Corruption Watch applauds today’s Constitutional Court judgment which finds that the rulings of the Public Protector are binding and can only be set aside upon judicial review.
The judgment reinforces the provision in the Constitution for all organs of state to protect and promote the Chapter 9 institutions. This includes taking positive steps to safeguard the efficacy of the Public Protector’s rulings, as well as to defend that office’s principal role of protecting the public against state maladministration.
The court declared the actions taken by the president and the National Assembly to be inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid, and ordered the National Treasury to quantify the amount which the president must personally repay to the fiscus as a result of non-security related features at his homestead in Nkandla. The court took great care in setting forth the special duties of the president as head of the national executive and of Parliament in giving effect to the findings made by the Public Protector in the interest of our constitutional democracy, the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
The court’s ruling is a resounding vindication of jurisdiction and centrality of the Public Protector in protecting our most fundamental constitutional values. The court characterised the Public Protector as an independent and essential fighter against public maladministration.
David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, commented: ‘We are naturally delighted that the Court has decided that the findings of the Public Protector are binding, an outcome that we have consistently contended for in both the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court. However, we also contend that, the legal position aside, the president has always been under an ethical obligation to defend and promote the work of Chapter 9 institutions like the Public Protector, an obligation that he and senior ministers of state have long flouted.’ Corruption Watch has mounted a campaign, Bua Mzansi or Speak Up, South Africa, encouraging and enabling the public to participate actively in the process of appointing a new public protector to replace Advocate Thuli Madonsela, whose term of office expires in October this year.
Lewis commented: ‘The court’s findings underline the imperative to ensure that the next public protector is an equally robust defender of the public against state abuse and maladministration. The stakes surrounding the appointment of a new public protector are considerably raised by the recent announcement that the Public Protector will be investigating state capture in response to on-going revelations concerning the relationship between the Gupta and Zuma families.”
Thuli Madonsela’s term of office has underlined how important it is that the public protector be a person of integrity and courage, added Lewis. “Our campaign is directed at ensuring that Parliament and the president apply these criteria when selecting the next public protector.”
Corruption Watch will continue to exert its influence and add its voice to matters involving corruption at all levels of public administration. In so doing, its work will support and reinforce the critical role of the public protector in combatting corruption and countering the levels of impunity and lack of accountability that allow corruption to flourish.
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