Tokyo on the Constitution

2012-11-10 19:57

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has issued a veiled warning about threats to the rule of law in South Africa.

“Things can go badly wrong even if you have a constitutional democracy,” he said.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces at Sun City yesterday, Sexwale urged lawyers to remain “activist”.

He mentioned the example of the US in the 1950s during the period of Republican senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, when those accused of being communists were aggressively pursued and investigated.

“Even if you have a democratic constitution things can go wrong, even under those positive conditions,” Sexwale said.

He said there was a “climate of ongoing tensions within society in respect of individual rights, social rights, the powers of legislators, the authority of the executive and the independence of the judiciary”.

These tensions were “healthy” and “necessary”, he said, but should be accompanied by “maturity and be without any threats, intimidation and violence”.

Asked whether the refusal by the National Prosecuting Authority to hand over the tapes, which formed the basis of the dropping of corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma, was a threat to South Africa’s constitutional democracy, Sexwale said: “None of us should be above the law.”

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