Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has urged public figures to respect institutions supporting democracy, otherwise people will “take to the streets” with grievances.
In a lecture released by her office on Wednesday, she advised public figures to watch what they said.
Making “persistent announcements” that made people doubt the authority and legitimacy of these institutions increased the possibility of people “taking to the streets” when they were not happy with how the state advanced their human rights.
The lecture was delivered at the Ninth Annual Peace, Safety and Human Rights Memorial Lecture at the University of South Africa's (UNISA) Florida Campus, west of Johannesburg, on Saturday.
Madonsela said South Africa had a constitutional democracy, which meant that the Constitutional Court had the final say, whereas in a parliamentary democracy, Parliament had the final say.
Courts could be asked to decide if Parliament's view was inconsistent with the Constitution.
She said her office was part of the new set of institutions introduced in modern democracies, such as South Africa, to strengthen constitutional democracy.
“Instead of judicial scrutiny, [the public protector's] job is to scrutinise the exercise of state power from the administrative point of view,” she said during her lecture.
Madonsela also made reference to former president Nelson Mandela's speeches, which suggested that South Africa's constitutional democracy often had to be protected from state actions in government, or from organs of state.
There should be a collective sharing of constitutional education to help people understand there were constitutionally-provided mechanisms to raise grievances.
The lecture was to honour human rights activist Dullah Omar and Pan Africanist Congress member and organiser and activist Johannes Moabi.
Omar was one of those who advised president Mandela regarding compliance with the decisions of courts and Chapter 9 institutions.
“I recall one of the things he used to talk about was that the justice system would never be respected or considered legitimate by the average person until the system achieves a situation where every person enjoys the right to understand and be understood,” she said.