Madonsela: South Africans must keep politicians on their toes

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Pic: Wil Punt, Peartree Photography)
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Pic: Wil Punt, Peartree Photography)

Cape Town – South Africa finds itself confronting the problem of state capture because the people’s power has been eroded over years, said former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

Madonsela was speaking in her capacity as a professor at the University of Stellenbosch at the FW de Klerk Foundation’s conference on Friday. The theme of the conference was South Africa beyond State Capture.

“Democracy is the optimal expression of the people’s will. Over the years we redefined democracy and its structures as the world and countries grew bigger [and], in the process the people power element of it got lost,” she said.

In South Africa’s quest for the best model of inclusive democracy, the country settled for proportional representation in Parliament and in the process lost the people’s representation, she said. Those in Parliament now represent their parties, and not the people. 

Madonsela said that, in dealing with state capture, SA's people played a major role in getting authorities to exercise social accountability.

She said that strong institutions and strong leaders are good, but not enough. What is needed is for the people to understand their power and to have their voices heard.

ANC leadership

She also shared views on the developments in the country in recent weeks, since the change of leadership in the ruling ANC. “The temperature of the body is set from the top,” she said.

But she added that one thing South Africans tend to forget is that none of the leaders elected were not involved in endorsing decisions that defended wrong doing.

The people are necessary to keep leaders on their toes, she explained. “If that does not happen, we revert to where we came from.”

She said that politics has become professionalised, when in fact all citizens should be political animals. “Every person should advance social justice,” she said.

“Because we surrendered democracy to politicians, lawyers, and judges, we nearly lost democracy.

“Going forward we still need upright politicians lawyers, upright judges, Chapter 9 institutions which are upright and competent to do their jobs, but to complete the loop we need the people to hold everyone to account,” she said.

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