South Africa: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela Addresses North West University Public Lecture

Public Protector urges students to use their minds to make a difference

Public Protector Adv. Madonsela urged students to use their minds to fight social injustice just like Sol Plaatjie who fought the system with his mind. She spoke during the dialogue sessions with the students and staff of North West University in followed by a public lecture titled “Prestige Lecture” in Mahikeng today.

“Social injustice matters, it matters now and everyone deserves social justice. As long as there is injustice somewhere, sustainable peace cannot be experienced anywhere,” said Adv. Madonsela.

The Public Protector said the difference between the old and new state is that the former would not listen to people. The character of the new state as envisaged in the Constitution makes accountability by those exercising public power central while entrenching citizen participation. She said while the Constitution promises an improved quality of life for all and a freed potential to each person, young leaders have the power to make a difference as they carry the dreams and hopes of our people.

“Young persons can fast-track the delivery of the South African dream without bricks, stones and fire and when normal dialogue fails, they can make use of other constitutional avenues such as the Public Protector, the South African Human Rights Commission and Petitions among others. In the 1970’s protestors did not burn down the infrastructure they were going need because when you are unhappy in your own home you do set alight the house you will need for shelter.

The Public Protector told a packed hall that we need more innovative young people such as Ludwick Marishane who invented the DryBath and Nkosana Makate who came up with “Please Call Me”. She said we need our own Marxs and Platos to generate new ideologies and philosophies to help us address today’s problems.

Regarding fees must fall the Public Protector said that fees must fall for only those who cannot afford otherwise resources meant for the disadvantaged will be lost to those that were historically advantaged and those that are well off due to the fruits of democracy. She said while it is true that equality is about treating differently situated people differently, she reiterated her call for the implementation of Chapter 5 of the Equality Act explaining that the Promotion of Equality Act has two dimensions and that only one of these has been implemented thus undermining its impact on addressing apartheid disparities including academic injustice.

Adv Madonsela further explained that the Equality Act provides a systematic mechanism for addressing apartheid, patriarchal and disability disparities and without a systematic approach to structural inequality, social justice is a pipe dream. She said there is a link between social injustice and corruption in that corruption steals resources that should fund national development and social justice and that young leaders should include corruption among their targets.

Public Protector said investment by government in tertiary education has not grown proportionately to the number of funded students thus diminishing the per capita expenditure per student. She said investment in education, which is a human right entrenched in the Constitution is inconsistent with section 237 which requires constitutional obligations to be given priority implementation over nice to do things.

“Young people need to conceive and offer new and relevant tools of analysis that transcend Marx, Sankara and others. Such should help us understand the role of the state today including whether or not the state is increasingly used as a tool for wealth accumulation or self-enrichment by some of those entrusted with public power and resources,” said Adv Madonsela.

The Public Protector undertook to assign the Deputy Public Protector to look into issues raised by both students and staff with a view to achieve a unified university anchored in social justice. She asked them to put all their concerns in a “vision document” so they can identify what needs can be met by the university with its limited resources and what business in the North West can do. In conclusion the Public Protector assured the university community that social justice can be overcome only if they realise that the power of intelligence lies in the mind and use their minds to make a difference. She reiterated that the power of the intelligentsia lies in the mind.

Source: South African Government.