‘Weak new public protector not likely’


Madonsela likens such a scenario to firing doctor who diagnoses cancer

REPLACING a strong public protector with a weak one lacking in values-based leadership would be like firing your doctor when he diagnosed cancer, public protector Thuli Madonsela has warned. Madonsela on Friday night delivered the Rhodes Business School inaugural Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Lecture to a packed auditorium in Grahamstown.

She said during question time it was unlikely that the government would seek to gut the public protector’s office by appointing a weak person to replace her next year.

If the government did so, it would be the opposite of what she termed an act of “self-love” by the government.

Madonsela said a public protector or any administrative oversight body had a duty to tell the government hard truths that could assist it to govern in perpetuity.

“For a government to continue governing it must be told what its blind spots are so that it can fix them before people get angry,” she said.

To appoint someone who would lie was “really like firing your doctor when the doctor says your foot has cancer instead of maybe chopping off [part of] your foot and saving it”.

She also dismissed the possibility that the office of the public protector would be discarded in the same way as the Scorpions had been when it had become a thorn in the government’s side.

But she said discarding the Scorpions had been a mistake and had created a vacuum that had left a backlog of corruption-related cases.

In her lecture, which centred around values-based leadership, Madonsela described the constitution as South Africa’s greatest heritage and said its values should be upheld and protected by all.

She said values-based leadership involved decision-making informed by values and principles such as honesty, public interest, people first, equality, the rule of law and constitutional supremacy.

“The constitution is our collective lodestar directing us to a South Africa we want, which is one that is inclusive, based on social justice, human dignity and an improved quality of life for all.”

Values-based leadership at all levels was the only way to achieve the constitutional dream. There was, in particular, a need for ethical leadership among public functionaries and politicians entrusted with state power and public resources.

Without it, she said, South Africa would never achieve the goals in the constitution and the National Development Plan, or the sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

“All of these goals will remain a pipe dream.”

Madonsela said leaders whose decisions were based on the values of the constitution did not require the police or the courts to tell them right from wrong.

“Values-based leadership is accountable. It is very likely to admit mistakes and make amends.”

Whatever the powers of her office or the courts might be, without values-based leadership even the toughest authority might not result in compliance, she said.

She pointed to the scandal caused by the state’s refusal to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, despite a court declaring that it had a duty to do so.

“It requires that people make the right decisions on their own. They should not require coercion,” she said.

Friday marked the 15th anniversary of the Rhodes Business School. At the celebrations, Madonsela received the Anglican Church of South Africa’s Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said the award acknowledged people who had made outstanding contributions in their communities.

-Adrienne Carlisle

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