Minister Thembi Nkadimeng

Deputy Minister Thembisile Nkadimeng’s Address at the Symposium on the Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Constitution

 Programme Director

Deputy Minister for Justice and Correctional Services 

Honourable Premier of the Western Cape 

Honourable Judge President of the Western Cape Bench 

Invited guests

Ladies and gentlemen. 

The Constitution enjoins us to change virtually everything we inherited, including our economy, which must grow with perhaps unprecedented vigour, producing wealth that must be shared by all South Africans. We stand today before our people and humanity to commemorate 25 years of the basic law of the land, whose founding principles of human dignity, non-racialism, and non-sexism, and whose commitment to universal adult suffrage, regular elections and multi-party democracy are immutable. 

This celebration today, of a truly historic achievement, must communicate the message that the heroic people of our country, both black and white, have indeed entered into their Age of Hope. The milestone we rejoice today should also serve to reinvigorate the transformation of the unity and solidarity we built during the course of our struggle for freedom, into a durable partnership for reconstruction and development, and the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. 

As we begin this joyous and solemn occasion, I would like to reveal a part of myself and to dedicate my address to three great South Africans who would have been here with us today if time and tide had been kinder: Oliver Reginald Tambo, Chris Hani and Joe Slovo. There are many others one could have cited, I am grieved that they cannot be with us to share this occasion, an occasion that they worked for and died to make possible. May their memory live long in our minds. 

We can see how proposals on Local Government speak to those on Constitutional Democracy, became it’s part of the people’s compact expressed in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The authority of government comes from the people through the Constitution. 

The people speak through the Constitution. The Constitution enables the multiple voices of the people to be heard in an organized, articulate, meaningful and principled manner. The argument that constitutional democracy is a threat to democracy itself and a subversion of the will of the people makes no sense and is not supported by any evidence, both in our country and elsewhere in the world. 

Let us give practical recognition to the injustices of the past, by building a future based on equality and social justice. Let us nurture our unity in diversity by recognising, with respect and joy, the languages, cultures and religions of South Africa. 

Let tolerance for one another’s views create the peaceful conditions which give space for the best in all of us to find expression and to flourish. Above all, let us work together in striving to banish the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, which includes homelessness, illiteracy and disease. 

Constitutionalism means that no office and no institution can be higher than the law. The highest and the most humble in the land all, without exception, owe allegiance to the same document, the same principles. 

It does not matter whether you are black or white, male or female, young or old; whether you speak Tswana or Afrikaans; whether you are rich or poor or ride in a smart new car or walk barefoot; whether you wear a uniform or are locked up in a cell. We all have certain basic rights, and those fundamental rights are set out in the Constitution. 

In centuries of struggle against racial domination, South Africans of all colours and backgrounds proclaimed freedom and justice as their unquenchable aspiration. They pledged loyalty to a country that belongs to all who live in it. 

Those who sought their own freedom in the domination of others were doomed in time to ignominious failure. Out of such experience was born the understanding that there could be no lasting peace, no lasting security, no prosperity in this land unless all enjoyed freedom and justice as equals. 

Program Director allow me to emphasize that the ANC Government is extremely proud that the new constitution asserts equality among South Africa’s languages; and that, for the first time, the languages particularly of the Khoi, Nama and San being trampled upon in the most humiliating and degrading manner is taken care of by this Constitution. 

Many new provisions on gender issues reflect the progress that we are making as a nation towards securing equality for our women compatriots who have for far too long suffered too many privations merely because of their gender. Yet it is in actual practice that our ideals and intentions will be tested. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we have not shied away from acknowledging that we are a democracy with many other realities bequeathed by history. Not least among these realities is the role of traditional leaders, which is not only acknowledged by our Constitution but is to be further elaborated upon, with their participation, in national and provincial legislation. 

Indeed, Program Director, we can go on and on, demonstrating the new and higher level of national consensus that today’s ceremony represents. 

Ladies and gentlemen, our constitution rests on three fundamental pillars: the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Each has its specific role to play. Take away or undermine any and you weaken the whole structure. That is why the independence of arms of the state is guaranteed in the constitution. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of the Constitution must permeate every aspect of justice in our country. Out of such experience was born the vision of a free South Africa, of a nation united in diversity and working together to build a better life for all. 

This constitution is our own humble contribution to democracy and the culture human rights world-wide; and it is our pledge to humanity that nothing will steer us from this cause. 

Taking inspiration from the Freedom Charter, the 1996 preamble says, we the people of South Africa declare for all in our country and the world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people, our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in equal rights and opportunities; without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief. 

In summing up together as liberated South Africans, we must join hands to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of a truly historic document, our pledge stated unconditionally that never and never again shall the laws of our land rend our people apart or legalise their oppression and repression. Together, we shall march, hand-in-glove, to a brighter future. 

As we commemorate our Constitution, we are paying tribute to the shining example like John Mafukuzela Dube, Olive Schreiner, Reverend Calata, Dr Naicker, Dr Abduraman, and others who, long years ago, called for equality and democracy. We give life to our nation’s prayer for freedom regained and a continent reborn. 

God bless South Africa. 

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika; 

Morena boloka Sechaba sa heso. 

God seen Suid-Afrika 

I Thank You