The Star Early Edition

Too much power is dangerous

- Martin van Staden

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.

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