Hard-won Constitution faces serious threats

2010-03-27 11:04

ARE South Africans actually turning their backs on the 1994

settlement? Are we beginning to have second thoughts about the content and

meaning of the one thing that still binds us together – the Constitution?

There has for many months been a fierce debate among conservative

and right-wing Afrikaners about the necessity of a so-called follow-up


These people believe that FW de Klerk and Roelf Meyer “sold out” the

whites and other minorities in the pre-1994 negotiations.

They believe there should have been stronger protection for

minority rights and a cap on affirmative action and black economic


They want a new Constitution with stronger provision for what they

call self-determination for ethnic or language groups.

Julius Malema and his ilk in turn believe black South Africans were

sold out in 1994 and they also want to change the Constitution.

These types

reject the Constitution’s spirit of non-racialism in favour of a narrow black

African nationalism and want to throw out the property protection clauses in the

Constitution. They want the banks and the mines to be nationalised and the state

to have the right to seize agricultural land.

Aligned to this group are elements such as Winnie

Madikizela-Mandela, who actually told a reporter from a British publication that

her ex-husband had sold out black South Africans in 1994 (I don’t believe her

story that she didn’t say it), and Black Management Forum types under the

militant leadership of Jimmy Manyi, who regularly pronounce on their preference

for ­punitive measures against whites.

And then there are the people whose lives have really not changed

since our liberation, unlike the lives of Malema, Madikizela-Mandela and Manyi,

who all became very rich: the unemployed, the unskilled, the people in the

squatter camps and black ghettoes, the people with little hope.

These are the people who have mounted militant protests – we call

them “service delivery protests” like we talked about “unrest” during the 1970s

and 1980s – almost every day since the beginning of the year, often facing

policemen’s clubs, teargas or rubber bullets.

The magic of our Constitution, the glue that kept us from turning

on each other, is that it was negotiated by us, by the representatives of

citizens who are alive today. We citizens are the foundation on which the

Constitution was built.

But indications are that we are rapidly drifting apart,

with extraordinary demonstrations of racial intolerance from all sides.

Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu’s lunacy is exacerbating matters,

but it is not the cause of our crisis.

Our problem is not our Constitution or the 1994 settlement. It is

the finest Constitution and the settlement was the best possible. Our problem is

our behaviour as citizens and as political leadership since 1994.

The Soccer World Cup can help but it cannot by itself yank us back

from this dangerous slippery slope.

We will need cool heads and good leadership, from the president and

the ruling party, opposition parties, faith communities and cultural and

community leaders.

) This is my final

column for City Press. Goodbye


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