-Defending a Constitution that needs no defence –
Ramphele, the public intellectual and former Black Consciousness activist joins the chorus of those who sing from a hymnal “Our democracy is under threat by the ANC”.
She was scathing in her venting on the president and the ANC for betraying the legacy of what it stood for. Ramphele who has held virtually all significant posts rightfully so, has also taken on the role of headmistress of the South African society, it is this last designation that we hear when she is scathing in attacking the ANC on the question of Constitutional progress in the developmental state.
She joins the chorus of those who claim to know informed by her conviction that the ANC when it asks relevant questions on our constitution necessarily seeks to obliterate the constitution.
Firstly, this argument is less honest for it thrives on the myth that the constitution is a document that is finalized and cast in stone and must not be touched or questioned, even if it means for the advancement of the cause of progress for a society that seeks answers for the conundrums it faces.
Ramphele like many others argues that our constitution cannot be regarded as a work in progress but sacrosanct and finalised notwithstanding the evolving challenges a developmental state presents. South Africa as it stands prior to its hallowed constitution is a politically negotiated settlement the same that gave impetus, texture and context for the very constitution. That very negotiated settlement was never blindly celebrated, but unequivocally acknowledged with its inherent deficits and challenges.
By the time of its adoption we have enshrined ideals that we have not lived in practicality; we have embraced what we less understood in praxis, we have enjoined what were not free from challenge.
To therefore act as if the constitution was a worked out tried and tested recipe that guarantees the same predictable results is to be less honest with the spirit and history of the constitution. It is common knowledge that when the proverbial founding fathers sat down and came up with this writ it borrowed from all those it could for SA until than knew nothing about democracy as practice. Our constitution was regarded by many is ultra progressive, tone setting in global context even surpassing 200 year old democracies. That was the context of the constitution.
Our transformative developmental state has in my opinion a constitution that proves less workable in some areas if the agenda is levelling the playing fields.
The second reason why this argument of democracy is under threat fails to hold resonates in this. The proponents of the ‘fear rhetoric’ proves silent when they are confronted with the confirmed reality that it has been said ad-nausea, our constitution has been altered for a variety of reasons no less than 16 times since its adoption.
This must attest to the resilience of our entrenched democracy, that notwithstanding the many times it was visited by the demand of change, it came out stronger more effervescent and better for the developmental state called South Africa. This must lend credence to our claim that the constitution in that sense remains a celebrated work in progress document.
Ramphele in the centennial year of the ANC chooses to read the ANC the riot act, as those in opposition to a constitutional democracy. She takes her proverbial caning to the Zuma presidency and if that was not enough swipes at the entire ANC leadership claiming it is silent when one of the architects of the constitution and ANC – NEC member Cyril Ramaphosa and head of Policy development and Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe along with the President dealt with this even in his opening of parliament decisively. ANC leaders have made it emphatically clear what the ANC’s commitment to the Constitution is and remain.
Perhaps what Ramphele do not tell us is that she joined those who believe democracy is only experienced, in opposition. These remonstrate that those who lost in the ballot are the natural custodians of democracy, and therefore also the ones whose voices must be taken serious notwithstanding the ideological cage of those.
It leaves one to wonder from what premise or angle this headmistress sjambokking comes.
It is the undying believe of the claimed ‘custodians’ of democracy that the ANC cannot be trusted with democracy. That the ANC is the enemy of the people’s democracy. This sophism parades from judiciary, public intellectuals, media, and untransformed civil society and opposition parties and is shared liberally in a narrative that seeks to shape public discourse with politically vested interest.
Some of us have consistently argued we cannot transform this economy exemplified in land, etc to inculcate the place it suppose to be for those who are necessarily the poor, left behind and “black” masses, if we do not revisit this constitution from time to time for we are a developmental state.
It is alarmist and less honest to see this in a myopic sense of undoing the ANC legacy, and bespeaks the agenda of making the ANC the enemy of the people as if the people do not know different.
Ramphele, have joined the chorus of the liberalist and ‘white’ elite having benefitted grossly from the new dispensation to critique the ANC its president and leadership from an ivory tower of a claimed morality.
Her veiled association with a Democratic Party leadership as a touted future leader of such (though she has not admitted to such) leaves one no option but to accept for some of our public intellectuals the politics of opposition for opposition sake proves real.
For Ramphele and those who politically want to scare us into the night with the typical fear-factor ticket, we say we will alter as was done before this constitution, for it is a means to an end. Our tampering with it is necessary as we define and redefine our developmental state demands. Doing this will not be the sin mea-culpa or the unpardonable sin and should not be conveniently made out as such.
The constitution remains a “work in progress” that must find meaning in the dichotomy of our sojourn in finding correct measures to deal with the historical reality of an apartheid that left more than indentations that can be panel beaten into correction, but must be obliterated at other intervals.
Another challenge with this glorification of the constitution is the fact that it is a false one for it asks for worshipping of it for unholy reasons. If the ANC negotiated in CODESA in what is termed and called the first phase namely political liberation and now after soul search has to contend with the reality of an avalanche of economic disparity where whites still earn, own, mines and land and control Democratic South Africa backed by a constitution that proclaims our equality less our disparity, is it not right to ask what has been the role of the constitution in perpetuating unintentionally this disparity.
Ramphele and the new elite black voices speak from the comfort of their interest and have claimed a right above others to reprimand, castigate and accuse all informed by a liberalist ethos. Lest we forget it’s the voice of Ramphele that gives meaning to the untransformed civil society structures like FUL who often seeks to confirm the stereotype that South Africa governed by an ANC needs direction the same it claims it knows how.
Clearly black voices speaking white minds, for lack of a better word.
Finally those who prognosticate a gospel of a sacrosanct SA Constitution tampers with infringing our rights as voters to determine what we need when and by what means. These will work to demonize the legitimate issue of a 2/3majority and will breathe fear into a public discourse where the ANC remains the enemy of the people. Perhaps democracy is under threat by those who want to reduce the ballot as a substandard of our democracy, in which other arms and means, is found to co-govern this country in the name of a constitution from a lost ballot.
These advocating a questioning of the constitution and interpreting of such as the undoing of ANC Legacy, must not attempt to blackmail us who voted and is still held immured by the nightmare of a “blackness” visited upon us by an identity that wanted all to believe in their “whiteness”.
It does not bother Ramphele and her cohort when SA in constitutional embrace remains owned in land 86% by those who constitute 12% of the SA population.
It is of less concern that this economy remains and apartheid economy protected by a bill of rights.
It is no issue that the majority of SA, unlike the few elites, still struggle for a living wage.
Ramphele acts as the typical headmistress of South African society, with a claim from a black consciousness association in the superlative, yet she speaks the mind of the liberalist, the ethos of the integrationist, need I remind the same her mentor Steve Biko vehemently opposed.