Quote of the week

Universal adult suffrage on a common voters roll is one of the foundational values of our entire constitutional order. The achievement of the franchise has historically been important both for the acquisition of the rights of full and effective citizenship by all South Africans regardless of race, and for the accomplishment of an all-embracing nationhood. The universality of the franchise is important not only for nationhood and democracy. The vote of each and every citizen is a badge of dignity and of personhood. Quite literally, it says that everybody counts. In a country of great disparities of wealth and power it declares that whoever we are, whether rich or poor, exalted or disgraced, we all belong to the same democratic South African nation; that our destinies are intertwined in a single interactive polity.

Justice Albie Sachs
August and Another v Electoral Commission and Others (CCT8/99) [1999] ZACC 3
22 April 2007

If all else fail, blame the Constitution

I could not help wondering how Mr Letepe Maisela became a “management consultant”, given the fact that he seems to suffer from a complete lack of logic. Mr Maisela wrote a 600 word article, published in today’s Sunday Times (no Internet link), that seems so breathtakingly uninformed and stupid that I first thought it was a parody.

His basic point is that the Constitution is to blame for the rise of crime in South Africa. According to Mr Maisela:

We do not need a constitution that balances the rights of murderers, robbers and rapists against those of their victims. We do not need a Constitution that takes care of the medical requirements of murderers, robbers and rapists while their injured victims are left to fend for themselves…. Let us amend the relevant sections of the Constitution before it destroys the fibre, fabric and soul of our developing nation.

Now, one only needs the most basic knowledge of the criminal justice system in South Africa to know that the vast majority of people who commit crimes are never caught and are thus never prosecuted. As a paper from the Institute of Security Studies points out, only a quarter of all robberies committed every year in South Africa are resolved, one fifth of all housebreakings, one tenth of all vehicle thefts and about 50 per cent of all murders.

It is therefore completely illogical to blame the Constitution for an increase in the crime rate when the rights of accused persons only kick in once the police actually manage to build a case against an accused and the case goes to court. Most people commit crime because they believe they will never be caught, not because they know our Constitution will protect them once they get to court.

Of course, maybe Mr Maisela has a secret admiration for George W Bush and want to ditch the Constitution so that police can go back to their apartheid era confessional style of policing. Put more bluntly, maybe he supports indiscriminate torture of mostly black people, which would put him on the extreme right wing of our political system.

It also makes no sense to say that in our Constitutional state the rights of criminals are “balanced” against the rights of victims. Individuals are innocent until proven guilty, which means the Constitution protects the rights of accused persons who might or might not be guilty. The day when the police arrest and torture Mr Maisela just because he was on the wrong place at the wrong time and maybe was of the wrong race, he will be quick to call for his rights to be protected.

But, seeing that crime is so out of hand he must blame some thing or some one so he blames the Constitution. Its like blaming the glass for your own drunkenness.

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