Quote of the week

Excluding refugees from the right to work as private security providers simply because they are refugees will inevitably foster a climate of xenophobia which will be harmful to refugees and inconsistent with the overall vision of our Constitution. As a group that is by definition vulnerable, the impact of discrimination of this sort can be damaging in a significant way. In reaching this conclusion it is important to bear in mind that it is not only the social stigma which may result from such discrimination, but also the material impact that it may have on refugees.

Mokgoro J and O’Regan J (dissenting)
Union of Refugee Women and Others v Director, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority and Others (CCT 39/06) [2006] ZACC 23
25 May 2011

On Egypt and South Africa

I am visiting Egypt, a country whose transition to full democracy is precariously poised. The military is currently ruling the country after the Tahrir Square “revolution” and it is unclear how this transition will end. Everywhere we go, we hear Egyptians expressing anxiety about the transition and asking whether the lessons of South Africa might be of relevance for the situation in Egypt.

“We do not have a Nelson Mandela here,” some academics tell us rather wistfully.

But it is far too early to understand what is happening in Egypt and to know whether our own experience of transition from an authoritarian to a democratic state would be of any relevance here.

What strikes me forcefully though, is that the South African transition was quite unique. Why did the apartheid military not revolt when FW de Klerk started the negotiating process? How close did we get to a military coup? How did we end up with a strong social democratic constitution when large sections of our society are deeply conservative and seemingly opposed to the liberal aspects enshrined in the Constitution? Why did the ANC show such an agile ability to strike the necessary compromises required to ensure the relatively smooth transition? Would President Jacob Zuma and the current leadership of the ANC have been as wise and canny as the leaders around Nelson Mandela? What are all those apartheid generals now think about the transition?

I have no time to try and answer these questions now. I am back on Saturday when I will Blog again on my return.

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