'We have failed to translate the promises in the Constitution into reality' - Thuli Madonsela

2019-08-29 19:16
Thuli Madonsela addressing the social justice summit at Stellenbosch. (Kamva Somdyala, News24).

Thuli Madonsela addressing the social justice summit at Stellenbosch. (Kamva Somdyala, News24).

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Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela says the biggest failure of the past 25 years has been "the failure to translate the promise we made to ourselves in the Constitution into reality".

Madonsela was addressing a gathering of thought leaders, business heads, activists, political commentators and academics at the inaugural social justice summit in Stellenbosch on Thursday.

At its core, the summit hopes to "emerge with a declaration detailing the desired future regarding social justice efforts, a summary of current challenges, and a call for action to the government, business, society and academia as well as the judicial system and global community".

"As a country, we have unfinished business in making sure that the fruits of democracy are enjoyed by everyone," Madonsela said.

"There needs to be an all hands on deck approach now from society." 

Earlier in the day, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu addressed the summit, saying one of the keys to achieving social justice was to make sure that as a country, there was a thriving and transformed economy that contributed to economic growth.

As the day drew to a close, attendees at the summit discussed issues on social justice under various themes from land, education, health and peace to social cohesion, among others.

On education, various issues were deliberated, which included the need to adequately deal with school infrastructure as a catalyst to make sure that ailing infrastructure is not a deterrent to social justice.

On land, professor of private law at Stellenbosch University Juanita Pienaar bemoaned the long process to attaining land as well as land reform.

"It's a long process entrenched in litigation and costs," she said.

'Victimising ordinary South Africans' 

Speaking on access to justice and the rule of law, the deputy director of the African procurement law unit at Stellenbosch, Professor Sope Williams-Elegbe said currently "the legal system in the country is a reflection of society in that, you get what you pay for".

She added the legal system, in its current guise, "victimises ordinary and poor South Africans".

The solution, Williams-Elegbe noted, was to make sure people understood what avenues were available to them in accessing justice, by way of education.

The outcomes of the group discussions centred on access, sustainability and consistency as well as access to information and resources to everyone in the country on an equal basis.

At the end of the day, a summit declaration was adopted.

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