Concerns over Zuma's 'attack' on Constitution

Johannesburg - Opposition parties have voiced their concerns after President Jacob Zuma reportedly told supporters he wants to make changes to the Constitution.

Zuma was speaking in KaNyamazane, near Mbombela, as part of the ANC's 102nd birthday celebrations on Wednesday.

"We want a huge majority this time because we want to change certain things that couldn't be changed with a small majority so that we move forward because there are certain hurdles," Zuma was quotes as saying by The Times.

"People talk about a constitution they have never seen. We saw that constitution," he reportedly told hundreds of supporters.

Attack on Constitution

Agang SA said Zuma's statement could be interpreted as a blatant attack on the Constitution.

"It is no wonder that in the aftermath of these statements, as reports suggest, neither the African National Congress nor his own office were prepared to defend them," the party said in a statement.

"But we should not be surprised."

Zuma had long shown himself to be contemptuous of national interest, preferring to put his interests before nation building, it said.

Freedom Front Plus parliamentary leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said changing the Constitution was an important aspect of any election.

All voters in South Africa had to know what changes Zuma wanted to make so they knew for which party to vote, he said.

"If he does not disclose this information, he is being dishonest with voters, and he appears to be a threatened leader who wants to make changes to the Constitution just to protect his own position," he said.

It would also be an insult to supporters of the ANC "of whom it is expected to go to the ballot boxes like donkeys with a carrot dangling in front of their noses, without them knowing what the implications of a vote in favour of the ANC would be".

Groenewald said changing the Constitution had important consequences for prospective investors, and if the president kept quiet about the changes, he could frighten away prospective investors.

"If the president was really earnest about the future of South Africa, he should say which changes he wants to make to the Constitution and the FFPlus will confront him about this in Parliament," he said.

Disregard for constitutional values

Given Zuma's track record of attacks against the country's constitutional democracy and his growing disregard for constitutional values, it was worrying that he wanted complete control over its amendment, said Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko.

"It also raises questions about what President Zuma is so eager to change in the Constitution," she said.

The South African Constitution was one of the most progressive documents of its kind.

"While it is a living document and should from time to time be amended to reflect the needs of South Africans, such a process should not be taken lightly and most importantly, cannot be used as an election ploy," said Mazibuko.

She said Zuma's entire speech on Wednesday smacked of the desperation of a leader whose party was rapidly losing its grip on power and was determined to cling to it at all costs.

"Having failed to deliver on his promises, he now resorts to the worst kind of propaganda to maintain his dwindling support. South Africans will see through this ruse in 2014," she said.

ANC will govern 'forever and ever'

According to The Times, Zuma also told party supporters the ANC would govern "forever and ever".

"Whether they like it or not, we'll continue to govern," he reportedly said, referring to critics.

In 2008, Zuma declared that the ANC party would "rule until Jesus comes back".

The French news agency Agence France-Presse reported that observers had predicted a fall in nationwide support for the ANC this year, to around 60% or less.

It reported that the ANC's popularity was being hurt by repeated corruption scandals, increasing crime levels, poverty, high unemployment levels and internal bickering.

The National Union of Metalworkers' of SA decided last month to ditch the ANC and said it would not campaign for it or support it financially in the upcoming polls.

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