Whose Constitution is it?

The Afternoon Drive show had a special panel discussion, looking at South Africa's Constitution in commemoration of 20 years of the Constitution and 22 years since the first democratic elections.

Xolani Gwala opened the debate by speaking to the two giants involved in the development of the Constitution adopted in 1996, Justice Albie Sachs, former Constitutional Court judge, and Roelf Meyer Former Minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs.

Both Meyer and Sachs believe that the Constitution protects all South Africans.

This is a Constitution for transformation and change, and that gave people the weapons and instruments to constitutionally bring about improvement in the lives of the people. I would keep the Constitution as is, but I would encourage people not to abuse it, but to use it and take advantage of rights and the freedoms that the Constitution has given them to bring about the change that they want.

Justice Albie Sachs, former Constitutional Court judge

The principle of equality runs right through the Constitution. It’s a Constitution for change and achieving democracy.

Justice Albie Sachs, former Constitutional Court judge

The main foundation of our Constitution is the fact that we respect individual rights on an equal basis for all South Africans. And that should be the departure point that we keep in mind all the time, because sometimes in recent debates the message of our Constitution get lost.

Roelf Meyer, former minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs

It’s not the Constitution that’s at fault, I think it’s rather a question of how we have succeeded in making the progress.

Roelf Meyer, former minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs

Gwala asked Prof Jackie Dugard, of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, if the Constitution is fair in giving both the former oppressor and oppressed the same rights and privileges. He also asked whether all people have fair and equal access to the Constitutional Court.

It’s very important to note that Section 9 of the Constitution deals with equality. There you have a free open highway for the government to pursue whatever kind of affirmative action policies it wants to, in order to try to put previously disadvantaged people on an equal footing. Then again, we come to the extent that hasn’t happened, we can’t blame the Constitution.

Prof Jackie Dugard, of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution

Many people are ground down by poverty and the disadvantaged simply don’t try to engage their rights through the courts. But, why? They should do that? Why not through politics?

Prof Jackie Dugard, of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution

Thami Pooe, of the Wits Students Representative Council, argued that it's not that the students are complaining about the Constitution, but how people still can't access their constitutional rights.

Part of the reasons why we have movements such Fees Must Fall and Rhodes Must Fall is addressing the fact that universities after 1994 still behaved the same way they behave during apartheid.

Thami Pooe, Wits SRC

Listen to the debate below...


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