Public Protector calls for increased women lawyers’ participation in discussions around interpretation of her office's power

There is a need for increased participation by women lawyers in the debate around the interpretation of the constitutional powers of the Public Protector, Adv. Madonsela said on Friday.

She was addressing an elective Annual General Meeting of the South African Women Lawyers Association (SAWLA) in Cape Town.

"A lot is being said about the constitutional powers of my office and I call upon you to join the debate and help clarify to society and the authorities the powers of this office," she said.

The Public Protector also urged women in the legal fraternity to help in enforcing her findings, arguing that if nothing was being done, those wronged by the state would not get justice. She told the delegates that non implementation of her remedial action by organs of state often had dire consequences in lives of ordinary people.

She cited an example of a case involving Dutch citizen Thijs van Hillegondsberg and his wife in which she found that Home Affairs officials had abused their powers by denying the family rights to permanent residency. The family is still struggling to get permanent residence status from the department.

Cases like this, the Public Protector said, require legal practitioners including women lawyers to consider providing pro-bono services for the many "Gogo Dlamini's" out there.

Speaking about challenges facing women in the legal fraternity today, Adv. Madonsela told the meeting that attitude and stereotypes towards women were still a problem.

She encouraged women lawyers to ride on the shoulders of great women such as Charlotte Maxeke who were faced with the brutal apartheid system but still managed to make their voice heard.

The Public Protector told the meeting that today's women lawyers had a sound legal framework to operate under compared to their counterparts of yesteryear.

She said women in the legal fraternity today had tools and a sound legal framework at their disposal to advance equality and eliminate any form of discrimination in the society.

"With our beautiful Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we have tools to promote equality in our society. Women lawyers who came before us did not have enough tools but they did not give up," the Public Protector said.

She encouraged the delegates to take on the challenges as they had the power to ensure that the environment changed.

"There is no a better platform to stand up and lead than when there is a problem to be solved," Adv. Madonsela said.

She further encouraged women to take part in building the society where every person’s potential will be freed and realised as promised by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Public Protector will on Monday, 09 March 2015 address the 2nd East and Southern Association of Accountant-Generals Annual International Conference in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. The Public Protector’s address will focus on the “Public Protector- Giving life to the Constitution".

The event will be attended by senior members of the Tanzanian government and Auditor-Generals from the Southern and East Africa regions.

For more information, contact:

Oupa Segalwe
Acting Spokesperson
Public Protector South Africa
(012) 366 7035
072 264 3273

Published Date: 
Sunday, March 8, 2015