Woman who took on Jacob Zuma wins anti-corruption award

Transparency International, the anti-corruption watchdog that tracks the probity of public authorities around the world, announced today that Thuli Madonsela, the public protector of South Africa, had been selected as the winner of its Integrity Award for 2014. 

The Integrity Awards were created in 2000 to recognise the outstanding contribution that individuals and organisations make to fighting corruption. Ms Madonsela, who plays the role of ombudsman in South Africa, was chosen after she wrote "Secure in Comfort", a 432-page report into the "Nkandlagate" scandal. 

Nkandlagate arose after President Jacob Zuma was accused by the Mail & Guardian newspaper of having building work done at public expense at his private Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr Zuma had an amphitheatre, a helicopter pad, cattle pens and a swimming pool added to his property.

The public protector’s report, which was published in March after a long legal battle, accused the president of benefiting unduly from public money, although it cleared him of misleading parliament. Madonsela recommended that Zuma apologise and pay back a reasonable portion of the money spent on refurbishments not related to security. 

The Transparency International citation says Madonsela and her office "have investigated corruption from the lowest to the highest levels of South Africa’s government. Despite being subject to intense political scrutiny and pressure she has made her judgments without fear or favour, earning the admiration of South Africans as well as the international community. 

"Madonsela’s office dealt with more than 35,000 complaints in 2012/13. In spite of financial constraints, she is known for looking into allegations of corruption that hurts the most marginalised and vulnerable communities in South Africa as well as for working closely with civil society."

JC Weliamuna, the Sri Lankan human rights lawyer who chairs Transparency International’s Integrity Awards Committee, said: "Her unwavering courage and commitment to upholding the rule of law is truly inspirational."

Madonsela will receive her award later today at a ceremony in Berlin.

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