Those in power pay lip service to constitutional values but are motivated by a revolutionary agenda
Our justiciable bill of rights, contained in chapter 2 of the constitution, our supreme law since liberation from the yoke of apartheid, promises a better life for all in which human dignity, the promotion of the achievement of equality and the enjoyment of those guaranteed rights is ensured via competent service delivery, with the efficient, effective and economic use of the resources available to government.
The state is obliged to respect, protect, promote and fulfil these rights, but has fallen well short of doing so. Examples abound: the supply of electricity is patchy at best and increasingly absent; water quality and availability is not what it was, sanitation is in deep trouble; the education and health systems are under stress. A shortage of food leads to stunting of growth and even death among the children of the poor of SA. The Gini coefficient has risen when it was meant to fall, the rand is weak, the economy is greylisted and unemployment is at a record high, especially among the youth.
During, before and even after the state capture project of the ANC-led Zuma administration trillions of rand have been looted from the coffers of SA and transferred offshore by the kleptocrats and their fellow travellers in the business sector. The phenomenon known in Africa as “our turn to eat” has been turned into a highly sophisticated and expensive exercise in SA, ever since the criminal justice system was broken by the closure of the Scorpions and their replacement by the ever ineffective Hawks.
Current efforts at reform fall far short of the binding requirements of the law as laid down by our highest court in the Glenister litigation. Pulling the wool over the eyes of the public cannot be allowed to continue, with governance by sleight of hand the order of the day at national level and in all but one of the provinces.
The governing alliance at national level, led by the ANC, pays lip service to the values of the constitution when it is actually and expressly motivated by its pursuit of what it calls the national democratic revolution (NDR), the main aim of which is to secure hegemonic control over all levers of power in society. Not just in government, mark you, but society.
This aim is achieved by a system of cadre deployments in the public administration and state-owned enterprises. In his evidence before the Zondo state capture commission, President Cyril Ramaphosa even admitted to ANC cadre deployment committee activity in relation to the appointment of new members of the judiciary. So much for impartiality and independence.
As we approach the highly contested 2024 national and provincial elections, the fundamental question is whether the electorate is prepared to continue to be governed by sleight of hand. The NDR has nothing to do with the democratic project envisaged in the constitution. The separation of powers, the presence of checks and balances on the exercise of authority by state institutions and the presence of independent institutions, both in the form of the judiciary and the chapter 9 bodies, are the antithesis of hegemonic control of all levers of power in society.
Those who have benefited from the fruits of the NDR are bound to work hard to maintain their positions and perks. The president has even stooped to threatening the end of social grants if the ANC is not returned to power, a threat that may impress the ignorant but does not hold water at all given that the whole social grant system is required by the bill of rights.
It remains to be seen whether the opposition formations, both old and new, will have the courage to confront the revolutionary agenda of the ANC and other parties like it or whether they will persist with the old “Queensbury Rules” way of conducting election politics, as if those elected to public office uphold the constitution rather than undermine it with revolutionary claptrap that has never worked anywhere in the world where it has been tried.
• Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now.