Rule of law under threat without socio-economic inclusion of majority - Lamola

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Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: GCIS
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: GCIS
  • Minister Ronald Lamola said that without socio-economic inclusion of the majority of South Africans, it's evident the rule of law is under threat.
  • He was speaking on Friday at a webinar to mark the 25th anniversary of the country's Constitution.
  • Lamola added that the recent failed insurrection reminded the country of its past.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, has argued that those diametrically opposed to the socio-economic rights as enshrined in the Constitution, are no different from the architects of the criminal acts and undermining of the rule of law that plagued KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng recently.

He said it was simply not possible that constitutional values could be allowed to be undermined to the extent that it led to unrest and division.

"The unrest of the past few weeks reminds us violently that [the] Constitution is not just an aspiration, but it must be a lived reality. Without socio-economic inclusion of the majority of South Africans, it is evident that the rule of law is under threat," he said.

Lamola said the recent failed insurrection that affected KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, reminded the country of its past in many ways.

"It also showed us how socio-economic challenges faced by our people, poverty, inequality and unemployment can be utilised as a weapon to threaten the values upon which we have built our democratic country.”

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"The challenges that have been brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, further exacerbates the situation. In some ways, we not only heard all the voices, but also the screams of inequality, particularly of a racial nature, which persist in a post-apartheid South Africa,” he said.

The minister said there could be no denying that the unrest had brought to the fore questions about whether there was an erosion of respect for the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country.

Speaking on Friday at a webinar to mark the 25th anniversary of the Constitution, Lamola said it had to be asked whether the country was able to live up to the values as espoused in section 1 of the Constitution and by Nelson Mandela.

Lamola said failure to address mis-governance can only defer the full implementation of the Constitution.

"In essence, we must have the determination. The past 25 years have taught us that we need a social compact between civil society, private sector and government to build a just society," he added.

Lamola said the Zondo Commission was a critical vantage point in that regard. 

He added:

I am of the firm view that all the time when interpreting the Constitution, we must take into account the concept of originalism.

The minister expressed concern around the Stats SA numbers that revealed that there was a significant disparity in poverty levels between population groups in South Africa.

"Statistics indicate that 64.2% of black people legally classified as 'African' in our country live in poverty, but, among white people, those who live in poverty constitute 1%. There is a 90% chance that children born into poverty will also end up being poor, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and undermines social mobility.

"This is what our governance system must address with urgency; this is why we cannot delay economic freedom any longer. We must be honest by not only reflecting on mis-governance, but by acting timeously against it."

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Lamola said the concept of originalism asserts that all statements in the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding "at the time a Constitution was adopted".

He said there was no doubt that those who drafted the Constitution had in mind to unite South Africans with their diversity, uproot the economic imbalances and all forms of discrimination.

"The relationship between justice and economic freedom is highly contingent on how all social partners implement our Constitution. South Africans from all walks of life must become activists to dismantle the legacy of apartheid.

"Social exclusions cannot be allowed to continue manifesting - these are detrimental towards our constitutional democracy and have the potential to undermine the gains we have made. The recent accelerated pace of our vaccination programme is a result of cooperation between the private sector, civil society and government," he said. 

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