Defending the Constitution
At the 2023 FW de Klerk Foundation Annual Conference

The FW de Klerk Foundation and Konrad Adenauer Foundation are proud to have presented this year’s FW de Klerk Foundation Annual Conference at The President Hotel in Bantry Bay, Cape Town on 2 February.

The conference focused on the theme of “Defending the Constitution”, and was described by Gregor Jaecke, SA Representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, as an opportunity  “to reset our sights from the political trenches to the political heights this country is capable of.” 

The occasion commemorated the 33rd anniversary of the speech by FW de Klerk that initiated South Africa’s constitutional transformation process. As Dave Steward, FW de Klerk Foundation Chairman, reminded delegates in his opening remarks: “The adoption of the 1996 Constitution articulated a vision of the country that we wanted to become – a society based on foundational values, including human dignity, equality, and non-racialism. A society that would – among other goals – aim to heal the divisions of the past, improve the quality of life for all citizens and free the potential of each person.”

Today, we are all too painfully aware of the degree to which we have fallen short of this vision. Despite these shortcomings, however, we have clung onto some of the other important elements of our founding vision. The fact that the Constitution and free institutions – though frequently under attack – still survive is of crucial importance for the future of all South Africans. However, the survival of the Constitution cannot be taken for granted.

The conference recognised the role that journalists, Chapter Nine Institutions, NGOs and the Courts have played to this end – and the part that they will continue to play in the future in ensuring that South Africa remains a constitutional democracy.

Esteemed speakers from each of these sectors presented on the roles of their fields, institutions and organisations in defending the Constitution, with investigative journalism covered by Adriaan Basson (Editor-in-Chief of News24); Chapter Nine Institutions by Adv Paul Hoffman (SC) (Director of Accountability Now); NGOs by Lawson Naidoo (Executive Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution); and the courts by Prof Hugh Corder (Professor Emeritus of Public Law at the University of Cape Town).  

After the insightful individual presentations, the speakers participated in an interactive and engaging panel discussion, followed by an overview and summation by Moeletsi Mbeki, Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

As asserted by FW de Klerk Foundation Vice Chair Elita de Klerk in her closing remarks, the constitution of a young democracy requires constant nurturing, respect and adherence, and this year’s FW de Klerk Foundation Annual Conference served as a reminder that we need to protect ours in much the same way as it aims to protect us.