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Monday 17 October 2011
“Strengthening synergies and leadership in ensuring public accountability”

The Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela
Speaker of the Parliament, Mr Max Sisulu
Minister of Economic Development at the German Embassy, Andreas Kuenne
Chairperson of the Foundation for Human Rights, Ms Yasmin Sooka
Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Mr Mthembu
Co-chairperson of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members, Honourable Mashile
Distinguished Panel members and guests
Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the media

It is an honour to address this second annual Good Governance Conference.

As we deliberate on this issue, we must remember that the concept of governance is not new.  It is as old as human civilisation.  Simply articulated, governance refers to the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not).  It can apply to corporate, international, national and local areas of governance.

Good governance has been described as having eight (8) major characteristics.  It is participatory, consensus orientated, accountable, transparent, responsive, efficient and effective, equitable, inclusive and follows the rule of law.  It is also gender sensitive.  It ensures the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making.  It is therefore responsive to the present and future needs of society.

We have excellent examples of this in South Africa and I will use that of the Freedom Charter to illustrate this.  The Freedom Charter adopted in Kliptown in 1955 is unique in that for the first time ever, the people were actively involved in formulating their own vision of an equitable, democratic society.  It was therefore responsive to the current and future needs of South African society.  The process leading up to the formulation of the content of the Charter and its subsequent adoption was certainly transparent, participatory and consensus orientated since a series of consultations throughout the country resulted in the Charter.

Therefore in content and process, the Freedom Charter is an excellent example of good governance and indeed, it formed the basis of South Africa’s first democratic Constitution, adopted in 1996.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We should also be reminded that good governance should not be seen as an end in itself.  What it should essentially translate into is a better life for all citizens at all levels and it should ultimately enrich humanity.

When we talk of good governance in government, this becomes paramount especially because the electorate, that is the citizens of this country, vote for change.  They vote for what they believe public representatives and officials are going to bring to their lives and how their lives will become better.  As public officials, we therefore owe it to our citizens to ensure we deliver on these expectations.

Distinguished guests,

South Africa is part of a larger continent, Africa.  In this regard, the continent, through the African Union has also embraced the concept of good governance.  In its arsenal of instruments, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance is the most authoritative expression of the commitment of the African Union and its Member States to a set of shared values and aspiration objectives in governance, democracy and elections.  The driving impetus for the development and adoption of the Charter can be traced to the commitment to good governance and democracy within the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the deliberations at the inaugural Summit of the African Union in 2002.  It is regrettable that as at January 2011, South Africa was one of eight (8) countries on the continent to sign and ratify this Charter.  We hope that more countries will ratify this Charter.   

The roots of the Charter are also contained within the African Union Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, also adopted at the inaugural African Union Summit in Durban in 2002.  Through this, Heads of State agreed to the principles governing democratic elections and further observed that “regular elections constitute a key element of the democratization process and therefore, are essential ingredients for good governance, the rule of law, the maintenance and promotion of peace, security, stability and development.”

The Charter was adopted by the African Heads of State and Government in January 2007 at their meeting, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Amongst others, African leaders are mandated by Chapter 2, Article 2 to:

“Nurture, support and consolidate good governance by promoting democratic culture and practice, building and strengthening governance institutions and inculcating political pluralism and tolerance,” while promoting “the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, freedom of the press and accountability in the management of public affairs.”

Ladies and gentlemen,

Also within the context of these continental instruments, I would like to look at Africa’s programme for socio-economic development – NEPAD which was adopted by African leaders in 2001 and unanimously endorsed as a continental programme by our partners in the developed world.  Peace, security, democracy, good governance, human rights, and sound economic management as conditions for sustainable development were placed at the centre of NEPAD.  

As part of its accountability mechanism, NEPAD established the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in 2002 which remains an innovative and voluntary mechanism for building democracy and good governance. The APRM, through a voluntary review mechanism aims to foster ‘the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration’.  South Africa was amongst the first group of countries to be peer reviewed in 2007.

Capacity of the State to Deliver on its Commitment to good governance

For the State to be accountable and adhere to good governance principles it requires leadership and an excellent team of public servants.  

Leadership should therefore begin with the type of officials we recruit of officials into the Public Service.  This is very important because laws, systems and technology may assist with good governance but it is the human resources that are critical to the implementation of policies and balances.

What should we look for?

Obviously, it is a given that candidates must have the appropriate qualifications but more importantly we must look for:

·         Patriotism
·         Integrity
·         Honesty
·         Discipline
·         Commitment
·         Dedication
·         Loyalty
·         Dependability
·         Adaptability
·         The quest for excellence
We must be wary of people who are just chasing better packages or who think that working for government means job security, medical aid and pension without hard work.

Having done this we must then ask what is leadership?

I subscribe to the concept that leaders are not born but made.

A good leader should be able to inspire the team.  Assessments of how we are delivering on the mandate must occur constantly.  We should use every failure or success as a lesson to educate the team, no matter how insignificant it may seem.  We should also constantly appeal to each person’s conscientiousness and honour.

A leader should be “humane but also know how to be demanding and even severe at times.”  A leader should also be severe with himself or herself and base discipline on the force of his or her own example.  A leader should therefore be exemplary and foster a team spirit while leading by example.
Alan Keith is quoted as saying “leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” 
Leadership is therefore about inspiring a team to want to be agents of change and want to change whatever institution, department of company into a centre of excellence.

