Thuli Madonsela: It’s been a tough but remarkable 19 years

2014-10-15 10:57

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s office turns 19 today and she says “whether you agree with me or not I do believe that we did a remarkable job”.

Madonsela delivered a public lecture at the University of Limpopo Turfloop Campus to an overflowing venue with a capacity of 4 000 last night.

She said it had not been smooth sailing for her office as decisions she made were “not being taken seriously” and people sometimes told her “I don’t like what you said”.

The Public Protector said her predecessor Selby Baqwa had during his tenure investigated alleged ethical violation by then Mpumalanga premier Ndaweni Mahlangu after the media reported that she said “it was okay for politicians to lie”.

“[Baqwa] found it was not right for politicians to lie and the nation agreed. Flip to 2014, we still think it is not okay [for politicians to lie],” she said.

Madonsela gave a range of cases she had investigated in which ministers had violated ethics and lied. She said in some cases the presidency had acted and got those implicated to pay back the money.

“I have been accused of interfering with Parliament when all I was doing was to try and assist,” she said.

She recently came under attack from political quarters and the ANC in particular for her findings that President Jacob Zuma and his family unduly benefited from the R246-million upgrade of his Nkandla estate.

Madonsela recommended that Zuma pay back a portion of the money spent on the upgrading.

Asked what happened when her findings were not taken seriously and recommendations not acted upon, Madonsela said anybody could take the matter to the Constitutional Court as long as they could prove how it was affecting them

She said the Public Protector’s script had not changed in the past 19 years and that they were “still asking the same question”.

The lecture was on the role played by the public officials and the politicians in upholding and promoting ethics in government and public institutions.

Madonsela said groups or organisations were guided by an ethical code of conduct but said some ethical values were general for everyone.

“We generally agree that I can’t steal and I can’t take what is not mine,” she said.

“Ethics is about doing what is right the right way.”

She turned to maladministration saying it “hurts very badly” and that victims were ordinary citizens.

“What happens when the government drops the ball?” Madonsela asked.

It results in families being torn apart, houses being lost and, generally, the nation suffers, she said.

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