Public Protector encourages public participation to ensure accountable and transparent democracy
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela has implored South Africans to take an interest and get involved in activities that will enhance the country’s constitutional democracy.
Speaking at Bethesda Methodist Church in Johannesburg, where a public conversation on strengthening public transparency and accountability was held, the Public Protector urged members of the public to read, understand and play their part in implementing the country’s constitution.
She called on the public to underline parts of the constitution that deal with the kind of society envisioned for South Africa; the Bill of Rights; rule of law; the role of the executive, which includes putting people first and suppressing self-interest; delivery of public services; efficiency in the use of public resources; and ensuring that every constitutional responsibility is implemented expeditiously and with diligence.
The Public Protector said South Africa’s constitution made provision for the public to take part in efforts geared towards delivering an inclusive society where the quality of life of all people would be improved and the potential of each person freed as envisaged in the very constitution.
She added that citizens’ contribution should transcend taking part in elections and include playing an active role in policy-making, planning processes and exacting accountability on government, among other things.
“A citizen therefore does not end his or her role by entrusting public power to a few amongst us [through voting],” she said. “He or she participates in a process of assisting these men and women to do the right thing at all given times.”
On exacting accountability, she explained that South Africa’s architecture of democracy provided for checks and balances that included political oversight through parliament, administrative oversight through institutions supporting democracy and judicial scrutiny through the courts.
She argued that it should not be left to checks and balances such as her office, the Auditor-General, the Special Investigating Unit and the Hawks, among others, to hold state actors to account.
The people themselves were ultimately the main oversight institution, the Public Protector said, adding that the media played a critical role in that regard.
“In modern democracy, the citizens are unable to exact accountability on those they have entrusted with public power without the media,” she added. “The media plays an important role, therefore, in facilitating dialogue between the people and those they have entrusted with public power.”
She congratulated all Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures who were sworn-in this week, including Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete and HE Mr Jacob Zuma, who was elected President.
“Congratulations to all the premiers of our nine provinces. We wish them well in delivering on the trust that our people have placed on them to take responsibility for public power and look after the people’s resources.”
The Public Protector further thanked the church for affording her the opportunity to take part in the conversation. She also thanked the faith community for its support for her office and the country’s constitutional democracy.
While there might have been a few voices that said things that were contrary to the country’s constitutional democracy, the mainstream faith community remained unwavering in its support for her office and constitutional democracy in general, she said.
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