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Pearls of Wisdom from Advocate Thuli Madonsela

Kagiso Trust

Strand: Innovative Leadership

  1. What makes an innovative leader and why is innovation important to a leader?

An innovative leader is a leader who employs situational leadership practices to influence others to generate and deploy innovative solutions to challenges and take an organization or society forward. An innovative leader is not only one with creative solutions but one who recognizes and embraces creative solutions from his/her team while creating an environment that encourages creativity.

  1. What role does the Public Protector play in South Africa?

The Public Protector supports, strengthens constitutional democracy by repairing broken dialogue between the people and those they have entrusted with public power and resources. The office is an administrative watchdog of last resort, which principally fosters accountability and good governance in state affairs while ensuring justice for persons that have been wronged by the state. The thinking behind the office is to have a relatively informal administrative watchdog or safety valve that scrutinizes the acts of state actors and remedies state wrongs in thus closing gaps left by judicial accountability, political accountability and internal accountability mechanisms within organs of state. Operating like the Venda Makhadzi, the Public Protector ensures that disaffected persons and communities do not resort to public protest and ultimately violence to exact accountability or remedies for perceived injustice or service failure.

  1. Why is it important for Chapter 9 institutions to be protected by the constitution?

It is important for Chapter 9 institutions to be protected by the Constitution to ensure that they optimally perform their functions regarding supporting, strengthening democracy independently without fear, favour and prejudice.

  1. 21 years into our young democracy we face a new struggle of economic transformation and growth; does maladministration have an impact on South Africa’s growth?

Maladministration has a definite impact on economic growth and development. In fact, maladministration retards and derails economic growth and development in that services that have to be provided to support economic growth and development are often not provided due to bad planning, poor choice of private sector implementation partners or plain corruption. An example in this regard are the deficiencies at Eskom that have led to systemic service failure regarding the provision of electricity with the impact of crippling productivity and commerce and in some cases resulting in liquidation of small businesses.

Maladministration involving regulatory failure is contributing to the flooding of the market with counterfeit goods with the effect of hurting legitimate business. Maladministration is involving failure to adhere to municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDP) is one of the key factors behind poor progress in the rolling out of infrastructure such as roads. The absence of infrastructure is a factor in undermining economic growth. Regarding corruption, a good example is RDP housing where millions of Rands have had to be reinvested to fix shoddily built houses that were fully paid for. Corruption also discourages genuine entrepreneurship as some entrepreneurs fear that they may invest in projects only to find that their participation can be corruptly curtailed or terminated arbitrarily.

The good thing is that the National Development Plan (NDP) is alive to the growing challenge of corruption and commit to the deployment of appropriate resources, including capacitation of the Public Protector and others to reinforce the war against corruption.

  1. What challenges are facing the government in relation to service delivery and accountability?

While today is better than yesterday regarding inclusive service delivery by government machinery. One of the key achievements has been the acceptance of equality of and the human dignity of all persons and communities. However, maladministration, corruption and ethical violations such as conflict of interest and other lapses regarding putting people first , are undermining the state’s effectiveness as a regulator and as an authority delivering important basic services.

Lack of adequate skills and leadership primarily due to a high turnover of experienced politicians and public sector mangers, are some of the principle problems. Inequality and related social injustice have also grown despite a constitutional commitment to the achievement of equality. It is my considered view that failure to fully implement some of the laws and policies is responsible for growing inequality and calls for social justice. An example in this regard is the Equality Act, whose chapter five (5) is yet to be implemented, more than 15 into its enactment. The NDP is another example, two years into its wholesale adoption by Parliament; it is not yet the basis of government strategies and allocation of resources.

  1. How can the private sector, government, unions and civil society work together to eradicate corruption and maladministration?

The private sector can play a meaningful part in ending corruption by firstly not participating in corrupt practices both when acting privately and in its dealings with organs of state. The private sector, government, unions and civil society can work together to raise awareness on corruption and to use peer pressure to act against those found to have been involved in corrupting. Collectively, these organs of society can encourage and provide support to whistle-blowers and administrative watchdogs responsible for combating corruption. Part of the onslaught against corruption, should target the institutionalization of values that promote integrity, fairness and human solidarity.

  1. Why is it important for South Africans to be active citizens and hold their government officials to account?

It is important for South Africans to be active citizens as they are in the same boat with the government with their fate impacted by all that governments does and fails to do.  It is also important to understand that democracy is not limited to engagement through political parties. It is an ongoing dialogue between the people and those entrusted with public power (state actors) through various constitutionally provided avenues. This is to ensure that state action is informed by and serves all communities and groups.

Who are some of the South Africans that have inspired you and why?

Mama Albertina Sisulu inspired me with her resolute integrity, quiet dignity, courage, selfless sense of service and compassion for others.  I’ve also be inspired by iconic global citizen Nelson Mandela principally because of his commitment to social justice, human dignity, the rule of law and peace. I have also been inspired by courageous and selfless actions of persons such as Olive Schreiner, Charlotte Maxeke, Shullamith Muller, Priscilla Jana, Cissie Gool, Cathy Satchwell, Victoria Mxenge and many others.

  1. How can NGOs like Kagiso Trust contribute to the development of our country?

NGOs such as Kagiso Trust can contribute through supporting quality education and the expansion of access to education to all, particularly those needing funding for tertiary education. Kagiso Trust can also contribute towards values education and leadership development from pre-school to working life. I believe Kagiso Trust has been contributing along the same lines and simple needs to expand its footprint this regard.

  1. What message do you have for Kagiso Trust as they celebrate their 30th anniversary?

Happy 30th Anniversary. It takes vision, resilience, innovation and purpose driven leadership to stay afloat and keep growing 30 years on. We trust you to play your part in keeping our beloved country, South Africa, on track as it navigates difficult storms on its journey towards an inclusive prosperous constitutional democracy. As South Africa continues into its third decade of constitutional democracy, Kagiso Trust and others should gallantly play their part in providing both support and constructive criticism to ensure we are not headed for a cliff as a democracy because of poor leadership or taking our eyes off our roadmap, the Constitution.


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