Embrace constitutional institutions: Public Protector
The South African government doesn’t take enough credit for having created and ensuring the functionality of constitutional institutions such as her office, Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela said on Monday.
She was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (Prisa), where the institute conferred her with its President’s Award. The accolade recognises recipients’ public relations value for the country.
The Public Protector said her office, like that of the Auditor-General, the SA Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality, among others, contributed immensely to the country’s reputations as a solid democracy.
She said these institutions were meant to support and strengthen the country’s constitutional democracy, operating as safety valves that reinforced public accountability and democracy as a dialogue.
“I am convinced that they are doing just that and that their success is a tribute to political will and respect for the rule of law by political office bearers and officials at all levels of government,” the Public Protector said.
“I often feel that South Africa doesn’t really allow herself to take enough credit for having created and ensuring the functionality of these constitutional institutions as part of the architecture of our strong constitutional democracy.”
She said it was her considered view that the fact that these institutions made an impact showed that the country’s democracy was working and that it was a success story.
“It is credit,” the Public Protector said, “to the country’s political leadership that such institutions have been created, they are not being interfered with and that, by and large, their reports are being implemented.”
She told delegates of a perception that there was a constant battle between her office and organs of state and that the latter didn’t cooperate with regard to remedying maladministration or its impact on people.
Arguing that the perception was incorrect, the Public Protector said her office successfully resolved more than 32 000 of over 40 000 cases her office investigated in the year ending March 31, 2014. Most of the cases were resolved through alternative dispute resolution methods, which were made possible by cooperation from organs of state.
She said the public was likely to hear only about a handful cases that made it into the news due to the nature of the issues and the involvement of high profile state actors. Even then, there was a tendency to focus on cases where there were difficulties with regard to government implementing the remedial action she would have taken as empowered by the Constitution.
The reality was that such cases constituted a tiny minority because in most of the cases –about 99 percent- government quietly accepted the findings and the remedial action was implemented without any drama, the Public Protector explained.
She said more should be done to embrace these institutions and ensure that they grow in playing their part alongside the judiciary, the legislature and the executive in ascertaining accountability, integrity and responsiveness in the exercise of state power and control over public resources.
Turning to the award, the Public Protector said she was sincerely humbled and honoured by Prisa’s recognition of her team’s modest contribution to the country’s on-going success as a vibrant constitutional democracy.
“While the award is conferred on me as an individual, I accept it with humility, as I have done with similar accolades, on behalf of the team of dedicated human beings to whom working for the Public Protector South Africa is a calling,” she said.
The Public Protector said it was this team that ensured, among other things, that public funds that were treated as “orphaned money” through corruption and other forms of malfeasance were, to the extent possible, clawed back to fund the advancement of human rights and the frontiers of human freedom.
She also conveyed her condolences to the Mbeki family and the rest of South Africans, saying Ms Epainette Mbeki, who died at the weekend, was a selfless struggle veteran that sacrificed dearly for the rights and freedoms often taken for granted today.
The Public Protector also expressed condolences to the family of Ms Ayesha Dawood, who, she said, was a fellow Rivonia Trialist to MaMbeki’s late husband, Govan. She also wished President Jacob Zuma a speedy recovery.
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