Broadening access to her office top of Public Protector's agenda
Expanding access to the services her office offers, with a special focus on members of the public located in the margins of society, will be among Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane's key priorities during the seven years of her tenure, she said on Thursday.
Speaking in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on the sidelines of an event commemorating the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, she announced plans to invest more time and resources going out to the grassroots to raise awareness about the potential of her office in sparking a positive change in the lives of the poor.
Adv. Mkhwebane, who spent the earlier part of the week outlining her vision to her management team during a two-day strategic planning session in Pretoria, said her office needed to provide justice and serve as a refuge for members of the public, who often found themselves at the receiving end of poor service delivery.
Dozens of locals that attended the commemoration, held at a local high school, brought to Adv. Mkhwebane's attention service delivery grievances involving police conduct, the processing of applications for RDP houses and illegal electricity connections, among other things.
"As we have seen with the complaints brought forward by ordinary folk, including the elderly, people have serious problems and they do not know where to go for help," she said. "We will be going out into communities to raise awareness about our services, engaging people in their own languages to broaden access."
Adv. Mkhwebane said she planned to make use of community radio, magistrates courts and government's Thusong Service Centers, among other avenues, to enhance access. She said she would build on the gains made by her predecessors to give effect to the constitutional imperative of ensuring that her office is "accessible to all persons and communities".
Addressing the commemoration earlier, Adv. Mkhwebane said gender violence was a serious human rights violation. She noted that while official crime statistics showed a decline in sexual offenses recorded between March 2015 and April 2016, South Africa still had a high incidence of this form of gender violence.
The many cases of sexual offenses reported to authorities in that period painted a scary picture when it came to the safety of women and children, who were the predominant victims of sexual offences in the country, Adv. Mkhwebane added.
She encouraged victims to report cases of abuse to the police, explaining that her office could not directly help with such matters. "In other words, a victim of rape cannot report it to us. Such an offence should be reported to the police. When you do not get the help you need from the police, you may escalate to the Independent Police Investigation Directorate, or the Office of the Family Advocate. Only when you are still not satisfied can you come to the Public Protector."
Noting that the commemoration took place on World Aids Day, Adv Mkhwebane called on the public to minimize new HIV and AIDS infections by abstaining or practicing safe sex, being faithful and getting tested.
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