The public needs to be more informed about the country's laws and policies, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has said.
"The role of the people and community leaders is important if a Constitution-based accountability is to be enforced. They need to empower themselves with information on laws, policies and how government works."
Madonsela was delivering the third Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge Memorial Lecture at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Law School on Thursday night.
She said when communities were empowered they asked the right questions to the right people via the right channels.
Without this, human -- and in particular, socio-economic rights --guaranteed by the Constitution could not be delivered optimally.
Madonsela called on communities to stop public protests and follow the example of Braamfischerville, Johannesburg, residents who recently approached her office with their housing concerns.
"Their approach is more sustainable than public protests."
Protests also negatively affected many aspects of democracy, including the very human rights protesters were defending, she said.
The Mxenges have been recognised for their contribution to the field of law and the sacrifices they made in the fight against apartheid. They were both assassinated by the apartheid regime.