CANDIDATE: Judge Siraj Desai

The committee in charge of finding South Africa’s next Public Protector has less than 20 days to come up with a name.

Fourteen candidates were grilled in a marathon 20-hour interview which came to an end Thursday.

The committee has until August 31 to recommend its preferred candidate to the National Assembly.

The interview process, which was televised, was often painful to watch as allegations of rape, corruption and negligent and unprofessional conduct were put under the microspcope by former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach and other MPs.

Everything from their role in the Struggle to their views on the sticky land issue was discussed.

The first candidate, advocate Michael Mthembu, who is also a judge of the Electoral Court, was asked why he had not disclosed that he had two default judgments against his name.

When asked about his age, Advocate Chris Mokoditwa, in his seventies, replied: “I’m fit, I’m a bodybuilder.”

MPs seemed less concerned by an accusation levelled at former UDF and ANC activist Jill Oliphant by a Sun City security guard - that she had stolen a cellphone - than with the fact that she had been gambling in the first place.

She explained that she had found the cellphone lying unattended and had wanted to hand it in when accosted by the guard, but EFF MP Floyd Shivambu asked whether the people of South Africa would be satisfied with “a gambling public protector”.

Western Cape Judge Siraj Desai was grilled at length about “the Mumbai incident” - a 2004 rape accusation which was withdrawn before trial - and his public spats with colleagues.

The next public prosecutor must be approved by a 60 percent majority in the National Assembly.