Ethics is about 'simply doing the right thing' – Madonsela

2016-09-09 12:05
Thuli Madonsela (File, Beeld)

Thuli Madonsela (File, Beeld)

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Durban – Outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says South Africa needs to go back to the basics on ethics.

She was speaking at the Diakonia Council of Churches centre in Durban on Thursday, where she was honoured with the 2016 Diakonia Human Rights Award for her extraordinary courage and patriotism.

Madonsela said her parents never sat her down and gave her a lesson on ethical behaviour.

"I think the proverbs and indigenous games that we played taught us what good conduct was. I think the department of basic education should come to the party so that we have a greater component on how to be a greater human being."

She said there were no grey areas when it came to the ethics that should be practised by public officials.

"Ethical conduct is about doing the right things the right way; not that the ends justify the means, but also simply doing the right thing, it did not matter what the outcomes were."

Destructive activism

Madonsela said whether one was a municipal manager making decisions at municipal level, a doctor at a hospital, or the president who makes decisions on what to fund, everyone had to practise professional ethics.

She said the public could assist the Office of the Public Protector by monitoring whether the Constitution was being violated or ignored. She urged people to report injustices to the office when they had "no other recourse".

"Report when there are potholes that are not being fixed or when you feel that funds are being siphoned in the municipality. As long as you don't invent a story."

She said, while it was easy for people to get stuck in complain mode, some of the current activism being practised around the country by certain communities and students was not constructive.

"The problem that we have is that the activism that is taking place is outside the social compact and the Constitution.

"People who are activists are not using the mechanisms created by the Constitution and in the end we are destroying ourselves like the animal that was referred to by the prime minister of Lesotho, where in kicking and screaming we are hurting ourselves further as you can see in Vuwani and in universities," she said, adding that problems needed to be identified before they reached boiling point.

"We need to put our ears and eyes on the ground and find a way to help people realise that in being listened to, we are allowing services to be delivered."

Don't be surprised when government 'drops the ball'

However, Madonsela said South Africans should not be surprised that there had been a lot of "ball-dropping" by the government.

"We tried our best to tell government how to fix things when the ball has been dropped.

"Should we be surprised that there was ball-dropping? Former president Nelson Mandela would not be surprised because he knew that even the most benevolent in governance knew they had the potential to drop the ball, because what we prioritise may not improve the lives of others," she said.

On the ANC's Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi, who recently accused her of bias and being overly focused on investigating cases of corruption against the ANC, she said: "I think people are entitled to their own opinions, but I believe that anything that is created for evil reasons is going to crumble, and so things like that don't worry me.

"I think people do things that they have to do and, ultimately, how I survived the seven years is to understand that sometimes people do what they don't know they are doing.

"People understand that when they know better, they will do better. Sometimes I know that my intentions hurt people, but because I know better, I do better."

Read more on:    public protector  |  thuli madonsela  |  durban

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