Madonsela: Unless politicians also bend knee to law, country will be lost

At no time during SA’s youthful democracy has confidence in leadership been at such a low ebb. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela would have mulled this over before last night delivering the 5th annual lecture to celebrate what was the 84th birthday of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. It was a big occasion even for the globally lauded 53 year old as she was following illustrious predecessors Dalai Lama, Graca Machel, Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson. Madonsela shrugged off an attempted disruption to offer a timely reminder of the solid foundation upon which SA’s Constitutional Democracy was built, fanning sparks of cautious optimism still burning in breasts of those who refuse to be infected by politicians’ abuse of power. But Madonsela also remains realistic, warning that unless everyone submits to the rule of law, including those occupying the highest offices in the land, the chance of a better life for all is a pipe dream. – Alec Hogg

By Thulani Gqirana, Media 24

Cape Town – Without respect for the rule of law, the public protector’s office cannot be a meaningful buffer between government and the people.

So believes Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who was speaking at the fifth annual Desmond Tutu International Peace lecture at the University of the Western Cape on Wednesday.

Thuli Madonsela 1

She was speaking about the State, the powers of her office and access to justice and accountability.

Madonsela said the country needed a situation where decision-makers fully submitted to constitutional supremacy.

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“Including scrutiny by whatever structure is given power by the Constitution, we need decision-makers to accept scrutiny by any structure, regardless of hierarchy.  Ultimately what we need is to accept horizontal accountability, where the person you report to is not senior to you.”

She said unlike the time of former president Paul Kruger, who once said judicial scrutiny was a principle of the devil, it was now accepted.

“We are now at an era where judicial scrutiny is acceptable. But the new kid on the block is administrative scrutiny.”

The country also needed lawyers that were original thinkers, Madonsela said.

“Our Constitution was created by out of the box-thinkers responding to our unique needs.”

She said if they were not original thinkers, the transformative value of South Africa’s laws would be lost.

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“The goals we seek in pursuit of accelerated inclusive development in the next 21 years of democracy assisted by the NDP [National Development Plan] and our joining Africa in the pursuit of Agenda 2063 and the global family in the pursuit of SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], are pipe dreams without the rule of law anchored in constitutional democracy.”

She believed the country was not where it should be with regard to social justice and human solidarity.

“Despite our collective commitment to these values as reflected in the Constitution we adopted as our lodestar and roadmap to the South Africa we want to become. It is also my belief that because of these failures sustainable peace is out of our grasp at the moment.”

Madonsela said peace would continue to elude the country if goals such as social justice, human solidarity and accountability were not achieved.