The Constitution Will Only Matter If We Honour Not Just Its Letter, But Its Spirit – Ngcobo


Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo says the constitution will mean a lot to the people if only they honor its spirit and not just its letters.

Ngcobo who served as Chief Justice from 2009 to 2011, said this to the Board of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) CEO, Crain Soudien.

Crain had questioned the relevance of the constitution, considering the recent outbreak of violent protests, politically-motivated killings, looting, destruction of property and racism.

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Speaking at a public lecture hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council on Thursday evening, the former chief justice added that for a Constitution to have a meaningful place in the heart, it must address the concerns of people.

He reminded the audience that corruption, racism, violent protests, the slow pace of service delivery, and access to land were all threats to the country’s constitutional democracy.

Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo said the constitution is accountable to South Africans and empowers people to assess the performance of the public representatives they voted to power every five years.

South Africa adopted a new Constitution in 1996, after two years of public consultation and much debate. The adoption was prior to the negotiation of an interim constitution between representatives of organisations involved in the liberation struggle, represented political parties and other interest groups.

The new constitution was written by a body called the Constitutional Assembly after the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994. The body was made up of members of the National Assembly and Senate and elected public representatives at the time.

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Recently, the Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mmusi Maimane raised alarm that the South African constitution is under attack. Maimane disclosed this during the 20th anniversary of the Constitution.

“Under the ANC, our Constitution is under attack. Zuma and his government have violated our Constitution at every turn. From the president himself, to Parliament, to the ministers of police and public works, our Constitution has been treated like it’s an optional inconvenience,” he said in a statement.