Public Protector tells public of their constitutional right to complain
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Tuesday reminded the public of their constitutionally-provided right to complain and not be shy if they believed their rights were being violated, adding that they have a right to administrative justice.
The Public Protector was speaking at her office’s commemoration of Human Rights Month in Calvinia in Northern Cape. Her address centred on the people’s right to complain and the state’s responsibility to deal with complaints promptly and effectively while providing credible mechanisms to handle people’s complaints.
She told a packed Hantam Community Hall that they had a right to ‘just administrative action’ and called on all decision makers especially those entrusted with public power to respect and adhere to the public’s right to just administrative decisions.
“All decision makers have a duty to comply with your right to just administrative action,” she said, adding that if people wanted to know why a certain decision was made, they were not insulting anyone’s authority, but exercising their right to know.
She urged communities to make efforts to know their constitutional rights, saying that this would ensure that government is responsive to needs of the people, acts with integrity and is accountable to its people. The Public Protector, however, warned the public that their right to complain did not include destroying public property and harming others.
She appealed to communities to use constitutionally-provided mechanisms to lodge their grievances. These mechanisms included her office, the Human Rights Commission and other Chapter 9 institutions. The Public Protector also spoke in support for whistle-blowers while distinguishing between a noble intention of whistleblowing and distractive intentions of information-peddling.
Communities of Calvinia also used the opportunity to complain to the Public Protector about a range of issues affecting them on daily basis. Their complaints mainly related to service delivery. These included failure by municipality to provide basic services to the people. One complainant told the Public Protector that he applied for a surname change at the Home Affairs in 2010 and nothing had been done to date.
More complaints related to housing, with community members complaining that they applied for RDP houses but they were yet to receive them. Others alleged that councillors were selling the houses to undeserving people. Other complaints related water and electricity. One community member alleged that a child was electrocuted by an electricity pole that had fallen over.
The Public Protector promised the community that her office would take up their complaints with the relevant authorities and ensure that they urgently attended to.
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