Celebrating 25 years of our constitution

by Tyla Dallas

This year marks the 25th anniversary of our Constitution and our young democracy.

Whilst this is indeed a time for us to celebrate — with our rights to human dignity, equality, freedom of religion, belief and opinion firmly entrenched — the current dispensation leaves much to be desired.

Government corruption at the highest level, poor service delivery, unemployment, poverty, lack of housing and the high levels of crime in South Africa have created the perfect climate for animosity and discrimination to fester — and oh, how it has — manifesting as racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, xenophobia, and homophobia, and permeating throughout our society.

The socio-economic and political instability that has marked South Africa for decades has only been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has led to increases in violence as, desperate for someone to blame, race turns against race, religion against religion, and so forth.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, and we should seek solace in the many ‘highs’ this Constitution has afforded us. We have had five free and fair general elections, we have an independent judiciary who recognise and uphold constitutional supremacy, we have freedom of the press, and we have independent trade unions who protect and support our labour force.

Indeed, our Constitution is something to be proud of and is of world-class quality. It is the culmination of the hard and long struggle our people faced for freedom, justice and equality, and should be celebrated. To find out more about the making and working of our Constitution, and its important role today, visit the online exhibition and archive Our Struggle Our Freedom Our Constitution, launched by the Constitution Hill Trust at www.ourconstitution.constitutionhill.org.za.

In honour of the day the Constitutional Assembly adopted the Constitution, the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre (which is now Human Rights Day), and the United Nations’ Day of Observance for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, we will be hosting a webinar from 19:00 to 20:30 on 18 March, titled ‘25 Years of Our Constitution: A Jewish Perspective’.

We have invited two distinguished retired judges, Judge Albie Sachs and Judge Dennis Davis, to discuss the highs and lows over the last 25 years under this Constitution, reflect on the lessons learnt, and give their educated predictions for the next 25 years.
Judge Dennis was a Technical Advisor to the Constitutional Assembly where the negotiations for South Africa’s interim and final constitutions were formulated and concluded.

Judge Albie played a significant role in important legal issues arising in the ANC during Apartheid and was a member of the Constitutional Committee charged with drafting a charter for a new non-racial state. He was pivotal in the inclusion of a Bill of Rights and an independent judiciary in this new Constitution and was appointed a justice on the first bench of the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela in 1994.

‘25 Years of Our Constitution: A Jewish Perspective’ will take place from 19:00 to 20:30 on 18 March. To register for this event, email Jodi at sajbd2@ctjc.co.za

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website: www.capesajbd.org, Instagram, and Facebook page.

• Published in the print edition of the March/April Pesach 2021 issue. Download the March/April 2021 issue PDF here.

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