Protect the Public Protector

We, as a Law School, have a proud history of speaking out against violation of and threats to the rule of law. The Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa (SLTSA) gave an undertaking to the TRC in 1997 that law schools would always protect the rule of law and  ensure that the foundational principles of our constitutional democracy not be undermined.

In order to protect institutions that have been set up to strengthen democracy, we are obliged to issue the following statement:

  1. The Constitution must be interpreted in a manner that advances the founding principles of democratic governance, accountability, responsiveness and openness.
  2. An independent, effective and functional Public Protector is vital if we are to attain this objective.
  3. Interpretations of the Constitution which advance short- term political and other parochial interests but undermine constitutional institutions cannot be countenanced.

We condemn in the strongest terms any attempt to undermine the office of the Public Protector; whether it be by members of the Executive, Members of Parliament, leading politicians or members of the public.

We wish to place on record the following:

  1. Section 181(2) of the Constitution requires the Chapter 9 institutions, which include the Public Protector and her office, to carry out their mandate ‘without fear, favour or prejudice’.
  2. Section 181(3) of the Constitution requires ‘other organs of state, through legislative and other measures to ‘assist and protect’ Chapter 9 institutions, including the Public Protector’s office, ‘to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of these institutions’.
  3. Section 237 requires all constitutional obligations to be performed diligently.
  4. The Public Protector submitted a comprehensive report after an exhaustive process into the upgrading of the Nkandla complex and concluded that the President and his family improperly benefitted and suggested remedial action.
  5. The findings of the Public Protector may only be reviewed by a court of law, and any review of her findings by the ad hoc Parliamentary committee, the MPs, the Ministerial task team, the Special Investigative Unit (SIU), an Individual Minister or any other body or person, would be contrary to the rule of law and unconstitutional.
  6.  Parliament is required to study the remedial action recommended by the Public Protector in her report in order to hold the relevant person accountable.
  7. It is not within the powers of Parliament to determine whether the Public Protector’s conclusions were correct or not.
  8. The report of the Public Protector is that of an independent constitutional institution and may not be treated as if it is of equivalent status to other reports on the Nkandla complex, compiled at the behest of the Executive or by agencies which report to the Executive.

We therefore call upon members of the Executive, the ad hoc Parliamentary committee, MPs and spokespersons for the ruling party to desist with immediate effect from making unconstitutional and ill-conceived attacks on the office of the Public Protector and her office and to implement her recommendations.

If the public would like to join the campaign to protect the public protector they can visit #tag.protect the public protector.

School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal,

Endorsed by the South African Law Deans Association (SALDA) and by the Society for Law Teachers in Southern Africa (SLTSA).

Inquiry into ‘Marikana Massacre’ opens in South Africa

A retired judge toured the spot where South African police killed 34 striking miners in August as he opened a judicial inquiry into the incident. Street Law Director Prof Steve Naidoo is part of the forensic investigation.

The hearing is being heard in the platinum belt city of Rustenburg, 120km northwest of Johannesburg, the town closest to the Lonmin-owned Marikana mine.

Ian Farlam has four months to uncover the events surrounding the 16 August “Marikana massacre”.

The incident sparked intense criticism not only of the police but also of mining bosses, unions, the ruling African National Congress and President Jacob Zuma.

The names of the 34 dead, most of them from the poor Eastern Cape province, were read out at the start of the inquiry before lawyers for the police, victims’ families and 270 miners arrested after the shootings locked horns over procedure.

The commission and its findings could be politically damaging to Mr Zuma and the ANC, especially if security forces are found to have been as trigger-happy and ruthless as their apartheid predecessors.

However, the inquiry’s four-month timetable means its final findings will come after an internal ANC leadership election in mid-December.

Mr Zuma is expected to be re-elected head of the ANC in the vote – teeing him up to win a second five-year term as South African president in 2014 – although he may face a serious challenge from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

As well as probing the 16 August shootings, the Marikana commission has a broader remit to look into labour relations, pay and accommodation in South Africa’s mines – issues seen as behind the wildcat strike that preceded the killings.