Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had some advice on Monday for the ANC Youth League leaders who allegedly threatened to make Cape Town ungovernable.
"Only use mass action as a last resort," she said in Johannesburg.
"Under apartheid, we had to render the state ungovernable because it was a state that wasn't created for us and didn't operate to support us. We now have a state that has built in it a lot of accountability mechanisms."
The ANCYL and its allies protested in Cape Town on Monday against the proposed closure of 27 schools in the province. It also accused the province of not providing services to poorer communities.
Speaking to reporters in Johannesburg, Madonsela said that in a constitutional democracy, no one should make any province or city ungovernable.
A lot of the complaints were around maladministration or socio-economic rights, so people who were unhappy could choose to approach either the Public Protector or the SA Human Rights Commission, she said.
Madonsela called on everyone to speak to each other, and said democracy was a dialogue.
"It is your right to go for mass action. Like all rights, you have to use some of them when it is absolutely necessary to use them," Madonsela said.
"My appeal to the nation as a whole, ANC Youth League included, let's use constitutional structures to engage in dialogues with organs of state."
She said she realised that people resorted to mass action to demonstrate peacefully, but said they should be aware that there were other people who joined in who could have ulterior motives.
"Often, people who get into these marches are thugs that have their own agendas," she said.
"And once they are in, you can't really predict what's going to happen. If there are other channels of engagement, rather do not embark on mass action. It doesn't matter who you are."
She said people should rather try to facilitate constructive talks between those in charge.
At Monday's protest, the ANCYL insisted on premier Helen Zille being present to accept its memorandum.
However, she said earlier that she would not do so unless the ANCYL retracted its threat to make the city "ungovernable".
ANCYL spokeswoman Magdalene Moonsamy responded by saying:
"We will never apologise to the madam, to Zille. Days of apartheid are over."