‘Don’t look the other way,’ Public Protector calls on Christians

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela has called on Christians to take action to combat wrongdoing in state affairs and society just as Christian leaders such as Prof. Rev Peter Storey and the South African Council of Churches leaders did during apartheid. Adv. Madonsela was delivering the Annual Peter Storey Memorial Lecture at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal on Friday evening.

The Lecture is a flagship programme of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary. Now in its sixth year, the Lecture honours the legacy of Bishop Storey, one of South Africa’s prominent religious leaders and anti-apartheid activists. It further seeks to encourage synergies between religious thoughts and approaches to governance as well as to encourage religious leaders to engage with civic issues and democratic governance.

Adv. Madonsela’s impassionate plea to Christians and other South Africans to play a role in extending the frontiers of freedom for those who are still shackled by poverty, inequality and other forms of social injustices included her recitation of a 1960s poem of a white Christian by the name of James Patrick Kinney, titled The Cold Within. The poem is about looking the other way in the face of human suffering at your own peril in view of the interconnectedness of humanity.

Adv. Madonsela told guests that the best way to repay the debt of gratitude to Rev Storey and his contemporaries for their efforts in the fight for a free South Africa was to choose not to look away in the face of human suffering. She said Rev Storey chose ethics over comfort and being liked by the powers of the day during apartheid, adding that he had refused to leverage racial privilege to ride the ladder of life, using racial privilege to make a difference for the oppressed instead.

Although, 22 years into democracy, a lot of things had changed for the better, there was still gross human suffering in the country, Adv. Madonsela said. These included students, basic education learners, members of the public who did not have medical aid, unemployed youth and those that ran struggling small businesses.

“As many of us battle to cope with the automated or digitalised world referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, others are yet to access the benefits of electricity, which was the main benefit of the second industrial revolution,” Adv. Madonsela said.

She said the freedom attained in 1994 would remain meaningless for this bracket of people if those that worked for the state and members of the public looked the other way. Adv. Madonsela explained that meaningful freedom referred to freedom from poverty and want, violence and other forms of crime and hunger, among several other things. This kind of freedom further encompassed freedom from corrupt practices both in public and private sectors, inequality and other forms of social injustice such as racism, sexism, xenophobia and child abuse, she said.

“Needless to say,” said Adv. Madonsela, “there is a lot of anger and despair around us. Learning from Peter Storey and James Patrick Kinney, what are we to do?”

The Public Protector urged those that are in the employ of the state to ensure that they operate in terms of the constitution, particularly sections 195 and 237 which deal with principles of public administration and the prioritisation of constitutional obligations, respectively. She said those working for the state had to maintain a high level of ethics, which include avoiding and eliminating conflict of interest and corruption in the exercise of public power and control over public resources.

Ultimately, all state functionaries must subject themselves to the accountability measures designed to empower the people to exact accountability in the exercise of public power, the Public Protector said. Scrutiny establishments that state functionaries had to submit to included internal executive oversight bodies such as the Special Investigating Unit, political oversight structures such as Parliament, constitutional oversight bodies such as the Public Protector and judicial oversight by the courts.

In addition to state functionaries, members of the public were urged to play their part in consolidating democracy by not being part of the problem, including taking part in maladministration, abuse of state power and corruption.

For more information contact:

Ms Kgalalelo Masibi
Spokesperson: Public Protector South Africa
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7066
079 507 0399
Email: kgalalelom@pprotect.org

Public Protector South Africa

Published Date: 
Saturday, May 14, 2016