Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
19 January 2011

24 January in Cape Town: SA, Germany and the living Constitution

The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany would like to draw the attention of the Cape Town legal community to a public panel discussion on Monday, 24 January 2011 at 6.30 at 6, Spin Street (Idasa Building), Dakar-Room.

21 and 15 Years on: to what extent can Germans and South Africans enjoy their respective „living“ Constitutions?

The 1949 German Grundgesetz (Basic Law) which was amended after German unity in 1990 and the 1996 South African constitution both marked the onset of genuine democracy.

Henceforth, the executive, legislative and the legal arms of the state recognize the supremacy of the rule of law as embodied by the respective written constitutions. Nevertheless, a constitution is not a „dead body“ but lives through its daily implementation and the interpretation provided by the Constitional Court. Individual citizens and the public in general view a constitution as a protection of basic rights and expect legislation and executive decisions alike to take into account their actual situation in society.

The panelists will discuss whether the constitutional practice in both countries is living up to this challenge, bringing the constitution in line with current developments and problems in society as a whole.

They include

Justice (ret.) Pius Langa, former President of the South African Constitutional Court

Roelf Meyer, former Minister of Constitutional Affairs (1992 to 1996) and chief negotiator at Kempton Park

Professor Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former Federal Minister of Justice and Member of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament), honorary professor at the Free University of Berlin

Professor em. Hans-Peter Schneider, founding director of the German Institute of Research in Federalism, Hannover, and member of the Constitutional Court of several German Federal States (Bundesländer).

Moderator: Jaco Barnard-Naudé, associate professor, University of Cape Town

Following the discussion refreshments will be served.

Please pass on this information.

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