Today, as we mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution, South Africans celebrate the democratic values and principles of human dignity, non-racialism, non-sexism and the rule of law.
Parliament’s Presiding Officers (POs), the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo, urge all South Africans, individually and collectively, to recommit to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution and to defend our constitutional democracy.
The Constitution was officially signed into law by former President Nelson Mandela in Sharpeville on 10 December 1996, but only came into effect on 4 February 1997. It contains the essential rules of our political system, protects people’s rights and explains their attendant obligations. The Constitution also defines South Africa’s institutions and their powers, stipulates how they may be used, and puts in place checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.
“Our Constitution reflects our unique history and our quest for freedom and democracy. Our country epitomises the promise enshrined in the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. Given our difficult past, it is not surprising that our Constitution frequently stresses the need to create a society that is free from all ills. Justice, dignity and equality being the founding principles,” said the Presiding Officers.
“On this important day, let us all join hands and engage in constructive discussions on further embracing our constitutional democracy and strengthening all institutions for social cohesion in South Africa,” they added. “To commemorate this important milestone, we must constantly ask ourselves in all we do: do we preserve our democracy and do we advance or destroy our democratic institutions?
“Our Constitution is a bedrock for collaboration among the three arms of the state. It is important that all government institutions work together in fulfilling the aspirations of citizens for a better life in eradicating all forms of corruption, poverty and unemployment,” said the Presiding Officers.
Since 1996, the Constitution has been amended 17 times, it is an important democratic process that allows generations of citizens to participate in law-making and have a say in how they are governed. “Amendments are an indication of a vibrant democracy, allowing citizens an opportunity to have a say in how they are governed, providing a mechanism for each generation of citizens to consent to their Constitution’s edicts,” the Presiding Officers explained.
South Africa's Constitution is praised for being one of the most progressive globally, because it deeply empowers and espouses fundamental human rights and values.
“Together, united in our rich diversity, let us protect our democracy for future generations to inherit a better South Africa, free from all social ills and economic hardships, because the sustenance of our Constitution is dependent on people seeing and feeling a difference in the quality of their lives,” concluded the Presiding Officers.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.