Change the world


This article appeared in The Herald on 20 July 2018, written by Odette Parfitt

South Africa still has a long way to go towards reaching the social justice described in the constitution, but with the collaboration of all stakeholders, this goal is still within reach.

Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI IT’S ABOUT YOU AND ME: Former public protector Thuli Madonsela speaks at the NMU south campus auditorium

This is the view of former public protector Thuli Madonsela, who believes the responsibility of reaching equality should be on each South African’s shoulders.

Madonsela was speaking at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth last night.

The lecture, titled “Social Justice Gap: Is the Constitution responsible?” formed part of the university’s programme of centenary celebrations for what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Madonsela said that the lack of equality was not a result of failings in the constitution itself, but that parliament was at least partly at fault.

“My conclusion is that social injustice is not [because of] a problem with the constitution,” she said.

“It is not the most perfect in the world, but it is one of the best.

“I am sure some would like me to say it was the fault of whoever was president in the last few years, but according to a ruling by the Constitutional Court in 2016, the main culprit is parliament.

“Parliament has the responsibility to perform oversight.

“The architecture of our democracy [is designed so] there are guardians of our democracy, and parliament is the second ultimate guardian, after the courts.”

Madonsela said she believed the main impediment to achieving equality was poor leadership and oversight.

However, she emphasised that this was not solely the government’s responsibility.

“We all have a role to play to advance social justice. It doesn’t really matter whose fault it is.

“The key problem is that there hasn’t been adequate monitoring and it has been compounded by poor planning.

“The flame of democracy is under threat.

“People are becoming consumers of democracy and when things go wrong they want politicians to fix it.

“They ask what the government is doing about it, but what about me and you?”

The areas in which justice was still lacking included economic inequality and basic human rights such as access to food, water and healthcare.

Madonsela also highlighted the inequalities of connectivity.

“There are universities and schools that expect people to apply online, but I have been to schools where children have never seen a computer.”

On the question of land reform, Madonsela said expropriation without compensation would not expedite the matter, but rather serve to polarise the nation.

“My problem with it is that people want land, and the question [posed by the Constitutional Review Committee] is framed [in such a way that] they feel they must support expropriation without compensation if they want land – they are not given a range of ways to address the problem.”

She urged the audience to consider the role of co-operation on the road to equality.

“We talk as if Madiba were Rambo, out to fight for justice all by himself, but he always understood he was part of a collective.

“It is about me and you leveraging our power and privilege to make a difference.

“We’re not going to end social injustice alone,” she said.

Watch the full video of Prof Madonsela's talk on the SABC Digital News channel

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