'Don't blame all mistakes on apartheid'
PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela has spoken out strongly against the apartheid legacy being used to shield some of the government's failures, particularly the dire state of the country's education and appalling conditions under which some people live, 18 years after democracy.
Madonsela said the government was constitutionally obliged to improve the conditions of the people.
"We have a right to blame a lot on apartheid, but can we blame all of it on the legacy of apartheid," she said before going into a narrative about a woman who was forced to live in a house that had human excrement floating in the yard because of shoddy work.
She was delivering a lecture on apartheid activist Helen Joseph at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday night.
President Jacob Zuma has in one of his radio interviews blamed apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd for the failure of the current education system to supply books to pupils in Limpopo.
Madonsela said women in influential positions needed to act more strongly to better people's lives and shape democracy, instead of acting like proxies. "Many women leaders occupy positions of power and privilege ... the challenge is to leverage the option of power and give a voice to the voiceless, and using authority to make a difference.
"What do we do when we see mud schools and children of four classes learning in one class? Do we accept the excuse that this is the legacy of apartheid or do we agree we can do better. We need to start speaking truth to power," she said.
She lamented corruption, saying there was no progress in clamping down on it. This was one area that needed attention to ensure that it did not derail the constitutional promise of a better life.
In what could be interpreted as a move to ward off fears about questions raised about her office, Madonsela said her political beliefs did not mean she could not find common ground with South Africans on issues that affected them.
The ANC recently criticised her for attending a Woman's Day event hosted by the Democratic Alliance.
Madonsela hit back, saying she was unfazed by the criticism and that her office would not arbitrarily adapt operations because one organisation wants things to be done a certain way.