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‘That Friday Was Like A Fast-Forwarded Movie’

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My last day in office as Public Protector in South Africa was difficult. That Friday, October 14, it was difficult for me to focus on any feeling because we had not slept the night before. My focus was on finishing the editing of the [State of Capture] report in the morning.

And then rushing home to freshen up and then get back on time to meet the new Public Protector and take her through some of the things with the team. That would be our first meeting and we would schedule more when I am out of the office.

Nonetheless, that Friday was like a fast-forwarded movie, everything was fast, and every minute just disappeared.

Unwisely, we also had arranged a media briefing for that day, which just made it very complicated. Because I often found myself in a fast-paced situation that day, having little time, I had no time to reflect how blessed I had been. I think that is something I did on Saturday after the 14th when I just reflected.

Firstly, to be given this opportunity to be the Public Protector and secondly, to work with people who shared the same vision, and worked with me understanding the purpose of the office while defining our purposes as individuals within that.

That really was the focus of my reflection, the role became very, very distant, but at the end of it really it seemed to me that most of the things that had happened were extraordinary, things that I am really thankful to be a part of.

I really think that it was such a remarkable journey with remarkable people. Members of our team who were working with limited resources but keeping their eyes on the ball, and people in government who, besides all the noise, the majority of them really just focused on doing it right.

Late at night [Friday], when everyone else was gone, there was a team of staff members that volunteered to come and clear the office, fitting things in boxes, which was really kind of them and it wasn’t just those that had been working closely with me in the public office.

It was really a touching moment.

Over time, I have been totally surprised by the reaction of people because you and I know that we all just [were] required to do our job. The attention and accolades sometimes confuse me, though it’s something I am obviously grateful for because when you are doing a job, you [are] worrying that ‘let me not do it wrong, let me not drop the ball’, and of course I noticed that there were balls that we dropped.

Especially when it came to doing work in a timely manner because we had to catch this ball and catch that one and in every multi-tasking, some balls were dropped. But the generosity of the people, in focusing on only the good that we did, has been amazing.

I am just like any other person doing my work with a team of people. The difference between me and the team is the title, I have been given the title of Public Protector and the team was working as hard.

There was nothing special about me, other than the fact that I had a title and in terms of brains and commitment, the men and women I worked with were equally talented colleagues and worked hard.

I am not remarkable beyond other females, I am just blessed in that people seem to focus on the good I do.

Thinking of South Africa after my term is that it’s such a beautiful and  remarkable country, there is so much to do in this country.

It has come this far, but today is better than yesterday and tomorrow is certainly going to be better than today. Chin up and focus on the dream, the dream that’s been captured in the Constitution.

 

– As told to Thandi Xaba

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