All signs point to the need for a new South African Convention

By Lorenzo A Davids Time of article published2h ago

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Looking at the recent narratives emerging from South Africa, one sees a country tolerant of divisive personality politics and subterranean loyalties that undermine the Constitution.

Never before have we been so challenged about our constitutional make-up. There is an absence of statesmanship and an over-abundance of defiance of the rule of law.

It appears as if the anchors have been pulled up and the South African democracy is adrift in unchartered waters at every level. There is no leadership emerging among the current political classes that appears to be acting in the best interest of the Constitution and the people. Every action reeks of corrupted self-interest, factional politics and a perpetuation of the class and race divisions of the old South Africa.

More and more people are – with great foolishness – making social media statements that apartheid South Africa was a better country than what we now have. The growing popularity of this horrendous statement points to the overwhelming failure of our Parliament to hold its members accountable to the people of South Africa.

The state is divided between three different but interdependent arms, namely the executive (Cabinet), the legislature (Parliament) and the judiciary (Courts of law). We appear to becoming a state with only two arms of government instead of three.

Parliament seems to be entirely absent as a body that serves as the “House of the People”. It is no longer a secret that the National Coronavirus Command Council is virtually running the country instead of Parliament. The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs appears to be the new public face of government instead of Parliament.

We have a police minister that is more cowboy than Constitutionalist. We have rumours of judges and journalists allegedly on the payrolls of state capture agents. We have a former president in complete defiance of the Constitutional Court. We see Cabinet members splitting into factions around the leadership of the current president and the former president. The last three months have shaken our confidence in the stability of our democracy.

The one certainty that any progressive democracy requires is leadership clarity. Its citizens need to know who is leading it and the fundamental principles that serve as its guiding light. This is where President Ramaphosa is failing the country. In the absence of his decisive leadership, the internal oppositional factions within his own party, his political opponents in Parliament and opportunistic agents across civil society are exploiting this weakness.

The president needs to present himself as the leader of this country, the head of government business and the fearless upholder of the Constitution of this Republic. In addition, he also needs to make his own leadership felt within his party.

The fact that the president is not making himself heard on the various crises we are faced with in a decisive manner weakens us as a nation. It opens us up to dangerous opportunistic voices that ignores the principles we have been founded on. When the media is filled with political infighting and rampant and unpunished constitutional violations instead of service delivery to the people, it becomes a clear indicator that we are beginning to implode as a democracy.

The evidence of a factional and destructive democracy that is not centred on the needs of its people is all around us. Our towns and villages are collapsing. Our mass infrastructure is under severe stress. Roads are burning.

No democracy can survive such an onslaught. The president must lead decisively. His party and Cabinet must be exemplary Constitutionalist. The opposition politicians must respect the rule of law. Parliament must hold everyone to account.

Perhaps it is time to call another convention of the people of South Africa to reaffirm the rules, principles and values of a democratic South Africa. After 27 years, our national leadership needs to reconvene in dialogues about principles, pit latrines and people, instead of populism and power.

* Lorenzo A Davids is outgoing chief executive of the Community Chest.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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