College of Law and Management Studies

Improving the reporting skills of African Ombudsmen and their staff was the focus of a recent webinar hosted by the African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC) which is based at UKZN.

Attended by more than 700 participants, the webinar was facilitated by South Africa’s Public Protector and African Ombudsman and Mediators’ Association (AOMA) President, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane and featured a presentation by AORC Founding Chairperson and Former Public Protector, Professor Thuli Madonsela. It was the first in a series of planned webinars aimed at enhancing the capacity of African Ombudsman across the continent to prepare persuasive reports and contribute to the development of skilled resources within Ombudsman institutions.

Madonsela highlighted the importance of drawing on the art of storytelling to present a report that clearly communicates its findings. She commented that sound investigations are often sabotaged by poor report writing skills.

‘Reports need to be clear, concise, accurate, professional and persuasive. When you write your report, consider who you are writing it for and how you want the case to be received, and make them believe that you have found the truth. Make sure it communicates the law, but still has an emotional impact,’ advised Madonsela.

She encouraged ombudsman to conduct a factual analysis when preparing a report.

‘Make sure that the investigation is regal, prompt and ethical, and find sources besides the complainant for a tight case. You can achieve this by asking yourself what the issue at hand is, what principles will be used to fix it, and what should have happened to avoid the issue as well as what the discrepancies are.’

In her address, Mkhwebane noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed everyone out of their comfort zones and calls for a new way of doing things.

‘The information shared today will help all of us to sharpen our expertise and have a fresh perspective in order to guide the investigative process. Let us find the positives from this time like this session and work hard moving forward,’ she said.

Speaking on behalf of UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Council, College of Law and Management Studies Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head, Professor Brian McArthur said he was delighted that the first webinar was delivered by such phenomenal women.

‘As August is Women’s Month, it is significant that we have Advocate Mkhwebane and Professor Madonsela here during a time that South Africa celebrates women for their invaluable contribution to the advancement of our democracy.

‘Today’s session was insightful and thought-provoking. It focused on practical measures that ombudsman and their staff can use to further strengthen their report writing skills.’

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga