Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has cautioned voters against voting for those who have already stolen from public coffers. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/REUTERS
Johannesburg - Former public protector, Prof Thuli Madonsela, has warned South Africans to avoid re-electing people to public office who have stolen from the poor and vulnerable.

Madonsela was delivering the Unisa 2018 Founders Lecture on Ethics in Democracy at the University of South Africa on Thursday night in Pretoria.

“We should stop a Stockholm syndrome in which a person who has abused us over a period and we tend to like him and return him to office,” Madonsela said.

She said it was about time that individuals who want to hold public office should be subjected to thorough background checks to avoid the voting public being shocked when they “mess up”.

“We need to check their past. We need to find out if they ever improve the living conditions of people before occupying public office,” she said.

She said told her audience that in Athens, public representatives who ignore their electorate mandates were easily removed from office.

“If residents there feel you have failed to deliver on your made, they immediately petition for your arrest or removal from office.” According to her, in Athens “false promises” are not allowed by voters saying local leaders who wanted second terms were subjected to thorough questioning.These are the questions Athenians ask their candidates ahead of any elections: “Can you please tell us what did you do for us last year?"

Madonsela urged South Africans to adopt the same attitude ahead of the 2019 national elections.

In her address, Madonsela, while not mentioning former president Jacob Zuma by name, reiterated her criticism of responses Zuma gave during her investigations into the Nkandla scandal.

Madonsela said in South Africa recently he (she) came across leaders, when asked to account on certain allegations of wrongdoing against them, would say: “I have committed no crime, therefore, I have a right to govern”.

According to Madonsela, as a leader “you’ve got to be able to say what I did was right”.

“That was my question in Nkandla. That was my question in Midvaal. In Midvaal, a person owes R5 000 and his property worth more than R500 000 is taken away from her. The person who took the property away then sells it to his partner who then sells the same property for a fortune in the open market,” Madonsela said.

Political Bureau