Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Cape Town: In moving tributes on Tuesday afternoon, Members of Parliament took turns to remember the late Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, whom they described as the epitome of accountability and ethical leadership.

The news of Makwetu’s passing, who was days away from finishing his term of office, sent shockwaves around the country after he succumbed to stage four cancer earlier this month.

DA MP Jan De Villiers said in his tribute that Makwetu could have chosen to work in the private sector and potentially make a high salary given his skills set. However, he chose to join the office of the Auditor-General of South Africa and be a public servant above enriching himself.

De Villiers described Makwetu as an exceptional South African who fought for his country and was an ambassador for accountability, good governance and ethical leadership – who did not hesitate to raise red flags around corruption.

“In a recent Moneyweb article … Mr Makwetu was described as ‘a champion of public accountability, an exceptional and true civil servant’. These words personified the Mr Makwetu we dealt with in Parliament committee work, those of an individual who was deeply committed to his profession, his office and the people of his country,” he said.

He said the only time he remembers Makwetu expressing uncommon emotion was when he had to deal with issues of threats and intimidation towards his audit teams.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia De Lille said the country lost one of the most outstanding public servants and guardian of accountable and ethical leadership on 11 November.

She said Makwetu was fearless and steadfast in ensuring that public funds are spent serving citizens.

De Lille said while she was the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, she remembers – and agreed – when Makwetu said: “praising an organization for getting a clean audit is like praising a fish because a fish can swim”.

“This is after I [as Mayor of the City of Cape Town] received four consecutive audits and I often repeated this mantra to officials and said that it is not an option to achieve a clean audit. It is what we are meant to be doing. It is a moral obligation for government to spend the money for service delivery in a proper way.

“Kimi was an exceptional individual and will always be remembered as a principled, honest servant of the people, fully aware of his constitutional obligations and carried his duties diligently till the end.”

She said everyone should honour the leadership of the late Makwetu by carrying the torch forward and by ensuring they advance the principles of accountability and ensure public funds are spent where they are meant to be spent where it is meant to be spent.

Several MPs took turns to commend Makwetu for carrying out his duties without fear or favour – from his openness and truthfulness that he displayed, with COPE MP Willie Madisha expressing his gratitude for being non-partisan.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa, who is also a chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), said the Public Audit Act, which gave the office of the Auditor-General some “teeth”, is the legacy that Makwetu leaves behind.

He said this is not the retirement that everyone has imagined and that Makwetu’s passing has been a great distress.

“The country has lost a patriot who died with his boots on. We have to emulate his example and do justice to his work going forward,” he said.

Hlengwa also said auditors are often seen as enemies and threats by government departments and entities that they get threatened and intimated by public servants when doing their work and this gravely concerned the late AG a lot.

“The late AG did justice to the trust that was placed on him to head a Chapter Nine institution. He did honour to the Constitution and he reminded us that it was possible to be a South African who is actually for the Constitution and lives the Constitution.

Hlengwa sent condolences to Makwetu’s family, friends and colleagues.