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Johannesburg - Africans should follow the example of other continents and not hang their dirty laundry out to the world, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said on Tuesday.
“It's about time... we begin to resist the trap of Africa always being the subject of criticism,” he said.
“Nobody but Africans will level the playing field on Africa but Africans themselves.”
Mogoeng was speaking at the start of a two-day African Ombudsman and Mediators' Association (AOMA) summit held in Kempton Park on the East Rand.
The event, held under the banner “Strengthening good governance in Africa through the role of the ombudsman,” is being attended by dozens of delegates from about 30 African countries.
The delegates include members of the African Union (AU). The union and AOMA work together and have, in previous years, signed a memorandum of understanding.
Watchdog institutions and members of political parties, including Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, were among those in attendance on Tuesday.
The summit was intended to examine the role, impact and future of ombuds, and improvements to this role.
Mogoeng called on African countries and their ombuds to protect their independence and impartiality, and be incorruptible.
He called for ombuds to observe the rule of law, and be transparent and accountable to ensure good governance was achieved.
He spoke of the continent's mistakes, particularly within the different judicial systems.
“Love your nation and your continent,” he said.
“Be energised by the vision... of contributing to the renaissance of Africa,” he said, adding that change began with individuals.
Africans should stop allowing themselves to be exploited.
“We dare not forget those who want to take advantage of Africa.”
They were driven by greed and wanted to advance their own countries at the cost of the African continent, he said.
He jokingly questioned why the word ombudsman referred solely to the male gender.
“Is it because South Africa is the only country who has women in such places 1/8holding ombud positions 3/8?”
In response, AOMA executive secretary and South Africa's Public Protector Thuli Madonsela responded that according to the Scottish and English, ombudsman was a unisex term.
Madonsela is also chairwoman of AOMA's mother body, the African Ombudsman Research Centre.
She agreed with Mogoeng's note that ombuds held the same role as judges and should, therefore, ensure they themselves were always on the right side of the law.
“Be vigilant about those who manipulate you (as an ombud) by praising you,” Madonsela said, echoing Mogoeng's words.
She said ombuds were the conscience of those in power, with the role of listening to the people and referring complaints back to those in power, and allow them to legitimise their practices. - Sapa