Office of the Public Protector: Results of Aligning with Mandate

2016-06-29 10:54

Hands up those who knew that the office of the Public Protector was in existence prior to its profile being raised by Advocate Thuli Madonsela?

Hands up those who believe that this institution is a crucial component in the lattice of this nation’s institutions?

I am among the first to admit lack of knowledge of the existence of the Public Protector’s office until the trailblazing Advocate Thuli Madonsela started taking on major issues facing the nation of South Africa. This office is one of 6 institutions which collectively are known as Chapter 9 institutions, in reference to their location in the nation’s Constitution. Chapter 9 deals with State institutions supporting constitutional democracy (ss 181-194).

ss 181 of the Constitution spells out the state institutions tasked with strengthening constitutional democracy in the Republic:

  1. The Public Protector.
  2. The Human Rights Commission.
  3. The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
  4. The Commission for Gender Equality.
  5. The Auditor-General.
  6. The Electoral Commission.

The following constitute the governing principles for the institutions;

  • These institutions are independent, and subject only to the Constitution and the law, and they must be impartial and must exercise their powers and perform their functions without fear, favour or prejudice.
  • Other organs of state, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect these institutions to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of these institutions.
  • No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of these institutions.
  • These institutions are accountable to the National Assembly, and must report on their activities and the performance of their functions to the Assembly at least once a year.

The following are listed as the functions of the Public Protector;

  1. The Public Protector has the power, as regulated by national legislation   - to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected - to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice;                     - to report on that conduct; and                                                                         - to take appropriate remedial action.
  2. The Public Protector has the additional powers and functions prescribed by national legislation.
  3. The Public Protector may not investigate court decisions.
  4. The Public Protector must be accessible to all persons and communities.
  5. Any report issued by the Public Protector must be open to the public unless exceptional circumstances, to be determined in terms of national legislation, require that a report be kept confidential.

The Public Protector is appointed for a non-renewable period of seven years, which is why a call for nominations for a new Public Protector was issued and has now closed- Advocate Thuli Madonsela has fought a good fight and has finished her course.

All the other Chapter 9 institutions listed above have their mandates clearly set out in the Constitution and as the public it is up to us to make sure they follow the prescribed mandate. The office of the Public Protector had always been in existence but what Advocate Thuli Madonsela has managed to do is to put into practice all that which the Office was meant to.

As South Africa goes out to vote on the 3rd of August in the Local Government Elections, how about taking time to re-examine the mandate(s) which those in public office have been given and evaluate whether they are living up to that. At the end of the day, we the people are the ones who hold the power and are the determining factor in who we place into power.

Those we are voting for are public servants and are there to serve the public. The disgruntlement we are seeing or not (because SABC is no longer screening protests) through the service delivery protests emanate from someone not aligning with the mandate they are meant to fulfil. Let us know that post the 3rd of August, we are responsible for being our brother’s keeper (public protectors) by holding those in public office accountable.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela has demonstrated that at a minimum, when one follows their job description (as set out in the Constitution) they can achieve great results. When that person is the right fit and exerts themselves, then excellence will be the order of the day! Let us have this in mind when we place an X next to our candidate(s) of choice.


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