Working towards birth of a new world

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

South Africa has done it again! We held peaceful elections at the beginning of May and the post-election period has been characterised by the smooth transition from one administration to another.  

South Africa’s march to democracy, following more than 350 years of oppression, began to take shape in 1990. Sustained pressure by anti-apartheid activists within and outside the country resulted in former President FW de Klerk announcing the unbanning of political parties and the release of Nelson Mandela. This opened the door for negotiations on issues ranging from choosing the type of democracy we wanted, writing of the constitution and the formation of a government of national unity and power-sharing.

Delicate negotiations resulted in our historic first multi-racial election in 1994. Since then we haven’t looked back and our peaceful transition continues to be praised around the world.

Viewed against numerous challenges experienced in many other countries as they undergo political transition, what we have achieved is nothing short of a miracle.

The government and civil society have worked hard since 1994 to ensure that the foundation of our constitutional democracy is strengthened to such an extent that no one will be able to destroy it.

Once again, the process of installing new representatives has unfolded like clockwork, in keeping with each political transition since the dawn of democracy.

We have, throughout this period, adhered to the Constitution that prescribes continuity of executive authority despite the fact that the term of the National Assembly had ended. The newly elected MPs were sworn in on Wednesday in line with our constitution which states that this be done within 14 days of election results being declared.

 That was followed by the selection of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the President, and Deputy President.

Both our Parliamentary and Provincial representatives reflect the country's diversity, as acknowledged by the Independent Electoral Commission chairwoman Pansy Tlakula when lists for the National Assembly were presented to the chief justice. “The candidates represent our diverse cultures, languages, gender representation,” she said. "Of these candidates, approximately 42 percent are women, with the oldest being 85 years old and the youngest 22. The average age of the (representatives) is 50.”

The Chief Justice reminded MPs of the importance of taking an oath, saying their work was not about the fame, designer suits and photo opportunities, but rather the responsibilities that came with holding office. “It is a very important precondition for the assumption of office, particularly in the higher echelons of all three branches of government... An oath is an appeal to the inner-most being of the taker, and impels an awakening of even a deadened conscience to connect intimately and with a great commitment.” he said.

The Constitution also prescribes that the President be sworn in within five days of being elected by the National Assembly and it was for this reason that the inauguration was held at the Union Buildings at the weekend. This year’s inauguration was special as it coincided with South Africa celebrating 20 Years of Freedom and it took place in the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre where Mandela took his oath of affirmation in 1994.

Again, in terms of the constitution, President Zuma then announced the new cabinet which was sworn in yesterday.

We have shown that as a country we are not only more than capable of keeping Nelson Mandela’s legacy intact, but that we can take it further. Twenty years into democracy, South Africa is a better place to live and the new administration is committed to building on past achievements to ensure a better life for all.

In the words of former President Mandela, they pledge “to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination”.

As we wish the new administration success in implementing policies that will benefit all, especially the poor; we need to understand that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We would do well to heed Mandela’s call in his inaugural address: “We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation-building, for the birth of a new world.”

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)


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