Professor Thuli Madonsela’s M-Plan aims to advance equality and poverty eradication

November 30th, 2021

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

The Law Trust Chair in Social Justice at Stellenbosch University, Professor Thuli Madonsela and the Council of Social Justice Champions, hosted the third Annual Social Justice Summit and International Conference on 11 and 12 October 2021, which featured various speakers.

The purpose of the summit, among other things, was to reflect on social justice in South Africa (SA), focusing on economic equality, the impact of COVID-19 regulatory responses, the adequacy of current policy frameworks, as well as the impact of economic inequality on peace and the rule of law.

One of the keynote speakers, Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Dunstan Mlambo, in his address said that one cannot deny the inferior living conditions imposed on South Africans by the discredited system of Apartheid, and the severe social economic consequences on the lives of South Africans. He added that while crafting solutions of social justice, one needs not forget the injustice of Apartheid. He pointed out that in assisting the promotion of economic parity, this must at the same time encompass the impact of the separation of powers principles. Judge President Mlambo posed a question and asked if society has witnessed meaningful advances of the social justice agenda that is found in the Constitution? He proposed the notion that the economic growth to translate into economic parity with society, in the constitutional democracy, the state is the duty bearer and must adopt rights, informed legislation and social justice policies that follow a distributional pattern focusing on the poor.

Judge President Mlambo said that the process of differentiated incorporation may allow courts to enforce social economic rights in a useful and appropriate manner. Judge President Mlambo spoke about criticism of the courts. He added that criticism has been that the courts are encroaching on the domain of the executive and legislature. He said that he was afraid politicisation of the judiciary or judicial capture, as some call it, is in part informed and reinforced by information distributed by the media, and this impacts on the way the public views the judiciary. He said that the media is a powerful tool to share information, however, the function for which it is often used is to create deliberately misrepresent narratives about certain institutions, such as the judiciary, has the effect of undermining the judiciary.

Judge President Mlambo suggested that society must not forget that under Apartheid, social economic benefits, such as social security, education and health care were regulated by law in a racially discriminatory basis. He pointed out that if one fast forwards 27 years from 1994 society is still being confronted by poverty and inequality. He mentioned that former President Thabo Mbeki described SA as a true nation society, one of those being white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal and the second and larger nation being black and poor with the most affected being women in the rural population and the disabled. Judge President Mlambo added that some political parties have approached courts to have various decisions with political implementation implications reviewed.

Judge President Mlambo pointed out that there is no doubt that addressing economic inequality, joblessness and riddled redistribution is critical to alleviating the plight of the poor. He said it is correct that there are gaps that exists in the deliverer of civil legal aid to the indigent and the poor, so that they can approach the courts to ensure that the state promotes, fulfils, and protects the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights where this is not available to the people to have their issues held in open court. ‘I say let us work together to make the Constitution a living document in the lives of the people, regardless of race, gender, and class, the Constitution, and the welfare of the people it serves. Let us join hands across the racial divided. Between the haves and have nots to root out the cancer of corruption, greed and self-aggrandisement that has crippled our democracy,’ Judge President Mlambo said.

The host of the conference, Professor Madonsela said that SA’s social justice is underwhelming. She pointed out that President Cyril Ramaphosa, refers to his periodic meetings with the nation as a ‘family meeting,’ and asked if people feel like part of the ‘family’? She asked what kind of family would it be? She further asked whether economic equality is supposed to play in ‘family’ relations? She pointed out that according to the preamble of the Constitution of South Africa, ‘the family’ is supposed to be a family that has progressively been renewing its relationship to heal the divisions of the past and become a society that is founded on three pillars, namely democratic failures, social justice and fundamental human rights.

Prof Madonsela added that the three pillars should inform us as we transform to become a more democratic society, a more equal society, human rights that are filmed in equal enjoyment of human rights and freedoms required by social justice. She said ‘these pillars’ of the family should inform the decision, policy, laws and everyday justice action. The family is a family where everyone counts, is recognised and gets represented in decision making that will impact them in the future, and that everyone should expect restitution or justice.

At the launch of the Musa Plan for Social Justice (M-Plan), the Social Justice Hub, chaired by Prof Madonsela, she said that the M-Plan was created with the aim of ending poverty and breaking the back of inequality. Adding that now more than ever the country needs social justice champions who will engage on concrete recommendations for action. The M-Plan is named in honour of Palesa Musa, one of the students who was arrested on 16 June 1976, whom despite her courage remained poor. Social justice aims to advance equality and poverty eradication. To improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of every person to build a united nation. The Social Justice Hub pointed out that the M-Plan is not just about addressing the past, but also about creating a society of equals now and into the future with practical plans to advance social justice.

Other topics discussed at the conference included, the role of universities and civil society organisations in integrating social justice, as well as economic equality and peace in economic planning and monitoring and evaluation.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.