The Star Early Edition
Too much power is dangerous
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 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. Legal researcher at the Free Market Foundation in Joburg.