Inequality betrayal of South Africa's constitutional promise - Public Protector

South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world despite the constitutional promises which include the substantive notion of equality, Public Protector Adv Thuli Madonsela said on Saturday.

She was speaking at a breakfast of the University of Stellenbosch Law Faculty's Juridical Society to commemorate Women's Month and the legacy of the university's late Rector and Vice Chancellor, Prof. Russell Botman.

"Compounding the situation is that poverty and unemployment have worsened and also the fact that, that too follows the contours of racial, gender and other forms of structural inequality or discrimination," she said.

The Public Protector proposed to the audience, which was made up of female students and staff of the university's law faculty, that in tackling the challenge of inequality, the country could learn from what women's right s activists Charlotte Maxeke and Olive Schreiner, as well as Prof. Botman stood for and what they did with regard to bringing about a more inclusive and peaceful world.

She said the three leaders were able to make a difference through the following attributes, which could be emulated in order to move closer the ideal of an equal and inclusive society:

  • Visionary leadership - The trio saw beyond what others could see and believed what other considered impossible. They were "dealers in hope".
  • Ubuntu - They accepted the humanity of others and the interconnectedness of humanity.
  • Resolute commitment to justice - They were prepared to speak truth to themselves and others, trying to get the government of the day to do the right thing with regard to its own responsibilities.
  • Deep sense of compassion - They had empathy for themselves and others, including both victims and perpetrators.
  • Courage - They had the courage not only to speak out and to act but also to forgive and act with compassion.
  • Transcending talk - They took their commitment beyond pronouncements to living the vision as best as they could.
  • Inspiring a critical mass - They took others with them as they journeyed to maximize impact and sustainability.

Urging the audience to play their part in emulation of the three leaders, the Public Protector reasoned that for as long as there was injustice somewhere, the country and the world could not have peace. However, she said, in playing its part, society needed not be perfect.

"We may not be paragons of non-discrimination as that is impossible [given that we are] products of a society where the hierachization of difference is entrenched through socialization from birth," she said.

"All we need to do is play our part in our respective spaces as earnestly as possible."

The Public Protector said, however, that today is better than yesterday and that women today are better off than Schreiner, Maxeke and the 1956 marchers.

Issued by the Public Protector.

For more information, contact:

Kgalalelo Masibi
Spokesperson: Public Protector South Africa
(012) 366 7006
079 507 0399


Public Protector South Africa


Published Date: 
Sunday, August 17, 2014