Public Protector calls on communities to choose dialogue over violence, urges government to listen to communities
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Thursday called on communities that were unhappy with government services to choose dialogue with competent organs of state over violent protests that often resulted in the destruction of much needed infrastructure.
Addressing a workshop on the establishment of engagement platforms between communities and local government and the role of institutions such as her office in Dihatshwane outside Mahikeng, the Public Protector also urged government to give the communities an audience.
“And when communities come to us or any other competent body with their complaints, government must listen and help institutions such as my office to resolve the issues,” she told delegates at the two-day workshop organized by local Non-Governmental Organisation, Socio-Economic Right Institute of South Africa.
The Public Protector said there was a need for effective communication between the state and its people, explaining that South Africa’s constitutional democracy was designed to be an ongoing dialogue between the voters and the state.
Referring to recent incidents of violent protests in Bekersdal and Malamulele, the Public Protector said it was clear at the dawn of democracy that government could not work like the old apartheid regime, where people had to throw stones and burn property down in order to be heard. She condemned violence, saying led to setbacks in that the state ends up having to spend more money to fix destroyed infrastructure.
The Public Protector gave examples of cases where her office had successfully resolved service delivery challenges at the invitation of young people, who chose not to resort to violence. These included the communities of Nala in the Free State and Braamfischerville in Johannesburg. She also gave an example of her office’s interventions in Dipaleseng municipality in Balfour, Mpumalanga.
The Public Protector further told delegates that the Constitution promised the people of South Africa an improved quality of life and a freed potential while also setting out the character of state, which is underpinned by accountability and transparency.
She added that democracy should not be seen to be only limited to elections as the dialogue –between the state and the people- that should take place in between elections was just as important.
On the relations between local government and communities, the Public Protector referred to section 152 of the Constitution, which outlines the objects of local government. This includes providing democratic and accountable government for local communities, ensuring the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner, promoting social and economic development, promoting safe and healthy environments and encouraging the involvement of communities in matters of local government.
Quoting from section 153 of the Constitution, the Public Protector said the developmental duties of municipalities included structuring and managing their administration and budgeting and planning processes to give priority to the basic needs of communities.
She further highlighted the point that section 154(1) of the Constitution enjoined national and provincial governments to support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions.
Members of the community used the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Public Protector their service delivery grievances. These included requests for more classrooms for the local school, issues with the tribal authorities, provision of drinking water, clinics, police services, RDP housing and roads. The Public Protector said her office would look into all the complaints raised.
For more information, contact:
Manager: Outreach, Education and Communication
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7035
072 264 3273