Injustice’s roots run deep

2014-02-16 14:00

As long as a black child is more likely than a white child to be born into poverty, SA will not be truly nonracial.

The declaration by former president FW de Klerk that he and others like him “did not sign on for the National Democratic Revolution” is not in the least bit surprising.

However, his claim that the ANC’s vision of a national democratic society stands in contradiction to the Constitution cannot go unchallenged.

Speaking recently at an event organised by his foundation on the 20th anniversary of democracy, De Klerk argued that the ANC, in its pursuit of transformation, has deviated from the principles and values of the Constitution.

He blames this on the ANC’s “dangerous ideology” of the National Democratic Revolution. De Klerk couldn’t be more wrong, about both the National Democratic Revolution and the Constitution.

Among other things, De Klerk claims that the non-ANC parties in the constitutional negotiations “were never consulted about the ANC’s approach to transformation and we do not accept it”.

De Klerk seems to forget that the Constitution was drawn up by the Constitutional Assembly, an elected body that represented the collective will of the South African people.

He seems to forget that in 1994, nearly two-thirds of South Africans voted for the ANC’s approach to transformation, and have done so several times since.

De Klerk claims that, unlike its negotiating partners, the ANC did not view the constitutional negotiations as the means to achieving a final national constitutional accord.

That’s nonsense.

In both word and deed, the ANC has placed the Constitution at the centre of its vision for a new South Africa.

It has not only upheld the values of the Constitution, it has also pursued policies that advance the constitutional requirement to improve the quality of life for all.

In describing its “dangerous ideology” of National Democratic Revolution, the ANC’s 2012 Strategy and Tactics document says: “Our democratic political system is founded on political, socioeconomic and other human rights which are enshrined in the country’s Constitution.”

These are not the words of an organisation that views the Constitution as nothing more than the means to achieving state power.

At the heart of De Klerk’s argument, however, is the claim that the ANC’s transformation programme is incompatible with the equality clause in the Bill of Rights.

Again, he is wrong. The equality clause is in fact fundamental to the transformation agenda and is not contradictory to the National Democratic Revolution.

Not only does it provide the basis for the ANC’s transformation agenda, it also establishes transformation as a constitutional imperative.

For those who genuinely wish to see a truly transformed South Africa that is dealing with the legacy of apartheid, there is no approach other than that set out in the equality clause of our Constitution.

The clause says, among other things, that equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.

It further says that to promote the achievement of equality, measures may be taken to advance people who have been disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.

Simply put, the Constitution says the achievement of equality may require steps to redress the injustices of the past.

Those who wrote the Constitution understood that equality could not be achieved by proclamation.

It is something that has to be achieved progressively through deliberate and sustained action.

Since the divisions in our society are predominately based on race, it stands to reason that foremost among our concerns should be the achievement of racial equality.

At the same time, we must work to eradicate the related injustices of gender discrimination and income inequality.

Over the past 20 years, the policies of the ANC have been directed towards precisely these tasks.

The provision of free houses, electricity, water, sanitation, roads and other social infrastructure are all part of the economic empowerment of the black majority.

So too is the expansion of access to education.

More than 80% of schools are now no-fee schools.

The proportion of black university students increased from 49% in 1995 to more than 66% in 2010.

Over the same period, university enrolment more than doubled.

Alongside these programmes, which have had a tangible impact on the lives of millions of people, the ANC has also pursued policies around employment equity and BEE.

These too have borne positive results.

The black middle class doubled in size between 1993 and 2008.

There has been a 325% growth in the proportion of blacks in senior management since 1996.

This is not nearly enough to address the enormity of the apartheid legacy, but it demonstrates that the “dangerous ideology” of the ANC is progressively redressing the injustices of the past.

De Klerk decries the “ideology of demographic representivity” while seeking a society “in which race is no longer an issue or a source of division”.

What he does not seem to realise is that race will continue to be an issue for as long as there are such stark disparities in the material conditions of black and white South Africans.

Race will remain an issue until all echelons of our society are demographically representative.

Nonracialism is not merely about changing racial ­mind-sets, it is about creating a society in which there is no longer a social or economic divide between the races.

As long as a black child is more likely than a white child to be born into poverty, South Africa will not be truly nonracial.

Although we have made significant progress, the disparities between black and white remain.

In 2008, 61% of Africans lived below the poverty line.

Only 3% of whites did.

The policies of the ANC do not judge people by the colour of their skin.

But in a society in which a person’s circumstances are still largely defined by their race, it is both unavoidable and necessary to take account of the colour of a person’s skin when implementing measures that our Constitution envisaged may have to be taken to promote equality.

De Klerk would have us believe that the ANC is reracialising South Africa.

What he fails to recognise is that South Africa has yet to be deracialised.

We have made progress in the past 20 years in our efforts to achieve equality, but there is still much to be done.

As the ANC, we will continue to do everything we can to advance transformation – whether De Klerk signs up for it or not.

Ramaphosa is the deputy president of the ANC

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