Home News ‘Build resilience so the poor can liberate themselves' - Madonsela

‘Build resilience so the poor can liberate themselves’ – Madonsela

In a country with a codependency on social grants, now is the time to build resilience in people so they can be self-sufficient, said prof. Mandonsela at the Integritas conference


As many as 45 million (or 82%) South Africans fall outside the medical aid net, and as a result they are largely dependent on public healthcare which, according to StatsSA, is on a downward trajectory.

The National Treasury also reported that by 2021 the child support grant is expected to reach an estimated 13.1 million beneficiaries which constitutes to approximately 23% of our population.

Stellenbosch University law professor Thuli Madonsela said it is high time that the country started building resilience among the poorest of the poor so that they can become self-sufficient and be their own liberators.

Madonsela shared her sentiments at the historic three-day Integritas conference held in Wellington in the Western Cape last week. The conference, chaired by prof. Erwin Schwella, dean of the School of Social Innovation at Hugenote Kollege, focused on fighting corruption through value-driven communities.


During her address Madonsela described co-dependency on social grants as a disservice to the poor because it perpetuates a system that deceased and former prime minister of South Africa and architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, built for the benefit of the former white regime.

“Verwoerd deliberately created a permanent proletariat among black people to make sure that they don’t have means of living,” Madonsela said at the conference attended by about 100 thought leaders.

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Madonsela indicated that Verwoerd’s objective was to create cheap labour for his era. “So, now, coming into the 21st century, this has come to haunt us because we are a country that has official unemployment at 30%.”

The former public protector noted that the official unemployment statistics among young people before covid-19 was sitting at approximately 50%. She also examined the public health sector and shared that the co-dependency by the poor on social grants has reached a point where people would even be dishonest about their health conditions so that they could continue receiving the grant.

“If you look at those figures, half of the people that are taking the grant are not sick. People have even stopped using their own ARV’s (antiretrovirals) to keep the (CD4) count to the minimum so that the government can continue giving them the grant.”

Creating a resilient ecosystem

Madonsela said now is the time for the government to take a stance against this system and create people who can become their own redeemers. “It is time that the government build resilience and a resilient ecosystem for people to play their part and become their own liberators.”

She indicated that she was already playing her part in building resilience among the youth through her #Action4Inclusion campaign, a student funding initiative established earlier this year. This initiative aims to ensure that no student would be left behind due to their financial circumstances. Money raised goes towards paying of student study debt.

A Cape Town student that #Action4Inclusion helped to get back to university is already showing signs of self-sufficiency and, according to Madonsela, he has even created an initiative to help other young people.

“So, one of the students that came into the project was discovered by my two children. The student started his own foundation called the CLAY foundation (aimed at cultivating leadership among the youth). When we did our last walk, we were inaugurating a walking trail that he has developed.”

Madonsela said, “It just shows that if you tell people to be their own liberators and build resilience in them, that they will realise that there is an ecosystem out there where they can knock and the doors will be open.”

Also speaking at the Integritas conference as panellists were Dawn Noemdoe from Food For Mzansi, Charmaine Groves from SABRI, psychologist Quinton Adams from The Shackbuilder project, Dr Ina Gouws from Free State University and Ivor Price from Food For Mzansi. Photo: Food For Mzansi

‘Bring Integritas to all industries’

Meanwhile Quinton Adams, a psychologist who has been building informal houses in Freedom Farm in Cape Town for nearly 15 years, believes Mzansi needs an Integritas programme that will change the lives of the homeless and vulnerable.

“The informal housing sector has 600 000 people who are on a waiting list. If you multiply that by four people per household, it means 2.4 million people don’t live in a house. That is a humanitarian crisis in itself,” he said.

Adams believes these people are being stripped from their dignity.

“They experienced the dehumanised experience, and as a result some of them develop what we call Diogenes syndrome. Some of them give up. Some of them physically die and some of them become physically violent. They have a different response based on their dehumanising experience.”

Adams’ calls on the principals of Integritas to be implemented so that it would benefit the poorest of the poor.

“We need to take Integritas beyond the conference. We need to take it beyond head offices. We want to see the real power of Integritas because Integritas becomes an empowering process. We need to start rebuilding and we need to make sure that it doesn’t only become a theoretical understanding for privileged people promoting.”

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Sinesipho Tom
Sinesipho Tom
Sinesipho Tom is an audience engagement journalist at Food for Mzansi. Before joining the team, she worked in financial and business news at Media24. She has an appetite for news reporting and has written articles for Business Insider, Fin24 and Parent 24. If you could describe Sinesipho in a sentence you would say that she is a small-town girl with big, big dreams.


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