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Sat Dec 10 08:53:38 SAST 2016

ANC should be straight with us about review

Sunday Times Editorial | 2012-03-04 00:15:14.0

Sunday Times Editorial: JUSTICE Minister Jeff Radebe went out of his way this week to assure the country and the world that the government's planned judicial review was not aimed at restricting the powers of the Constitutional Court and changing the constitution.

While his words - stressing the government and the ANC's commitment to the constitution - were a welcome assurance, we will have to wait for the release of the review process's terms of reference before we can fully understand cabinet's real intentions.

There is justified public apprehension over the review, largely because it came after months of concerted assault on the judiciary by very senior leaders in the ruling party.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe last year accused the judiciary of "actually consolidating opposition to government", while national executive committee member Ngoako Ramatlhodi told The Times that the constitution was tilted "heavily in favour of forces against change".

Even President Jacob Zuma has, on several occasions, expressed his discomfort with the judiciary and recently said the Constitutional Court's powers had to be reviewed.

While his office insists that Zuma was misunderstood on the issue and that what he said was in conformity with the review process announced by the cabinet last year, it is not unreasonable to suspect that he was expressing his real intentions.

In one of the discussion documents that have been prepared for the ANC's national policy conference scheduled for June, the party suggests that the current constitutional framework may be "inadequate and even inappropriate for a social and economic transformation phase".

It states that "elements of our constitution" require review because "they may be an impediment to social and economic transformation".

Is this the end goal of the review process being driven by Radebe's department?

The ruling party is sending too many mixed signals for society to just take the justice minister's word.

It is high time that Zuma and his party categorically state their intentions. If they want the constitution to be changed, let them be open about it so that the issue can be properly debated. After all, constitutions are - as some in the ANC like to remind us - "living documents" that can be amended from time to time depending on the needs of a given society.

If it is not the ruling party's intention to change the constitution, then party leaders should stop denouncing the country's founding document as a "compromise" framework of which certain aspects are perpetuating the apartheid legacy.

This is an uncertain period for our constitutional dispensation, one that demands vigilance from the side of citizens.

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