We cannot eat the constitution

Ideas

We cannot eat the constitution

SA’s foundational legal text is 25 years old, so how much have we lived up to its standards?

Contributor and analyst

I wish we would put people who mess up our constitutional vision on trial as often as we put the constitution itself on trial. This foundational legal text is 25 years old, which presents a good opportunity for taking stock of how far or not we have come in living up to the normative demands enshrined within it.

While we fall significantly short of the promises codified in constitutional law, the bulk of the blame should go to human beings rather than to the words in the constitution.

My constitutional law lecturer started off our module by describing what it is that our founding parents were aiming at when they had adopted the final draft of the constitution in 1996. Invoking one of Nelson Mandela’s aphorisms, he said that the constitution took a “never again” approach to the problems of our democracy that were rooted in past injustices. “Never again” shall we live in a country in which fundamental rights are not enjoyed by every single personal living within the borders of SA...

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