01/08/2017 04:53 BST | Updated 01/08/2017 04:54 BST

Thuli Madonsela: Ordinary People Need To Get Involved In Fighting State Capture

"There is no way we would have survived if it wasn’t for the support from the public."

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Thuli Madonsela.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has urged the public to support whistleblowers in the fight against state capture and corruption.

Both Madonsela and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan were speaking at the Democracy Defenders Dialogue at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Monday.

The pair hit out at state capture, denouncing corruption as an impairment to democracy.

Madonsela, who was part of a panel that discussed whistleblowers in the South African context, said for those who speak out against fraud and corruption, it is a "lonely journey".

"There are gaps in the whistleblower protection laws. For true protection of whistleblowers, we have to empower people to know what needs to be done. What I would like to see more is ordinary people writing to parliament and the president in terms of the access to information act," Madonsela said.

"Let's stop the divide and rule. As public protector, we survived because civil society protected us. There is no way we would have survived if it wasn't for the support from the public. At the moment, some of the defenders of democracy, those that have put themselves out there, have tried to decapture the state. Let them not walk a lonely journey. Let us make sure we walk the journey with them."

Madonsela also lashed out at state capture, saying it is a "perversion" of democracy.

"If you look at what happened with the Panama Papers, most countries had institutions forcing people to respond immediately... How long have we had the Gupta Leaks? No one has been forced to sign an affidavit. No one has been forced to comment," she said.

"We want our leaders to be accountable, and to be honest -- that's a true democracy."

Gordhan emphasized the need for an active citizens' movement against corruption and state capture.

"At the end of the day, we can be activists, leaders, catalysts for the revitalization of democracy, but it is the masses that make history... There's space for all of us to become activists. If you look around the world, that's when change really happens. It's when citizens themselves take up these sorts of issues," he said.

He warned of certain impending dangers like the "repurposing" of institutions.

"The second danger is a creeping authoritarianism. How do we hold people accountable for that? The third danger is one where you can have laws in your books, but laws only exist to the extent they are enforced. It is the abuse of legitimate processes for illegitimate purposes," Gordhan said.

"There is a new campaign going on to undermine the South African Reserve Bank. Even if we disagree with monetary policy, don't undermine the institution. These times are very challenging times, what we must be are not conveyors of doom, but conveyors of hope."