Constitution takes centre stage amid land debate

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

South Africa’s Constitution has once again taken centre stage as the country embarks on a comprehensive land reform programme, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The President said this when he addressed Members of Parliament, Ministers and members of the Mandela and Sisulu families during the launch of the Constitutional Theme Committee Books, in the Old Assembly, on Tuesday night.

The Constitutional Theme Committee books, among others, tell a compelling story about the constitution-making process and the many challenging issues with which the country had to grapple following the country's first democratic elections in 1994.

The President - who at the time led the ANC team that negotiated South Africa’s democratic transition – was elected chairperson of the Constitutional Assembly which wrote South Africa's new democratic constitution.

On Tuesday the President said: “Currently, as we embark on a process to secure equitable land redistribution in our country, our Constitution is taking centre stage again in the life of our nation.

“The land question has inspired us to criss-cross the country – much like we did with the Constitutional Assembly – to solicit the views of South Africans of all backgrounds and political persuasions on a critical national issue.

“The land question brings us back to these very premises where we chiselled out the founding document of our new democratic republic, and calls on us yet again to exchange views, state our fears, state our hopes and find one another as South Africans,” he said.

Debating the land issue should “fill us with the spirit which we approached the writing of our Constitution”.

The launch of the Constitutional Theme Committee books comes as the country is celebrating the 100th birthdays of former President Nelson Mandela and struggle icon Albertina Sisulu.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu and his wife Elinor Sisulu attended the launch on behalf of the Sisulu family. Member of the National Assembly Mandla Mandela represented the Mandela family.

The President said as the country deals with the land debate and seeks to heal the wounds inflicted on the majority of the people, “we want to be filled once again with the spirit, wisdom, courage and legacy of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu”.

“The mission of building a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it did not end with the writing of our Constitution.

“We are therefore poised today to develop a way that will lead us forward in our democracy as we apply our Constitution to some of the most pressing challenges facing our society, with land at the very apex of this effort.

“It is my hope that all of us will draw inspiration from our innovative and widely cited and emulated Constitution to move South Africa forward,” he said.

Books to empower all South Africans

The President said, meanwhile, the newly-launched books serve more than an archival function. They are intended to inform and empower South Africans and enable them to better interpret and understand their constitutional rights.

He said he hoped the books will inspire a debate about the meaning of the Constitution and its role in an ever-changing society.

“In launching these books, we are celebrating our Constitution as the product of a great and courageous struggle against tyranny.

“We are celebrating it as a firm foundation for the creation of a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.

“We must remain loyal to the vision articulated in our Constitution.

“It is our responsibility to guarantee the future of our constitutional democracy and ensure that generations to come live in a harmonious and cohesive society liberated of all vestiges of past iniquity,” he said.

The President said the Constitution is the best defence citizens have against the abuse of power and the violation of their rights.

“Ultimately, the Constitution remains our blueprint for a non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and united South Africa and a future that is brighter than anything that has gone before.” –