We must remember that every leader is as good as his or her team.  


There are various types of accountability – political, ethical, administrative, market and constituency relations.

Political accountability refers to the accountability of government, civil society and politicians to the public and to legislative bodies such as a congress or a parliament.  In South Africa, government and civil servants are accountable to Parliament and some of the oversight bodies.

Ethical accountability refers to the principles and practices of ethical accountability that aim to improve both the internal standard of individual and group conduct as well as external factors, such as sustainable economic and ecologic strategies.  We would be aware of Parliament’s Ethics Committee to whom members of parliament are accountable.

Administrative accountability suggests that internal rules and norms as well as some independent commissions, and chapter 9 institutions, are mechanisms to hold civil servants within the administration of government accountable.  Within a department or ministry, behaviour is bounded by rules and regulations while  civil servants are subordinates in a hierarchy and accountable to superiors.  

But most important, is the accountability of public representative and government to the electorate and ensuring we deliver on our electoral mandates.

Accountability also means we must appreciate there are systems and protocols that bring us into positions of leadership.  For national and provincial government, it comes in the form of national and provincial democratic elections every five years; for local government, from Local Government Elections also every five years; for heads of chapter 9 and 10 institutions, and others, it comes from the constitution.  

It means that when we are fortunate enough to be entrusted by the citizens of this country to be positions of leadership, we must understand we are there to govern these institutions – public or private – on behalf of those who have elected us into these positions.  We cannot therefore take these positions for granted, nor can we govern with impunity.  

I am pleased to note that your deliberations in your inaugural forum last year centred around roles of democratic and oversight institutions in promoting good governance in South Africa.  I believe that institutions that play an oversight role in society, especially democratic societies, are very important since they provide valuable analysis of the work of government and other public institutions which can be used to benchmark against the objectives of the organisations in question.  

However, this should not be the only thing they do.  It is important that when gaps are identified between objectives and delivery in terms of mandates, a dialogue is instituted on how best to go forward with a view to narrowing these gaps.  This is because although on different ends of the spectrum, the goal of government, public institutions and oversight institutions is essentially the same – to ensure the business of governance is conducted in the best interests of all citizens and to safeguard the democracy that was earned at great cost.  The relationship between especially government and oversight institutions should therefore not be antagonistic and confrontational.

Whilst these institutions should be independent and do their work without fear or favour, it is essential for them to understand that their success lies in co-operating with government and other stakeholders, entering into a dialogue whilst sweeping nothing under the carpet.

If they take a confrontational approach, they may not achieve optimal results but might produce an effect similar to Newton’s Third Law of Physics – for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.  And we certainly do not want this.  Co-operation must be engendered because we must build a better life for all our people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When it comes to using the public funds, before we make acquisitions or buy services we must always ask ourselves how this is going to assist us in fulfilling our mandate and whether it contributes to better services and a better life for our citizens.  If you cannot find an answer, I suggest you abandon the consideration.  

Guided by these considerations we shall be able to use the funds for what they are meant for.  Of course this does not replace a strict supply chain management and a good asset management.

We must also ensure strict adherence to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) which aims to regulate financial management in national and provincial government while ensuring revenue and public assets are managed effectively and efficiently.

Accountability and transparency should also be part of all institutions in this country, including private ones.

And then there is the element of consistency.  Political parties are often criticised for making all sorts of promises in the run up to elections and once in power they are not able to deliver.  There must therefore be consistency in what we do to ensure we get the votes and then what we do when we have won the votes.  In essence, we must earn the votes we get.  
Consistency therefore also talks to the issue of trust.  Trust between a government and it’s citizens is a crucial element in the stability of a country.  Indeed trust is a critical element of life in general and it is extremely tenuous.  You can work for years to build trust and it can be shattered in a moment.  Those in positions of leadership should therefore always be cognisant of the expectations of the electorate and careful to ensure a conduct that meets these expectations – this extends to all levels of governance.

We must also ensure there is consistency in leadership, especially in ensuring leadership is demonstrated through action rather than words.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is important also to ensure the participation of citizens in the work of government.  At Home Affairs we have established stakeholder forums in the majority of municipalities which have been invaluable in the quest to improve services and fight corruption.

Indeed, in an increasingly socially conscious world where citizens of the world interact in borderless spaces, we must not fail to recognise the power of civil society and particularly young people to contribute to, and where necessary, bring change.  

Therefore, no longer can governance follow a top-down model.  Public representatives and their organisations must engage in a dialogue with various stakeholders to facilitate a sharing of ideas to ensure governance is conducted in the best interests of all whom it is meant to serve.

If one goes back to the issue of the APRM, the key thematic areas that are addressed in each country report are: democracy and political governance, economic governance, corporate governance and socio-economic development.  Even just a cursory glance at these areas indicates how beneficial discourse between all stakeholders to the business of good governance can be.  And since the objectives of the APRM are closely aligned to ensuring that governance is mutually beneficial to government and its people, such a discourse will also ensure that citizens participate in the processes of governance.

I would like to conclude by reminding this audience that it is critical for public representatives and officials to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, in accordance with all necessary prescripts and rules of conduct.  But it is also important for one to live by one’s own models of good governance, one that comes from the place of conscience and integrity.

I wish you all well in your deliberations and am confident these will assist you to exercise more constructive oversight over all public institutions in the year to come.

I thank you.

Issued by  SA Department of Home Affairs


February/March 2020













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