Madonsela: Zuma gave incorrect information

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Wits VC Professor Adam Habib

THULI TALKS: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Wits VC Professor Adam Habib speak about the Nkandla report at Wits earlier today. Photo: Luke Matthews

Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela likened the current state of affairs in South Africa to the story of Animal Farm at a panel discussion at Wits earlier today.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,” she said in reference to the Nkandla report, released yesterday.

[pullquote]“Public power should always be exercised within the confines of the law and the public interest.”[/pullquote]

George Orwell’s celebrated novel about a society of animals who are, after getting rid of the humans, left to their own devices is itself a piece of political commentary. The plot of the book was used by Madonsela to demonstrate corruption and an abuse of power in the South African government.

She went on to speak of the critical role of the South African Constitution particularly in the practices of political office bearers and public servants. “Public power should always be exercised within the confines of the law and the public interest.”

Asked by an audience member whether she felt threatened after the release of the report, Madonsela said, “I don’t feel threatened … the state as a state has not attacked me. Most of the time, people in government listen and want to do the right thing.”

A chicken run, an expensives cattle kraal, a fire pool and a two-storey house overlooking an amphitheatre labelled a ‘visitor’s centre,’  were just some of the “security needs” approved and built by Zuma’s architect, Minenhle Makhanya and a team assigned to the Nkandla estate. 

WITS NKANDLA PANEL: Professor Steven Friedman,  Vice Chancellor Adam Habib and Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela. Photo: Tendai Dube

WITS NKANDLA PANEL: Professor Steven Friedman, Wits vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib and Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela. Photo: Tendai Dube

When asked if she found ethical violations in her investigation, Madonsela responded by saying: “He [Zuma] did give parliament incorrect information, but explained this in a believable manner and so I made a finding in his favour.”

According to Madonsela, “everything (at Nkandla) was done cowboy-style. If the person upstairs wants it, then the law and budget doesn’t matter.”

Madonsela is a Wits graduate, earning her LLB degree from the institution in 1990.

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Public protector talks corruption at WBS

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela speaks on governance and regulations in South Africa at the Wits Business School. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela speaks on governance and regulations in South Africa at the Wits Business School. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela said there were areas where public sector wrongdoings are due to acts of collusion with private sector actors.

Speaking about governance and regulation in South Africa at the Wits Business School (WBS), Madonsela  also touched on corruption in the country, governance and the contentious Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB).

“Where there is corruption, it is principally a matter of collusion between private persons and state actors. Clearly a lot of the corruption that concerns us as a nation involves huge amounts of money particularly in the state procurement system,” Madonsela said.

Madonsela said that her office has been asked to put the spotlight on the country’s health system.

Chief among the problems in the health sector, Madonsela noted are the “uncaring attitudes by health professionals and procurement irregularities, including corruption, leading to lack of medical supplies and essential hospital equipment”.

In fighting corruption in the country, Madonsela recognised the importance of the media and academic community to her office.

“The contribution of the media and the academic community in promoting public dialogue on the place and role of my office in our democracy as well as specific activities, including reports, can never be over emphasised”, she said.

On the day when the national assembly in parliament approved the Protection of State Information Bill, dubbed the “Secrecy Bill” in media circles, Madonsela said that there have been improvements in the bill, as the act now offers protection to whistle-blowers.

She encouraged whistleblowers to step forward and provide information to her office. “We have persistently called for the strengthening of whistle-blower protection…We use all available legislative powers of my office to ensure such protection”.

On governance in the country, Madosnela said that good governance involves the exercise of transparency by entrusted power.

She added: “Good decisions are obviously those made in the best interests of the people that have entrusted the decision-makers with power and the broader stakeholder community”.

Madonsela urged citizens to not turn a blind eye to corruption.

“It is said that evil prospers not because of the might of evil people but because of the silence of good people…There can be no true peace anywhere as long as there is injustice somewhere”.