Madonsela: Social justice promised in Constitution remains a dream for the poor

Thuli Madonsela used her speech at the 11th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture to highlight the worsening global inequality and poverty, a problem that she said was imposing a major threat to peace.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela delivers her speech at the 11th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on 7 October 2021. Picture: @TutuLegacy/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said that as long as there was injustice out there, there could not be sustainable peace anywhere.

Madonsela was one of the speakers at the online presentation of the 11th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture.

The lecture was part of celebrations on Thursday to mark Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 90th birthday.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate attended a thanksgiving service at the St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town and spent the rest of his day surrounded by family.

Madonsela said that we should look back in awe at the giant footprints that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had made in standing up for truth and justice throughout his life.

Madonsela used her speech to highlight the worsening global inequality and poverty, a problem that she said was imposing a major threat to peace.

She said that Tutu understood the uncomfortable truth that human rights promised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and national constitutions were promises, no less than any other.

“In South Africa, one of the uncomfortable truths, is that the social justice promised in the Constitution, which says in its preamble, the people adopt it for the purpose of healing the divisions of the past, and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights, remains unrealised,” Madonsela said.

She said that delivery on this promise remained a distant dream for the majority who remained shackled in poverty.

“And you must also agree that the looting and corruption, including state capture, present a major impediment to delivery of the social justice commitment.”

Madonsela said there had also been valuable lessons to take away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Key among those lessons is the truth that those left behind are losing patience and are no longer prepared to languish in poverty,” she said.

She said that it was our turn to stand up for truth and justice.

Guest speaker, former Irish President Mary Robinson, said that the pandemic had shone a harsh light on existing inequalities and injustices.

"In this regard, it is now essential that leaders learn from their mistakes, that they heed the recommendations of the expert independent panels on pandemic preparedness and response."

Robinson warned that only properly financed, integrated and organised health systems would be able to withstand future pandemics and health emergencies that would come.

"Perhaps the most important lesson of COVID-19 is that a pandemic of this magnitude is never just a health crisis, it is also inevitably and inextricably a human rights crisis, an economic crisis and a justice crisis."

WATCH: ’A great giant, his influence is phenomenally great’ - Tutu lauded on 90th birthday

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