The Role of The Public Protector – Protecting SA’s Democracy

By Raine St.Claire

Advocate Nompilo Kholeka Gcaleka has been appointed as Public Protector of the Republic of South Africa (PPSA) for a non-renewable term of seven years with effect from 1 November 2023. Kholeka, a South African lawyer, previously served as Deputy Public Protector and became Acting Public Protector on 9 June 2022.

One Of Eight Hopefuls In Line To Take Over as Public Protector

Taking nothing for granted, Kholeka regards the appointment as Public Protector a unique honour and privilege, entrusted not only to serve the country but also beyond its borders. Faced with an enormous responsibility and considerable task, the challenges become more pronounced as the nation deals with both internal and external difficulties. “I’m the fifth Public Protector of the Republic and there’s a mammoth task ahead of me. Our country is going through a lot of difficulties, the institution itself, so probably I’ve got one of the most difficult tasks that any other public protector has had,”- Kholeka Gcaleka, Public Protector. Despite the challenges ahead, she remains optimistic, acknowledging that significant opportunities are embedded within these challenges. She has already got big reform plans in motion, aiming to improve the depleted capacity of the institution through legal measures.

Legal Luminary: A Wealth Of Expertise In Advisory, Management and Prosecutions

At just over 40, Kholeka is the youngest public protector, a quality often highlighted for its potential in bringing fresh, youthful leadership to the country. She has ambitious plans for reform, aiming to criminalise non-compliance with remedial action, introduce oaths of office, and strengthen the capacity of the institution. Born in Johannesburg and raised in Umzimkhulu, Kholeka’s cultural roots span Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. this diverse background significantly influences her values and fuels her commitment to public service, particularly advocating for the welfare of the impoverished and marginalised.

Kholeka’s professional journey includes notable roles as a Special advisor to the Ministers for the Departments of Public Service and Administration, Home Affairs, and Finance. Her expertise covers administration, legal affairs, legislation and policy development, strategy, compliance and governance. She actively participated in a Committee of Inquiry investigating municipal affairs in Gauteng and served on various boards.

Even before becoming the Deputy Public Protector of the Republic of South Africa, Kholeka demonstrated her legal prowess as a proficient lawyer and prosecutor. Starting her career with the National Prosecuting authority (NPA) in 2004, she focused on gender-based violence and human trafficking, showcasing her unmistakable potential. Kholeka envisions leveraging her legal expertise to advance principles of good governance, ethics, and sound legal practice.

With 17 years of combined experience in legal advisory, senior management, and public prosecutions, she stands out as a resourceful and insightful legal professional. She excels in strategy formulation and organisational management, collaborating effectively with stakeholders to design and implement legal solutions. Her strengths lie in providing litigation and legal advisory services to the Executive, senior government officials, departments, and organisations.

Throughout her career, Kholeka has made significant contributions to legislation and policy development, both within the prosecuting authority and as an advisor to government ministers. She has also played key roles in various international initiatives undertaken by the South African government, contributing to training initiatives across diverse domains. As the former first black female national Chairperson of the Society of State advocates, Kholeka’s achievements are underscored by her educational background, holding an LLB Degree from the University of KwaZulu-natal and an LLM Degree in Commercial law from the University of Johannesburg.


Kholeka intends to leverage her legal expertise to strengthen the organisation’s governance and ethical legal strategies. The focus is on efficiently managing strategic human resources, staff training and development, and advancing ICT knowledge and skills. Future priorities include capacity building through training and mentorship, along with providing access through digitisation, especially for vulnerable groups.

She implores the need for the PPSA to cultivate an institution resistant to adverse influence by any leader. The envisioned culture ensures that those serving adapt to the institution’s culture rather than the institution adapting to the leader’s culture. Unity is emphasised as the organisation’s core as it moves into the future, a crucial aspect in the fight against wrongdoing and maladministration in state affairs. For Kholeka, this fight requires a committed and united front across different sectors, acknowledging that it cannot be won by a single person or entity.

Source: 702 | Office of the Public Prosecutor | M&G

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