Have empathy, that’s what you can do for constitutional democracy – Kate O’Regan

2015-09-08 17:20

Constitutional democracy will only work if South Africans start to put themselves into the shoes of people who don’t look like them.

Former Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan said this last night at the National Library in answer to the question: “Is South Africa’s Constitution a paper tiger?”

“The Constitution reminds us all the time to have the imagination to put ourselves in the shoes of other South Africans. If we lose the ability to imagine what South Africans might want and what other South Africans might need this project will never work.”

“It can’t be a project about me, it’s got to be a project about us. Each morning we need to think about what people that don’t look like or that have never had my life experience might want or need from this constitutional order … so we can make this a community of people who really feel like a community,” said O’Regan to applause from the audience.

O’Regan delivered the public lecture, which was hosted by the Centre for Conflict Resolution, with Professor Pierre de Vos, the Claude Leon Foundation chair in constitutional governance at the University of Cape Town.

Both De Vos and O’Regan said there was sometimes a propensity for South Africans to think that the Constitution just created duties for the government, but that it was also applicable to ordinary South Africans.

O’Regan said the country’s solid constitutional text, history of civic struggle and current civic activism all meant South Africa’s constitution was not a paper tiger but also said that “people who live comfortable lives need to recognise their needs to be change for people who are not living comfortable lives.”

She said addressing South Africa’s deeply unjust history would never be an easy task but said we were not alone in this.

“If Martin Luther King were here today he would tell you social justice and equality remains elusive for descendants of African slaves in the US but he would add, as he told his followers so memorably in the 1960s, freedom does not come riding in on the wheels of inevitability, we must roll up our sleeves and work for it.

“What this means is that constitutionalists can never rest. Whether our Constitution will be a good and strong constitution and whether its vision will be realised will not depend on whether it is a paper tiger, but whether we are up to the challenge. 
Read more on:    constitution

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
24 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
PARTNER CONTENT
INFOGRAPHIC: New thinking required for retirement

Everything we believe about retirement is fast becoming outdated.

PARTNER CONTENT
WATCH: How education can change a life

A university education gives students the chance to create a better future for themselves, their families and to opportunity achieve their dreams.

/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.