The case of Thuli and Mr Moroka’s broken taxi

2016-10-16 09:06
Thuli Madonsela

Thuli Madonsela

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The Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, stepped down on Friday, leaving South Africans from all walks of life with a rich and lived experience of practices and principles of humility, justice, democracy and the law.

She ably navigated the paradoxes that define the interplay of administration, politics, law and justice.

With stubborn determination anchored in insatiable humility, she boldly resolved some of the statutory limitations of the architecture that govern our public life.

Stats SA, the office that I head, experienced the steadfast and unrelenting reach of the fiery grip of the Public Protector as she fought for a member of the public resident in Phase Four, Mangaung.

One Mr Lechesa Moroka finally experienced justice and the fruits of democracy that my office had inadvertently denied him over a period of almost four years.

The journey started in 2010 when one of my employees, driving a state vehicle, collided with Mr Moroka’s taxi and instantly deprived him and his family of a source of income, plunging him into ill health.

Mr Moroka had, without success, knocked on several doors to get justice. Instead, he was persistently shown “the law”.

After the accident, the Stats SA official, as I came to learn later, had tricked Mr Moroka into an out-of-process settlement.

This never materialised and Mr Moroka sought legal advice.

In the meantime, the Stats SA official was charged with the unauthorised use of a state vehicle and Mr Moroka was called to be a witness. The official was dismissed, but Mr Moroka was left to his own devices.

I learnt about the plight of Mr Moroka on December 9 2013. At this time, he was looking at public media avenues as the means of seeking justice.

The SMS through which he introduced the subject, without his name, left me completely dumbfounded about how to interact with the public. I jumped on to the matter instantly.

The history of this matter was fraught with legal imponderables, including those emanating from the lawyers he had engaged.

To cut a long story short, what happened in the course of all this to and fro, was that the matter of the claim had prescribed.

In legal terms, this meant that because in excess of three years had lapsed in which the claimant had not laid a claim with Stats SA, he legally could not have a legitimate claim against the state, short of going through some other legal process.

This was getting intolerable. It took another five months of to and fro and movement of pieces of paper, with no end in sight for Mr Moroka to resolve the matter.

I sought alternate legal advice, but it was clear that the law was supporting the state at the expense of justice for Mr Moroka.

In May 2014, I asked Mr Moroka to seek advice and intervention from the Public Protector as my hands were now tied. Mr Moroka would have none of it and insisted that I had the power to remedy the situation.

I could not persuade him, and in August I reported myself to the Public Protector as an offender, asked her to look into the merits of the matter and appealed to Mr Moroka to present his case.

The Public Protector arranged an appointment for September 22 2014 in Mangaung. Soon thereafter, an award in favour of Mr Moroka was made and – although regrettably late – justice was finally done.

Mr Moroka bought a minibus and continued his trade.

He has since increased the number of his minibuses to two at the last count, and his family’s future is now secure and the ailments he suffered, including the frailty in his voice, have disappeared.

When I learnt of the departure of Advocate Madonsela on Friday, I called Mr Moroka and reminisced about his ordeal.

He was full of praise and admiration for “Manthatisi, the queen of the Batlôka” – the one who holds the sharp end of the blade with bare hands so that Mr Moroka may be protected from the likes of Stats SA officials.

She served with boldness, integrity and, above all, humility and made South Africa a better place in the world.

I wish her well in her future endeavours.

Lehohla is the Statistician-General of South Africa and head of Stats SA


How will you remember Thuli Madonsela’s tenure as Public Protector?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword THULI. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    public protector  |  stats sa  |  thuli madonsela

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