It's time to reflect on whether Constitution has 'served aspirations of our people' - Ramaphosa

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that it is time to reflect on the South African Constitution.
President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that it is time to reflect on the South African Constitution.
PHOTO: Fani Mahuntsi, Gallo Images
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa says the Constitution should be scrutinised to see how it has served or failed to serve the aspirations of South Africans. 
  • He said while a lot had been achieved in redressing the injustices of the past, more could still be done. 
  • The conference on the Constitution seeks to reflect on its achievements over the past 26 years, as well as current challenges.

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that, 26 years since the Constitution came into effect, it is time to reflect on its efficiency and whether it has "served the aspirations of our people". 

Ramaphosa was delivering the keynote address on the first day of the three-day national conference on the Constitution titled "Reflections and the Road Ahead", said a lot of progress had been made in redressing the injustices of the past since the Constitution came into effect.

However, a lot more still needed to be done. 

"Despite numerous achievements, there are still many challenges in the realisation of the vision, values, and prescripts of our Constitution," he said.

"The persistently high levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality, corruption, and violence show that our journey to the promised land is far from over. 

"The contours of our racist and sexist past still feature in private and public institutions, in business, in access to skills, wealth, and opportunity, and in the spatial configuration of our cities, towns, and rural areas."

READ | ANC's 'unity and renewal' trumps load shedding as the party's key priority

The Constitution was promulgated by then-president Nelson Mandela on 18 December 1996, and came into effect on 4 February 1997, replacing the Interim Constitution of 1993.

Ramaphosa suggested that there was a need to reflect on laws that had been passed "since the beginning of our post-revolutionary period".

Ramaphosa said there is a need to relook at the Constitution, with the aim of evaluating whether it served the citizens well or whether it had hindered steps toward addressing the injustices of the past. 

"Have the laws we have implemented since democracy actually achieved their purpose? Today we are focusing on our Constitution, and minister [of justice Ronald Lamola], if working together with Parliament, there should be an opportunity for us to look at various pieces of legislation that we have put in place to transform our country and see if we can retain them or make changes to them to attain the aspirations of our people," he said.

Ramaphosa described the inaugural conference on the Constitution as a "very rare opportunity" that should not be taken lightly. 

The conference's objective, according to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, is to reflect on the achievements, current challenges, and to adopt resolutions for the future of a constitutional democracy. 

Ramaphosa said that through the provisions in the Constitution, the government had been able to serve its citizens. 

"Some of these measures include providing housing, water and sanitation, and social grants for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and children. There has been a distinct improvement in access to land, education, and healthcare services. 

"These are part of ongoing efforts to address economic and social injustices."

He added that the conference gave the government "an opportunity to reflect on the road we must traverse to strengthen our constitutional democracy and address the many challenges around the rule of law, accountability, and social and economic justice".

The president said:

The strengthening and entrenchment of constitutional democracy require ethical, committed, and effective leadership in all spheres of our society, political will, and the support of all our citizens.

Lamola echoed these sentiments, saying his department’s wish was for the conference to achieve "healing of divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice, and fundamental human rights".

"We also wish to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law, improve the quality of life of all citizens and free each person's potential, and build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations," he said. 

Those in attendance included acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Voting Booth
Do you think the wardens deployed across Gauteng will make a dent in curbing crime?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
No, proper policing is needed
79% - 3380 votes
Yes, anything will help at this point
21% - 880 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.