The Congress of the People (COPE) condemns the attacks on the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, for attending a meeting organised by the Democratic alliance (DA) as the latest attempt by the ruling alliance to weaken our constitutional democracy, and yet another addition to a series of threats to our Constitution.
The call on the Public Protector not to attend certain meetings, so that she is not seen as being biased, is in direct violation of the Constitution and amounts to pressure for that office to engage in self censorship, which can only benefit those in power to the detriment of the country and its people. No person of integrity worth their salt would change the values that enabled them to be appointed to such important office by attending a meeting organised by a political party. In addition, the power to impose bias is not the monopoly of political parties. It is common knowledge that business as well as not for profit organisations can exert undue pressure on officials and institutions. The strict appointment processes to identify those who can be entrusted by South Africans with such important responsibilities and their regular reports directly to Parliament are tools which must be used effectively to maintain the public’s confidence in the integrity of persons occupying such offices as the Public Protector.
Condemning the Public Protector for attending meeting organised by a political party ignores the important provision in our constitution that clearly states, under the functions of the Public Protector, that “The Public Protector must be accessible to all persons and communities”. What is important is that such meetings are not held under the veil of secrecy. In terms of our Constitution all Chapter 9 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 prejudice”.
The Congress of the People views the attacks on the Public Protector as an attempt by the ruling alliance to introduce regulations on the operations of the Public Protector by stealth in direct violation of the provisions of our Constitution.
We call on all South Africans to be vigilant and safeguard the independence of Chapter 9 institutions so that, as stipulated in our constitution “No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of these institutions” and therefore dilute the quality of our constitutional democracy.