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comment by WanderingEng
WanderingEng  ·  22 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Mzansi by natives 1: Somewhere to start

Thank you for sharing! I have a question from this:

    The 1996 Constitution is an aspirational document. It paints a picture of a South Africa that I would like to think most citizens can agree is one to strive towards.

The United States Declaration of Independence famously declares the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and I think my fellow citizens would unquestioningly agree with this at the most basic level. Things start to get muddled when there are competing interests in the liberties various citizens enjoy.

So my question to you is how hard does it seem for you and citizens around you to agree on that picture of South Africa? In the US it can get lost behind politics and anger and self righteousness, but I'm hopeful that it can be better.

DWol  ·  22 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Thanks, I think this is a great question.

Certainly in the general sense there is agreement (with some caveats that I'll get into now-now). Within the Constitution the main source of these ideals is in the bill of rights (SS 7-39). The rest deals with more procedural stuff relating to how government will function etc. I believe the US constitution has a similar setup.

There is broad agreement largely because of the relatively consultative process which produced it - during the transitional period (~90s) there was engagement between the various political groupings and the old regime culminating in an interim constitution that paved the way for a democratically constructed one after the elections.

As such, it reflects the politics of the day - in South Africa the Overton window lies very much to the left, at least in the talk-space.

The devil is in the details however. There are two main issues/debates as far as I have eyes to see:

The first is the idea that the Constitution did not go far enough in pushing for revolutionary change. There is a view that is gaining more traction than it used to have that the 1994 dispensation represents a suspension of the revolution. I think there is perhaps something to this, although I cannot throw my weight behind it entirely. S 25 for instance guarantees the right to property and prohibits expropriation without compensation. The question is then how this squares with the process (which is mandated in the same section) of righting our history of marginalisation and dispossession. In essence, who should own the land and how to shift? I won't get into the specifics here but I hope it illustrates this type of clash.

The second issue is the question of how to actually do the practical legwork in trying to guarantee the rights. This is where the debate more commonly lies. For instance when people protest and demand access to sanitation, they can rest assured that the Constitution guarantees the right to adequate housing, with sanitation almost assuredly being a necessary condition for such.

There is yet much to be said here but hopefully that goes some way to answering your question!