Powerful Madonsela mom and daughter team stand up for SA's dreams

2016-04-13 11:10
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela speaking at a Unisa Youth Research conference. (News24)

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela speaking at a Unisa Youth Research conference. (News24)

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Johannesburg – Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and her daughter, EFF Student Command secretary general Wenzile Madonsela, spoke at opposite ends of Gauteng on Tuesday, but both, in their own ways, delved into the battle for South Africans' right to dignity. 

Wenzile Madonsela, who is a student at the University of Pretoria, spoke at a discussion on the Fees Must Fall movement at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg, while her mother addressed a youth research conference at Unisa, in Pretoria. 

Both women captivated their audiences, and both spoke about the power of the dreams of South Africans: Thuli Madonsela in a soft-spoken but confident manner, while Wenzile Madonsela was more tough and direct. 

Thuli was dressed in a red jacket and black pants, while her daughter wore a black and white dress, topped off with a red Economic Freedom Fighters' beret. 

Thuli Madonsela said a real leader in the country did not need to have a title to make a difference in the lives of people. 

Influencing change

"A proper notion of leadership understands that leaders are not people with titles or with positions – leaders are people who influence change at whatever age they are," she said. 

They could be in pre-school, a grandparent, or someone like ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada.

"You are a leader not because you are in a position in your church or your organisation. You are a leader because you make things happen by influencing human behaviour and by influencing history," she said.

WATCH: The future belongs to those invest in children - Madonsela

Two weeks ago, the Constitutional Court found President Jacob Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution when he did not comply with Madonsela's remedial action regarding payments for the non-security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

Several prominent ANC stalwarts, including Kathrada, civil society and opposition parties have called for Zuma to either resign or for the ANC to recall him.

Madonsela made reference to a true story about a student named Jackson at her daughter's institution, the University of Pretoria. 

She said he was someone who had to defy the odds to study at a university. 

Jackson's story

He got a scholarship, which was inadequate, and some money from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. He slept in a bathroom in a library, because he had no accommodation. The librarians ignored him, out of compassion. 

"He should have been angry, because the constitutional promise is an improved quality of life for every person.. Now he is sleeping in a toilet," she said. 

"He passed, and kept passing, until two young students discovered him and brought him to the attention of the administration."

She said the institution acted compassionately and accommodation for him was found. He was walking tall, a young leader finding other Jacksons struggling with accommodation and fees, she said. 

"What made him the way he is? It was the power of dreams – a focus on his dreams and not allowing himself to descend to the bitterness of victimhood."

There was an uncanny echo between Thuli Madonsela and Wenzile Madonsela's words.

Wenzile said she was initially going to do a presentation on conscious capitalism, but felt she "wouldn't be authentic to myself and the students".

Life with no dignity

"I'm a student at the University of Pretoria, I have access to education practically speaking. But then I step onto the university, there I find kids who are sleeping on campus, sleeping in the disability bathrooms, who do not make friends because they are scared to make friends because when you make friends they will ask 'where do you live? Can I come over?'

"These children live a life with no dignity, they use hand sanitiser soap in the university to keep themselves clean.

"They leave home excited with hope, the hope that they are going to break the cycle of poverty at home. But no one looks at the surrounding circumstances that they have to endure during this journey."

She urged South Africans to look beyond throwing money at the situation, and rather tap into their emotions.

WATCH: I'm a socialist - Madonsela's daughter

"We need to invest more of ourselves as human beings, as people who form part of such a beautiful society.

"We need to make ourselves uncomfortable if it means compromising your lifestyle, if it means going on the ground, going to Kuruman, to Tzaneen, going to Giyani, seeing what is the hindrance between them and success, them and excellence, and identifying that."

More than money was needed, she said. The idea that South Africans had the ability to be great needed to be reinforced, but this would not happen without more graduates.

"Those graduates aren't being created because we are neglecting them. We are not giving them a chance, we are stealing their dreams, we are thieves, we are a nation of thieves."

A bit more selflessness

South Africans needed to see the true value in investing in a child and Wenzile Madonsela urged people to make a positive change, in their own way.

"Look into your hearts and say, 'What can I do? What haven't I done before?'" 

Taking this idea further, Thuli Madonsela said her office was there to be a partner for South Africans, to ensure that government played its part in delivering the "Constitutional promise". 

"It all boils down to a proper use of state power and state resources. The resources that are in the hands of government belong to the people – they don't belong to government, they don't belong to any party that is in government at any time."

Concern about food parcels

She said it was often thought that government was doing people a favour when it delivered basic services. 

"That if you don't vote a particular party, you will not get your basic services. That is wrong. There should be no prioritisation in who gets RDP housing or whose informal settlement gets water and electricity based on voting," Madonsela said. 

People had a right to hold government accountable, and ensure resources were fairly distributed, regardless of which party they voted for

Madonsela extended this to the problems of political parties distributing food parcels, which she said was a big concern. Her office would release a report on the matter. 

"They are not supposed to be given at a political rally because only people of a particular political persuasion will come. If food parcels have to be given to alleviate poverty, they have to be given in an apolitical way, and not linked to any day of elections."

In 2014, Madonsela's office said it received complaints about the ANC using state resources for its election campaign.

Read more on:    thuli madonsela  |  pretoria

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