OPINION: The 22 years of threats to our freedom
Ours is a truly great democracy renowned by the whole world. Many great legal minds point to the South African Constitution for any new nation in the world as the starting point to think of their own constitution. It is built on many world experiences and these experiences, both successes and failures, have given us a foundation to imagine our own fundamental law and democratic practices.
Despite this fact, these past 22 years of political freedom are experiencing a decline. The fundamental freedoms in our Constitution are fast being eroded by the government of the day. Key among these is the ideal of the rule of law. For dictatorship and autocracy not to emerge, we ought to have the rule of law; the idea that all shall be equal before the law, and that the authority of the government finds its source on specific fundamental laws. This is because dictatorship and tyranny can emerge and cast our great achievements into a bottomless abyss, even if based on the majority.
When a government extends its authority beyond its limits, even if based on the will of the majority, it begins to be illegitimate. When the Constitutional Court found that Zuma violated the Constitution, the response of the ANC signified that we have begun on the path of the erosion of the rule of law. Instead of resigning as president, Zuma simply apologised. He did not appreciate that he was setting a precedent that one can violate the Constitution, break your oath of office and still be allowed to hold the very public office whose main function is to protect the law from being violated.
The ANC, being constituted by a collective, also saw nothing wrong with Zuma continuing as president after violating the very law he was hired to protect. That day when they all voted to protect him in Parliament is when the idea that we are equal before the law shattered. They failed to appreciate that when found guilty of breaking a law, one cannot be allowed, or entrusted, to protect that very law. They accepted Zuma's apology and asked society to move on. Zuma broke the law, no process of rehabilitation was imposed or required of him. The ANC protected and reaffirmed an unrehabilitated convict to hold the highest office of president in the land. Without a doubt, we can say that the greatest danger today to the ideal of the rule of law is the ANC which protects and rewards those who break the Constitution.
The other way in which the Constitution is being eroded is precisely the killings that government has engaged in with impunity. When the ANC government killed people in Marikana, Relela and Mothutlung, it eroded people's right to life. To this day, not even a single politician, both in national or local government, was held responsible for the violation of these people's rights to life. When a government can take life with impunity, even if elected by the majority, it cannot claim to be legitimate. The killings in these communities (Marikana, in particular) were government decisions, taken systematically. To this day, all politicians who were responsible are still in the Cabinet.
The final threat, which was always present since day one of the adoption of our Constitution 20 years ago, is that our Constitution envisaged political freedom without guaranteeing economic freedom. The Constitution did not deal with the fact of what colonialism and apartheid, as crimes against humanity, were about. Historically, these were crimes of land dispossession beyond denial of political freedoms, which means by not charging apartheid society with restoring land, our Constitution built into democratic society a time bomb.
The foundation for sustainable peaceful co-existence should have always been conceived by resolving the land dispossession of black people. Land dispossession is the reason there are townships, and there is no addressing the spaces of human degradation called ghettos and townships without land. In addition, the Constitution should have exempted land from being protected as individual property because without doing so, it kept it in the hands of whites. Thus, it perpetuated the colonial land dispossession of black people.
This threat to our Constitution is always present because any society that allows anyone to make profit out of what is basic to human existence, and thus the very existence of that society, presupposes its own destruction. Our Constitution should have never allowed commodification of healthcare, education and sanitation. Once access to these basic necessities is through money, it means you will have inequality, in particular perpetrating racial inequality. The Constitution should have not only sought to lay a basis for a future, but also it should have judged apartheid and sought to hold it liable for the ills it created. Once commodified, education, healthcare and sanitation became a thing of the privileged. The poor, who are mainly black, remain under-educated, without healthcare and sanitation.
The history of post-colonial democracies is that democracy falls apart precisely because it fails to yield economic freedom. In addition, in our own country, the state relies on the market to resolve problems that were not created by the market. The reason there is landlessness, and lack of quality education and healthcare among the poor and the black majority, is a design, and not a failure of talent, competence and money. It does not matter how talented blacks are, they do not have access to quality education because quality education was denied to them as a group, and not because it is expensive - from early childhood development, to higher education and training.
The recent report of the Commission for Affirmative Action shows that the very market that the government entrusts with resolving the problems designed by apartheid remains racist and anti-black. The report demonstrated that many companies in the economy are still white male dominated and led. This is despite the fact that there are indeed blacks who are capable and well qualified to be at the top. The reality is that they are overlooked because they are black.
The ownership and control of the market is white dominated, 22 years into democracy, which is also another failure of this very Constitution. To entrust the resolution of black poverty into the hands of a white dominated and led market, which has refused to transform for 22 years, is futile. The only solution is that our government must lead a process of directly participating in the economy by owning the mines, banks and other strategic industries, while also building new industries from scratch.
The most urgent need for the sustainability of this democracy is economic freedom. If we do not attain economic freedom, we are doomed. The ANC government has proven to be incapable of both leading us towards economic freedom, as well as respecting political freedom. The people of South Africa must use this Freedom Day to arrive at a resolution of rejecting and removing the ANC and give a chance to another political formation with the determination to be democratic and lead a radical economic programme for the wellbeing of all.
Member of Parliament Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is the national spokesperson for the Economic Freedom Fighters.