Fo­rum’s very dan­ger­ous pro­posal

The Mercury - - OPINION -

JIMMY Manyi and the Pro­gres­sive Pro­fes­sion­als Fo­rum pro­pose that South Africa ditch its 1996 con­sti­tu­tion be­cause it lim­its gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion in the econ­omy and, there­fore, the gov­ern­ment can’t ad­e­quately ad­dress poverty.

South Africa’s con­sti­tu­tion is gen­er­ous – per­haps too much so – with the power it gives the gov­ern­ment.

There are few con­sti­tu­tions in the world with an ex­ten­sive list of so­cio-eco­nomic rights such as ours, and fewer yet which el­e­vate the achieve­ment of so­cial jus­tice to a con­sti­tu­tional im­per­a­tive.

South Africa is a par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, where the ex­ec­u­tive is cho­sen out of Par­lia­ment, rather than elected.

As a gen­eral rule, un­like in Amer­ica, Par­lia­ment, as op­posed to the pres­i­dent, also drives the po­lit­i­cal agenda. Dur­ing apartheid we had par­lia­men­tary sovereignty, which ap­pears to be what Manyi is sug­gest­ing.

In many ways, apartheid was a re­sult of par­lia­men­tary sovereignty, so it’s shock­ing that an as­so­ci­a­tion call­ing it­self “pro­gres­sive” would call for po­lit­i­cal re­gres­sion.

Black South Africans were de­nied the fran­chise for more than half a cen­tury, be­cause Par­lia­ment could change elec­toral laws on a whim.

Eco­nomic in­ter­ven­tion­ism has been proven not to work. Poverty can be ad­dressed by growth only, and growth re­quires less gov­ern­ment, not more.

If there was no Bill of Rights, the gov­ern­ment would have no rea­son to ad­dress poverty and so­cial ills, and would pur­sue its own agen­das.

Even the demo­cratic process would be for Par­lia­ment to de­cide.

In the fi­nal decade of apartheid, Par­lia­ment gave the pres­i­dent far-reach­ing pow­ers, which made South Africa func­tion like a dic­ta­tor­ship. With­out a con­sti­tu­tion, noth­ing would stand in the way of this hap­pen­ing again.

MARTIN VAN STADEN Le­gal re­searcher at the Free Mar­ket Foun­da­tion

Jo­han­nes­burg.

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