“One has to do the right thing” when asked to pay back something, although you have not asked for it, she said.
Madonsela was castigated following her hard-hitting report released last month, which recommended Zuma should pay back a percentage of the cost of security upgrades to his private residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Addressing the Young African Leaders’ Forum at the University of Johannesburg yesterday, Madonsela slammed those who argue she does not have the right to order Zuma to repay taxpayers money spent on his Nkandla home because she is not a court of law.
“It is a disingenuous argument,” she said.
“Political parties expel their members after internal disciplinary hearing and nobody says you are not a court of law.
“The Competition Commission and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration make decisions every day and nobody tells them they are not a court of law.”
Madonsela said it looked like this “you-are-not-a-court-of-law” argument only applies to her.
“The Public Protector has the power to take appropriate action,” Madonsela said. “What is this obsession with courts of law?”
She said it would not be “ethical” for her to comment on media reports that Zuma said he never asked for Nkandla upgrades.
The country could have achieved a lot more over the past 20 years if it were not for maladministration and corruption, she said. “We have travelled a great distance from where we were in 1994 in terms of achieving the Constitutional promise of an improved quality of life for all South Africans.
“We have to ask ourselves: should we be where we are, or could we have covered more distance?”
She said ethics were simple rules about how people needed to behave. “People have to abandon some individual freedoms or limit them.
“Those in positions of public power have a particular responsibility in this regard because they need to lead by example.”
She said chapter four of the National Development Plan offered guidance for revitalising ethical leadership and good governance.
“Let us make sure we don’t take 40 years to make sure no child studies under a tree; no child dies in a pit toilet.”