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Some of the complaints that the Public Protector faces relate to systemic issues that the office is neither capacitated nor mandated to deal with, according to the Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

She was briefing the Speakers’ Forum to how the programme of the legislative sector will determine her mandate and what her office had done in its first 100 days.

“People feel so disempowered and come to the Public Protector and complain about everything. We find ourselves dealing with systemic issues relating to land redistribution,” Adv Mkhwebane said.

She informed the Forum of the initiatives, programmes and roadshows that her office had undertaken throughout the country in an attempt to broaden access to her office.

“The common issues that keep arising in most of our roadshows in all provinces include land claim delays by the Land Claims Commission, evictions, electricity problems, water and sanitation, and road infrastructure,” she said.

“Another issue that is a challenge is the lack of consultation between municipal officials and traditional authorities on projects. As a result, the office had thought of a systemic approach to resolving problems associated with these projects without having to receive them as complaints.”

She said her office has started sending public outreach officials (not as investigators) to take part in public participation processes where they listen and interact with government departments and entities in trying to elevate concerns of communities before they become complaints.

The office has conducted a number of engagements with communities in various provinces and wishes to work closely with the legislatures.

She also said the delays in finalising cases also resulted from lack of cooperation from various government departments.

The Deputy Chair of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Raseriti Tau, wanted to know if the office will have enough resources to do what it outlined as its programmes in the presentation.

The Deputy Speaker for the Gauteng Legislature, Mr Uhuru Moiloa, asked if the office was not overburdened by some matters that could easily be addressed by provincial legislatures and governments.

“Is it not your view that we need to improve on some matters, especially those relating to service delivery? How do we find a mechanism to deal with issues of service delivery on a day-to-day basis so that complaints that can be solved without the involvement of your office?” he said.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete, concurred and said the citizens are excited to have the Office of the Public Protector that is occupied by someone they can trust.

“So it is natural that in the process you will be overburdened by issues that do not belong to you. But also the office is in a situation where it is being used unfairly,” she said.

Ms Mbete said “the Forum was happy with the office’s openness and the ability to be prepared to work with us”.

Sibongile Maputi and Mlindi Mpindi
20 April 2017