South Africa: Public Protector Calls On Leaders to Balance Truth and Power

press release

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela told delegates attending a UNISA conference themed "Christians Leadership in the Workplace: Local and Global Perspective" that effective leadership is about the balance of truth and power. In her address titled "The Role of Christian Leaders in Promoting Justice and Service Delivery in South Africa: A perspective on national, regional and local government", the Public Protector said when negotiating truth and power the focus should not be on the person but on the propriety of the deed or action.

When she alluded to the challenges in government low cost / RDP housing scheme, she said the intention to provide houses was good but the hope and joy of beneficiaries were destroyed by the slow pace of delivery, fraud and corruption and shoddy work. She said those entrusted with public power and the control of public resources can use value based leadership to ensure that the pace of delivery is right and the quality is right. The Public Protector said for this to happen, the call to leaders in the public sector was, stick to the rules and treat wrongdoers the same. She emphasized the importance of understanding decision-making in the public sector as an act of stewardship which needs to take into account the needs and aspiration of the citizens as power givers.

Having cautioned against the fusion of the state and religion, she highlighted faith based values such as the golden rule and ubuntu as important for responsive, fair and just decisions in the exercise of state power.

She advised that the Public Protector's role is to speak truth to power. Value based decision-making in this institution seeks to ensure that the truth seeking exercise or investigation is characterised by integrity and that all parties deserve justice regardless of whether they are complainants or those accused of wrongdoing. She went on to elaborate on the powers of her office and to clarify how her office tries to manage the relationship between truth and power. She said the focus is always on what happened, what should have happened, is there a discrepancy and if there is a discrepancy does it constitute maladministration and if yes then what should be the remedy. She advised that consistency is also ensured through touch stones which involve the examination of and benchmarking against decisions on similar matters and thus preventing the creeping in of prejudice based on any person's position be they a complainant or someone accused of wrongdoing.

The Public Protector highlighted the fact that the South African constitution affirms religious diversity and that the faith community can contribute towards ethical and value based decision in the exercise of state power and control over state resources and opportunities.

She called on the faith community to join as South Africa reflects on its successes and challenges on the eve of 20 years of democracy and contribute towards turning the tide in favour of good governance and just administrative action in all state affairs.

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