Chapter 9 institutions: More bark, less bite?

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For ordinary taxpaying citizens Chapter 9 institutions can be condensed in one form: Thuli Madonsela.

Due to her indefatigable attitude and not cowering under political pressure, according to observers, the country’s most revered civil servant has raised the public profile of institutions. But, as it is turned out, popular they might be, but respected they are not.

The subjects of their investigations – unfortunately mostly high profile figures – seldom respect the organisations’ remedial recommendations, reinforcing the perception that the bodies are nothing but toothless backing bull dogs, it has been observed. They bid time behind a tangle of complex procedure to shirk responsibility, one columnist noted in the popular weekly broadsheet, The Sunday Times.

But people from certain political persuasions who do not take kindly to Madonsela’s candour have accused her of “taking certain postures” and “expressing certain views that were about the government and political in nature”. Inexplicably, they have even suggested that Parliament should pass legislation to amend the public protectors’ powers.

While the institutions’ success in helping ordinary South Africans get recourse for the poor service they get from government institutions is praiseworthy, it is their apparent failure to get cases involving public figures to a logical conclusion that might compromise their integrity. This has left some wondering whether the institutions are either Toothless backing bull dogs or ferocious Rottweilers?

Only when Chapter 9 institutions succeed in holding everyone accountable irrespective of position will they earn public confidence.

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