Beware the bully state - Asmal
The Constitution is under threat from political bullies who use intimidation to silence their critics, former education minister Kader Asmal said.
Speaking at the University of South Africa, where he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, he said the recent events following the killing of AWB leader Eugene Terre Blanche, and the controversies surrounding ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, highlighted the dangers facing the country.
"Something is now going worryingly wrong with our constitutional order and, in turn, with our democracy.
"For it simply does not matter how elegant our institutions of democracy are if they are not cherished, invigorated and protected by all of us: politicians, jurists, academics, the media and the citizenry.
"It is not acceptable for public leaders to genuflect to constitutionalism while attacking it by stealth. Today, I fear we are observing our constitutional order being chiselled away to the point at which we risk losing sight of the founding principles and practices of our democracy. One can see it and hear it," Asmal said.
He said that, though few people will mourn Terre Blanche's death, "the scenes of jubilation and approbation that greeted his suspected killers outside the courthouse must unsettle us".
He said it was worrying to see throngs of AWB supporters outside the courthouse "intent on provoking and intimidating".
"And it is this - the politics of intimidation, of bullying - that seems so much today the style of our political engagement; a style, I am sorry to say, very much favoured by our political superiors."
Examples of this type of politics, he said, included attacks on judges "for not delivering favourable verdicts", President Jacob Zuma's bodyguards attacking citizens and academic freedom "dangerously dismissed as the vehicle for counter-revolutionaries".
He singled out ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, whom he described as "the lightning rod for much of this politics of intimidation". "The politics of fear, of intimidation, are anathema to our constitutional project. By 'constitutional project' I refer to something broader than the Constitution's text. What I want to suggest tonight is, I realise, somewhat paradoxical and perhaps even counter-intuitive. But here it is: the Constitution is sometimes too much and sometimes too little for what is required of the constitutional project."