Zuma must indeed do the right thing

2011-07-16 10:17

The recommendations by Public ­Protector Thuli Madonsela regarding the two dodgy police building lease deals worth R1.78 billion, are an ­indication of the lack of leadership and stewardship of the public interest by those elected for the task.

They are also a clear call for public accountability and management from the highest ­office in the country to the ministers and the ­senior ­technocrats.

Though Madonsela uses polite language to ­register her unhappiness with Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s decision not to co-operate with the Public Protector’s office, her recommendation that President Jacob Zuma take action against her is as clear as daylight. So is the recommendation that Mahlangu-Nkabinde “report to the Cabinet on her actions in relation to the procurement of the leases...and her failure to fully co-operate with the Public Protector”.

It is a logical conclusion after the Public Protector found that the minister “failed to meet the requisite stewardship as was expected of her”.

It was about time that someone with sufficient clout reminded the powers that be that they do not represent their own interests but rather the ­aspirations of South Africans who ask that the managers of their taxes account for their deeds.

With all the legislation around the management of public finances, it says a lot about our public accountability and governance systems that the Public Protector found it necessary to call on the public works department and the police to ensure that appropriate measures were implemented to prevent a recurrence of contraventions of the ­procurement legislation and prescripts.

Police chief General Bheki Cele’s recurrent ­defence that processes were carried out without his knowledge or permission, true or not, add weight to Madonsela’s call that leaders must lead and take responsibility for what happens under their watch. Cele therefore makes no defence when he seeks to blame his underlings for what is nearly a looting of state resources.

Madonsela, ever polite, adds: “I am not ­prescribing what should be done, but I expect the president to do the right thing”. Indeed. The right thing for the president to do is to set the tone for what is expected of public leadership.

It means that those charged with this task should banish the idea that their office means they are above public scrutiny and are entitled to turn the state into their piggy banks.

It is only when the president, the ministers and the chief of police are known to be beyond ­reproach that they can lend moral weight to calls by junior public civil servants to discharge their duties with professionalism and integrity.

Like Madonsela, we expect those in charge to do right.

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