be exposed. But that matter could not be laid to rest just because she had left the office of Public Protector.
Referring to Mentor — a former chairperson of the National Assembly public enterprises committee — the former Public Protector, who is about to spend a year at Harvard University in Massachussetts, said: "We need to know whether [she] was lying or not."
Mentor last year reported that she was called to Pretoria to meet with President Jacob Zuma, but was instead collected by members of the Gupta family and taken to their mansion in Saxonwold. She reported that Zuma was sitting in another room when she was offered the role of minster of public enterprises.
"She may well be lying, but we need to know whether she is lying or not," Madonsela said.
She said if a commission of inquiry was not set up to test the allegations of Mentor and Jonas and others, "there would always be a trust deficit [in government]".
Madonsela was concerned about the concept of white monopoly capital dominating the political narrative, which she said was something new. "I am not saying there is no white monopoly capital [problem]," she said. But this should not be a mask to allow two political families — the Zumas and the Guptas — "advancing themselves through state resources".