Chief Justice Mogoeng calls for supportive environment for the African Ombudsman institution
South Africa's Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng, on Tuesday called on African governments and the African Union to improve on efforts to create conditions that are conducive to effective offices of the Ombudsman.
Security of tenure, decent remuneration and retirement benefits, proper security arrangements, acceptable budget, competent staff as well as office accommodation and tools of trade must be secured for the Ombudsman, he said.
Chief Justice Mogoeng was delivering a keynote address to mark the beginning of a two-day African Ombudsman Summit currently underway in Kempton Park, Johannesburg.
Attended by heads of Ombudsman institutions (or Public Protectors) from a number of countries across the African continent, the summit aims to explore the contribution that Ombudsman institutions can make to the consolidation of democracy, good governance, peace and stability on the continent.
Apart from heads of Ombudsman institutions, the summit has brought under one roof inter-governmental representatives, academics, Non-Government Organisations, political parties and experts in ombudsman practice.
The summit is being hosted by by the African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC), an entity of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA) based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, which is wholly funded by the South African Department of International Relations through the African Renaissance Fund and managed by the Public Protector South Africa.
AOMA is 39-member organisation of Ombudsman and Mediators across the African continent. It was established in 2003, with a view to enhancing the support of African Ombudsman offices in their role of ensuring good governance in the countries in which they operate.
Chief Justice Mogoeng called on Ombudsman institutions to be determined to uproot corruption in governments, explaining that cover-ups were not signs of patriotism but "a betrayal of legitimate expectations of the poor and under-serviced majority".
Bringing it closer to home, Chief Justice Mogoeng said the proper exercise of the constitutional powers of South Africa's Public Protector bodes well for ridding government of maladministration and corruption.
"The publication of the Public Protector's reports and the huge media coverage they enjoy, have probably discouraged multitudes from allowing greed to drive them down the wasteful expenditure or corruption lane," he said, adding that the office must be supported, strengthened and protected by "all genuine lovers and advocates of good governance".
Chief Justice Mogoeng also issued a warning to heads of Ombudsman institutions, urging them to guard against what he termed "illegitimate external influences" whom he said were ever-ready to fake genuine support or appreciation of a job well done when it was in fact their desire to manipulate.
He said people heading Ombudsman institutions should be independent in relation to decision-making processes and authority.
"The position of the Ombudsman is in many ways similar to that of a Judge," he said. "They are both required to render decisions without fear, favour or prejudice. Who will be excited by or unhappy about the outcome should never be, and I want to believe is never, a consideration."
The Chief Justice said "ever-flowing" invites to prominent platforms and prestigious networking opportunities for the select few must be accepted on a principled basis that did not compromise the interests of countries and the continent. He explained that a compromised person or institution would lack the credibility to contribute meaningfully to good governance.
AOMA President and Angolan Ombudsman, Paolo Tjipilica, said lack of good governance was an incubator of violent conflicts that posed a threat to peace and stability in the continent.
Also speaking at the event, AOMA Secretary and South African Public Protector, Adv. Thuli Madonsela, told delegates that their presence could be attributed to their commitment to playing their part in Africa's rebirth activities, which included strengthening good governance.
Adv. Madonsela, who is also the Chairperson of the AORC board, said it was important to understand the place of good governance in strengthening democracy and sustainable development across the continent, adding that Ombudsman institutions were partners in that regard.
Delegates are expected to emerge with resolutions -termed the OR Tambo Declaration on minimum standards for African Ombudsman- when the summit comes to an end on Wednesday.
Issued by the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA).
For more information, contact:
Public Protector South Africa (AOMA Secretariat)
012 366 7006
079 507 0399