Thank the ANC for our democracy

Loyal support: The claim that the ANC is anti-Constitution ignores the part the party actively played in drafting it. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Loyal support: The claim that the ANC is anti-Constitution ignores the part the party actively played in drafting it. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)


Despite the ANC’s long-standing track record in entrenching democracy both prior to its unbanning and since 1994, a refrain has taken hold on the pages of the Mail & Guardian that constitutionalism in South Africa is under threat – and that this ostensibly emanates from the ANC itself.

Despite the existence of a strong social compact between the state and the electorate (which has chosen the ANC to lead it in successive elections since 1994), week after week the M&G leads with stories on how the ANC has supposedly lost the support of the electorate.

Despite our strong democratic safeguards, among them our institutions supporting democracy such as the chapter nine institutions, this narrative holds that the state is vulnerable to “capture” from the ANC.

Despite strong courts and one of the most robust parliaments in the world, we are told, week after week, that we are a one-party state, and that our Parliament is weak and our courts ineffective.

Week after week, the gatekeepers of liberal democracy who find succour on the opinion pages of the M&G allege that virtually since the first day we attained our liberation and introduced democracy to South Africa, the ANC simply cannot be trusted with it.

Susan Booysen’s shallow analysis (The accidental constitutionalists) regards the ANC as “the enemy of constitutionalism”, citing the recent Constitutional Court case about the Nkandla issue. In her view, we are living in an “era” of anti-constitutionalism – and the new protectors of the Constitution are the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The ANC was founded on, and remains deeply rooted in, the sacrosanct principle of participatory democracy. It is the ANC that leads a government whose executive, legislature and judiciary jealously guard the democracy on which our country was founded.

It is the ANC that established – and continues to support and fund –the chapter nine institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission and the public protector.
It is under the ANC that we have a vibrant civil society and a free media not just on the continent but globally.

But, it seems, in Booysen’s analysis, our strong human rights culture is not because of the ANC, but in spite of the ANC. She further seems to imply that there is no connection between the democratic freedoms won by our people after 1994 and the ruling party – that, by a single stroke (and a single court case), the EFF have been bestowed with the title of protectors of the Constitution.

This paternalistic and condescending view infantilises not just all African leadership but also the voter, who continues to entrust the ANC with leading this country. It presumes that somehow the millions of voters have “bet on the wrong horse”.

The claim that the ANC is “anti-Constitution” is neither unique nor novel. Readers of the M&G will recall the “changing the Constitution” narrative. Again, week after week, stories were carried that the ANC was planning to “change the Constitution” for one reason or another, and thereby lead South Africa along the road to dictatorship.

The problem with this scare tactic is that, despite the predictions, it did not happen. Nor has a shred of evidence that the ANC is anti-Constitution been presented. Citing the state’s involvement in court action as evidence of the ANC undermining the Constitution is hollow. Thanks to the constitutional dispensation brought about by the ANC, the separation between the three arms of state exists in the first place, and continues to be upheld.

Regrettably, setting up the EFF as the new messiahs and guardians of the Constitution, as Booysen does, is another instance of the failure to rigorously interrogate the claim that the ANC is anti-Constitution.

It is all good and well to pepper an article with extensive quotes by EFF leader Julius Malema, saying he has a problem with “everyone who is not compliant with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa”. But this is to ignore the public pronouncements from the EFF, which, on any given day, calls for unconstitutional and illegal acts such as land grabs and invasions; the destruction of private property; violent, anarchic protest; blanket nationalisation of natural resources; and attacks on journalists, to name but a few.

Who, then, are the real guardians of the Constitution?

  The ANC has, through its actions, policies and programmes, constantly affirmed the supremacy of the Constitution and a commitment to constitutional democracy. The people of South Africa, who will continue to vote for the ANC, will not be swayed or misled by the mischievous narrative the M&G advances that our constitutional democracy is under threat from the ANC.

  Edna Molewa chairs the ANC’s sub-committee on international relations

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