Corruption Watch welcomes the Western Cape High Court decision in the matter between the Democratic Alliance and the SABC, particularly the findings in relation to SABC chairperson Hlaudi Motsoeneng. We are pleased that both Motsoeneng and the SABC board are being held to account for their actions and in some instances, failure to act.
More importantly, this matter has enabled the ventilation of an important and precedent setting issue, the nature and extent of the powers of the Office of the Public Protector.
The public protector insists that recommendations of her office are binding and enforceable. The SABC, together with some of the other respondents, disagrees and presumably used this as justification for disregarding for such recommendations.
The findings of the court have partially vindicated the public protector, stating that her powers are not akin to those of a court, but nevertheless, cannot be simply ignored as mere recommendations. The court has indicated that any organ of state which chooses to ignore her recommendations must provide rational reasons for doing so. In the absence of such reasons, the Public Protector or any interested body may review the decision of the organ of state on conventional public law grounds and seek the enforcement of such recommendations.
Corruption Watch views this judgment as the first step in clarifying the nature and extent of the public protector’s powers. However, we believe that our courts will have to provide greater detail to ensure that organs of state cannot evade the consequences of the public protector’s findings. Furthermore, we are not convinced that the court’s litigious solution to the implementation of the public protector’s recommendations is the best or only solution in the circumstances.
The matter is likely to be appealed to a higher court. Corruption Watch has an interest in this case, since the Public Protector is often the last defence against corruption and malfeasance in public office. We will accordingly apply to intervene as amicus curiae in due course.
For more information:
David Lewis – 082 576 3748
Moira Campbell – 083 995 4711