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I am a defender of the helpless – Ombudsman


The City of Johannesburg’s newly appointed Ombudsman, Advocate Siduduzo Gumede, has promised Johannesburg residents “fair and equitable justice that upholds human rights and that is in line with the Constitution”.
Speaking during an interview shortly after Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau announced his appointment, Adv Gumede said impartiality was the key principle in the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“My job is to ensure impartiality and resolve disputes in a just and equitable manner to the satisfaction of the complainant,” he said.

Adv Gumede’s appointment took effect on April 1 but his office, which is situated at 36 Boundary Road in Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, will start taking complaints from July 1. The office will over the next three months be setting up infrastructure and hiring staff.

Mayor Tau told a media conference on Wednesday that the appointment of the Ombudsman, the final arbiter in disputes between residents and City officials, was in line with the City’s Growth and Development Strategy 2040 (GDS 2040), which called for good governance, transparency and accountability in service delivery. He said Adv Gumede had in interviews with City officials demonstrated his commitment to justice and exhibited “an acute sense of always striving to better the lives of others”.

“We hope these qualities will again come to the fore as his office officially receives complaints from residents from the beginning of July,” Mayor Tau said.

Adv Gumede started working as a clerk in KwaZulu-Natal before commencing his law studies at the University of Witwatersrand. He also studied in the United Kingdom and at the University of Cape Town.

“I grew up in the same neighbourhood as Justice Pius Langa, the late former Chief Justice, and I aspired to be a fearless fighter for human rights like him. That is why I gravitated towards law and wished to become the defender of the helpless as well,” he said.

Before establishing a law practice, Adv Gumede served as legal counsel for various companies and organisations, including Old Mutual, BP and the Financial Services Board. He has a Master of Law degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom.

“I guess you can say I’ve come full circle – from being a clerk in the Home Affairs Department in KwaDukuza to being of service to residents to ensure that good governance, transparency and accountability are upheld by City officials. The people I grew up admiring were social activists who dealt with community issues and the Office of the Ombudsman has been established to address just that,” Adv Gumede concluded.