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Inconvenient truths of our time include corruption, says Madonsela

05 May 2021 - 20:38 By shonisani tshikalange
Former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela delivered the 2021 Nadine Gordimer Lecture at Wits University on Wednesday night under the title: The Audacity to Speak an Inconvenient Truth.
Former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela delivered the 2021 Nadine Gordimer Lecture at Wits University on Wednesday night under the title: The Audacity to Speak an Inconvenient Truth.
Image: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

Prof Thuli Madonsela described corruption as an inconvenient truth of our time, and said it must be tackled even when those committing the crime were our friends.

This was as she delivered the 2021 Nadine Gordimer Lecture at Wits University on Wednesday night under the title “The Audacity to Speak an Inconvenient Truth”.

“Corruption undermines a functional and effective democracy. One of the inconvenient truths of our time is the need to save democracy, and for me, that is beyond getting president Zuma to obey the law. It is also about how we handle challenges such as Covid-19 in such a way that we do not gravitate towards and authoritarian state ... That we continue in all of these circumstances to stick to the vision in the constitution,” she said.

Defending the role and importance of the Chapter 9 institutions, one of which was the public protector's office she once held, Madonsela said when these institutions were allowed to do their work there are fewer transgressions.

“Protecting the rule of law should be paramount. Corruption in the public sector should be dealt with but so should corruption in the private sector. To save democracy we need to double up our anti-corruption efforts, particularly corruption in law enforcement. We need to make sure that in law enforcement nobody escapes the rule of law,” she said.

Madonsela said Nadine Gordimer saw her work as a hand-held torch, describing it as a powerful torch against darkness.

“She chronicled apartheid’s everyday injustices. She chose to concern herself about the most underprivileged in the society she lived in,” Madonsela said.

Gordimer, who died in 2014, was active in the anti-apartheid movement and sought to reflect the painful realities of life in SA through her many short stories and novels.

Madonsela described Gordimer as a writer who used her words to shift consciousness in society.

“She understood justice to be the basis of all humans — the basis of a peaceful society,” she said.

Madonsela said at the core of Gordimer’s messaging was social justice.

“In her Nobel acceptance speech, she said the following: ‘Only many years later was I to realise that if I had been black, I might not have become a writer at all since the library that made this possible for me was not opened to any black child.'

“And that’s very clear that she felt she was privileged and it wasn’t right to live in a society where you are privileged on account of your skin. For me that’s an issue of social justice,” she said.

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