Public Protector calls on learners to light candle in the pursuit of ethical governance
Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday found herself at the receiving end of tough questions from learners at a secondary school, west of Pretoria. She visited the school in Laudium as part of the annual National Good Governance Week, which commenced on Monday.
The focus week seeks to foster a collective consciousness and a common understanding of good governance. It also aims to strengthen synergies among oversight bodies and civil society entities that play a central role in promoting and enforcing good governance.
This year’s campaign focuses on ensuring a responsive service delivery through ethical leadership. Civil society is also being mobilized to play a part in promoting ethical governance, which is at the core of good governance and responsive service delivery.
Addressing the meeting, also attended by teachers from neighbouring schools, the Public Protector urged the learners to speak up when they witnessed wrongdoing, particularly where state affairs were concerned.
“Ethics is about self-regulation and distinguishing right from wrong. It is important that from a young age you have a sense of wrong and right. Do the right thing not because there is a reward or because you fear arrest. You act properly because it is the right thing to do,” she said.
The Public Protector told the leaners that ethical governance and ethical leadership were preconditions for a responsive service delivery. She said it was important for those exercising entrusted power to act as servants. Without this, the Public Protector said, the constitutional dream of delivering a better life for all citizens and freeing the potential of each individual would be impossible.
“Everyone needs to know what the ethical standards that needs to be adhered to when exercising power over state resources are. You need to know that state money is not ‘orphaned’ money,” she said.
But the curious and inquisitive learners also had a mouthful to say to the Public Protector. During the meeting, they quizzed her on various topical issues, including the Limpopo text book saga and the investigation into the expenditure of over R200million on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
Learners also questioned the Public Protector about her views on Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), Employment Equity and the perceived bias towards political parties during her investigations.
Some were concerned about her safety while others asked for her intervention in social issues affecting their communities such access to government bursaries and drug-related criminal activities.
Though she could not discuss the merits, the Public Protector confirmed that she had launched investigations into the text book matter and the complaints relating to President Zuma’s homestead.
The Public Protector told learners that while she supported BEE, she believed that “Political Economic Empowerment (PEE)” may have distorted the objectives of BEE. She asked the learners to distinguish BEE from dishonest “tenderpreneurship” that was causing the state to lose billions of rand through irregular tender overpricing and false billing.
She promised to approach the police civilian secretariat to look into law enforcement authorities with regard to the allegation that they were not doing anything about drug-related criminal activities in the area despite having knowledge thereof.
The focus week’s activities continue tomorrow with a return to the Northern Cape, where the Public Protector will meet with Gamagara Mayor, Maria Diniza,, the Police Commissioner and the leaders of a service delivery protests in an attempt to resolve an impasse, which has seen leaners prevented by the community from going to school.
Learners have been prevented from going to school in protest against what the community says are longstanding service delivery grievances.