Don't spare us, Jeff

It was a pitiful sight watching Justice Minister Jeff Radebe this week whingeing that the ANC cannot articulate what it really thinks about the Constitution without someone crying: “Barbarians are at the gate!”

If we really pride ourselves on our open society and are capable of robust debate, it should not come to this. The ruling party should be free to tell us what it really plans to do with our future and give us time to respond—happily, angrily, with interest, just not with resignation.

The party’s national executive committee this week removed controversial proposals about the Reserve Bank and the Constitution from its policy discussion documents after leaked drafts sparked banner headlines.

We don’t want the ANC to mollycoddle us with sweet words and gentle proposals in public and then surprise us at the end of the policy conference with far-reaching decisions. We need an honest discussion, not the elaborate farce of a dummy discussion.

Radebe has gone out of his way to assure everyone that the party does not intend to interfere with the judiciary, but suspicion still lingers, given the pronouncements of his party bosses, President Jacob Zuma and secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who have made their irritation with the Constitutional Court clear.

We hope that the rush to omit certain contentious propositions in papers that had been leaked are not meant to lull us into a false sense of complacency but represent real responsiveness and progressive consensus on the Constitution.

Some of the last-minute changes may genuinely reflect confusion and openness to new ideas, but, as the South African Communist Party would say: Asikhulume! (let’s talk).

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