Deputy President Paul Mashatile has vowed that South Africa will continue to stand for the vulnerable and marginalised, and fight for a just world.
This comes after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Israel to, amongst others, take all measures within its power "to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide" and to immediately ensure that Palestinians have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.
South Africa had approached the ICJ to garner not only a ceasefire of Israel’s military barrage of Palestine but also to ask the court to find the Israeli government guilty of committing acts of genocide. The ICJ found that it was “plausible” that Israel committed acts which violate the Genocide Convention.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has this week said that as a signatory to the Genocide Convention, the South African government bears a responsibility to prevent acts of genocide wherever they occur.
As South Africa celebrates 30 years of democracy this year, the country’s second-in-command said not only has government made significant strides in transforming South Africa but it has also left a significant mark globally by “unapologetically” choosing to stand on the side of justice.
“We are a nation that will always stand for the vulnerable and marginalised, and fight for a just world. We call upon the rest of the world to join us in this important fight for justice, equality, and peace,” Mashatile said.
The Deputy President was speaking at the South Africa Legislative Sector International Oversight Summit at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town.
The two-day summit provides the sector with an opportunity to reflect on the gains made in strengthening democracy, while discussing how it can optimise its role as a guardian of democracy by improving the legislative arm of the State.
“This theme is relevant in that it reminds us of the strategic role that legislatures play in transforming society and championing the interests of all South Africans towards a better life for all,” said Mashatile.
He told delegates that 30 years of democracy is a demonstration that it is possible to have a people-centred government that considers citizens as critical role players in policy and law-making processes.
“It is, therefore, important that through this summit, we maintain the commitments we have to these principles that underpin our democratic government and legislative sector. Parliaments must continue to be people-centred institutions that bring the voices of the people to governance.”
He cited accountability, good ethics, integrity, and transparency as critical factors for a guiding framework to strengthen the legislature’s role toward improving the lives of all South Africans.
“Without these principles, the sustainable human development agenda will not find its truest expression.”
The Deputy President also touched on effective oversight, which he believes is crucial to ensure that these principles are upheld and that institutions serve the needs of the people to realise a better life for all.
“The fundamental test of democracy lies in Parliament’s ability to maintain Executive accountability through continuous oversight. The litmus test of an active citizenry in a democracy is the extent to which Parliament can hold the government accountable to the people.”
He identified corruption, abuse of State power, and maladministration as critical deficiencies that undermine governance, institutions and processes, which leads to the erosion of public trust.
“In this regard, Chapter 9 of the Constitution mandates the creation of institutions designed to protect and support democracy.”
To demonstrate South Africa’s commitment to good governance, Mashatile cited the State Capture Commission.
“Regarding the latest report received, Parliament is currently working on proper mechanisms to address the issues raised by the report of the State Capture Commission. The Presiding Officers of Parliament have already referred certain matters requiring direct action by Parliament to parliamentary structures for processing.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy President commended the nation for playing an essential role in safeguarding democracy by securing free and fair elections during the last six administrations.
“Today, we are just a few months away from the National General Elections, which will mark the transition from the sixth to the seventh Parliament.
“As government, we want to assure Parliament and the international community that we have confidence in our Electoral Commission (IEC), and we strongly believe that the IEC will deliver free and fair elections in 2024 and beyond as it has done so before.”
The IEC is set to hold a voter registration drive this weekend. – SAnews.gov.za