‘Constitution does not solve problems in themselves’

The Constitution was not a “miracle law” and should not be used to solve problems that we cannot solve ourselves, Professor Steven Friedman said on Thursday.

“We should not look to the Constitution to solve all sorts of problems it is not meant to solve,” Friedman said at a constitutional symposium in Johannesburg.

“We should recognise that the Constitution does not solve problems in themselves … rather it gives us a platform to solve problems,” he said.

The symposium hosted by the Black Management Forum (BMF) was intended to open a discussion on whether it was time to review the country’s Constitution.

BMF president Jimmy Manyi said the organisation was of the view that there were a few issues in the Constitution that “we need to talk about”.

Among these issues was the property clause which guaranteed property rights to South Africans.

‘Sting in the tail’
Manyi said the “sting in the tail” in this clause was that the Constitution said “fair value” had to be paid in appropriating land.

This was a problem because “fair value” had become “market value”, resulting in government having to pay enormous amounts of money when appropriating land.

Another problem was the transformation clause.

“It appears the Constitution does not support the transformation agenda in this country,” he said.

He referred to court cases where previously disadvantaged individuals lost their court bids when trying to obtain positions for tenders.

A third problem was the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.

Manyi asked whether the South African media had taken this right too far.

“Why is it that the media can have a field day railroading the office of the president without impunity?”

‘The answer does not lie in change’
Two further issues he felt needed reviewing were Section 27 of the Constitution, which pronounced on procurement and, lastly, culture.

However, during the panel discussion Friedman said: “The answer does not lie in change, it lies in using constitutional rights properly.”

Another panel member, advocate Thabane Masuku, said often it was not a matter of what the Constitution contained but rather how it was interpreted.

“I think the biggest problem is how we get institutions to give effect to the Constitution … to interpret it in a way that it has an impact on the socioeconomic conditions of the people,” he said.

In order for the Constitution to work as intended, the country required a judiciary that had been transformed, he said.

Earlier, President Jacob Zuma told the symposium that the ANC was not a threat to the country’s Constitution.

He said the ruling party was a key player in its creation and would therefore defend it to the end. – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Natasha Marrian
Natasha Marrian
Marrian has built a reputation as an astute political journalist, investigative reporter and commentator. Until recently she led the political team at Business Day where she also produced a widely read column that provided insight into the political spectacle of the week.

Related stories

School closures come at a cost

The latest, unscientific decision to close schools again won’t help poor students. Strategies must be identified to help learners stay in school

As opposition mounts, Zimbabwe’s president lashes out

Emmerson Mnangagwa has accused ‘dark forces’ of destabilising the country

Big retailers need to step up to the plate

To stave off a multi-generational malnutrition crisis, the food industry must work with government to provide highly nutritious foods at cost during the pandemic

Crime stats mark a bitter start to Women’s Month

We must celebrate women’s achievements this month while agitating for structural change, argues Luke Waltham

Public officials must treat all marriages equally

Religious beliefs are no longer allowed as on objection to solemnising same-sex partnerships and rightly so

Marriage officers should have the right to object on religious grounds

‘Beliefs and convictions rested on religion should be allowed the freedom awarded by the law to share the public sphere with all the other non-religious beliefs and convictions’

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday