Public Protector dedicates inaugural Truth and Justice Award to staff and role model, Priscilla Jana
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday received the Law Society of South Africa’s (LSSA) inaugural Truth and Justice Award, dedicating it to both her staff and her role model of old, lawyer and freedom fighter, Priscilla Jana.
The award, which, according to the LSSA, recognises Adv. Madonsela’s contribution to the position of Public Protector and the law during her tenure as the institution’s head, brought, to more than 36, the number of honours bestowed on the office since she assumed duty in October 2009.
“As I prepare to clear my desk, my team and I are constantly fielding questions about the fate of some on-going investigations that might not be finalised by the time I leave office,” she said, accepting the honour.
“We have been consistent is pointing out the work I have been credited for is the product of shared resolute leadership, constantly evolving systems, a committed, purpose-driven team that has been learning and growing together, bound by shared values, including a resolute commitment to ethical governance, accountability and responsiveness to all persons.”
She was confident that the Public Protector Team would carry on with any outstanding work with the same determination they have displayed over the years, in the pursuit of service excellence.
On why she dedicated the award to Ms Jana, Adv. Madonsela recalled how as a youngster in the trade union movement, she successfully convinced the renowned human rights lawyer to take up the case of a group of youth that had been put on death row on the basis of the principle of “common purpose”. The group was acquitted.
Of all the awards presented to her, Adv. Madonsela said the closest to her heart were the humbling recognition from her peers in the legal field. These included the latest one, the General Bar Council of South Africa’s Sydney and Felicia Kentridge Award, received in 2015, and the South African Women Lawyers Association Award, received at the beginning of her term of office.
Turning to the role of lawyers in protecting and promoting the Constitution, the rights of the vulnerable, the Rule of Law, good governance and to speak truth to power, Adv. Madonsela reiterated her view that legal practitioners advising the state must always shy away from telling their clients what they want to hear and rather tell them what they need to hear.
She called on lawyers to provide the kind of counsel they were proud of, which would help them sleep well at night, adding that his would ensure that they are on the right side of history.
Adv. Madonsela cautioned legal practitioners against advising clients to find loopholes to subvert the law. She warned that such acts would not be in the spirit of protecting and promoting the Constitution, the rights of the vulnerable, the rule of law, good governance and to speak truth to power.
Adv. Madonsela emphasised that failure to own up to mistakes often resulted in the state and those entrusted with public power being forced to own up through means that are destructive as seen in Vhuwani and universities being set alight.
With regard to protecting the rights of the vulnerable, Adv. Madonsela appealed to legal practitioners to consider rendering their services on pro-bono to the needy. She argued that most of the people, who had disputes against the state, did not have the financial muscle to litigate.
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