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
21 April 2009

Vote, vote vote!

Thank goodness the election campaign is over and we can all now exercise our civic right and duty to vote. Some of us have been having some difficulty in making up our minds about who to vote for, but staying at home is not an option. Vote we must. As the IEC posters says: if you do not vote you do not have a right to complain.

Having said that I have to say: sadly this election campaign has not focused sufficiently on the real issues facing the people of South Africa.

I would have loved to see parties talk more about poverty and unemployment, service delivery, the vast gap between rich and poor, racism, sexism and homophobia and the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the human dignity of every South African is respected and protected.

Opposition parties spoke often about the Constitution and the need to “defend” the Constitution against the alleged abuses of the ANC. And although some remarks by Mr Zuma about our Constitution was deeply troubling and the decision of the NPA to drop charges against Mr Zuma perhaps illegal, it is sad that not more was said about the fact that the Constitution is about far more than the NPA and its dropping of charges against Mr Zuma.

The Constitution also enjoins the state to take steps to eradicate the injustices wrought by past discrimination. It also contains a set of social and economic rights which guarantees for everyone the right of access to housing, health care, water, education and social assistance and places a duty on the state to take reasonable  steps to realise these rights.

Has this happened? Will it happen if any other party is in power? I wish I knew the answers to these questions.

True constitutionalists do not pick and choose which aspects of the Constitution they like. Constitutionalism is a complete package and if we talk about defending the Constitution we should also talk about ensuring a better life for the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society.

This, of course, cannot happen when corruption and nepotism takes hold – and only time will tell if the ANC will follow through on its election promise to weed out corruption in word AND DEED.

So, tomorrow I will step into the polling booth deeply conflicted. In any case, my vote is my secret and who cares in any case who I vote for.

So, I will not be endorsing any party for the election (as if it would matter).

All I can urge all readers of this Blog is to go and and to vote and, when they do so, to consider which party comes closest to embodying the values enshrined in our Constitution.

It’s a tough call.

But it is our duty to vote and it is also a celebration of our democracy. So whomever you decide to vote for, do it with joy in your heart with the knowledge that – as Barack Obama said during his election campaign – “we are the change we have been waiting for”.

Happy election day!

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