We can be very proud of the progress that the New South Africa has made since 1994.  South Africa today far surpasses the most positive scenarios that people like Clem Sunter were publicising in the mid 80s:



Apart from the highly visible and serious problems of

AIDS, crime, unemployment  and poverty, there are a number of less visible but serious challenges:


Lack of a common vision and understanding of the country

The points of departure and perceptions of government leaders are often widely different from those of business, political and community leaders from minority communities.  The world view of many ANC leaders is still based solidly on their struggle experience and the revolutionary analysis of that time.  Accordingly, they believe that only part of their revolution was accomplished when constitutional power was transferred to them in 1994.   They believe strongly that transformation will not be complete until they have achieved a similar transformation of the economy in terms of which the majority should also control all the important high points in the economy.


This analysis, in turn, is the motivating force behind empowerment legislation and initiatives that seek to the transform of every sector of the economy.


It is also at the root of many other problems, including:

The Government’s ambivalent stand on Zimbabwe.  The reality is that there is considerable residual solidarity between the ANC and ZANU/PF as was witnessed at the recent ANC conference in Stellenbosch.  There is also considerable support for the principle – if not the methodology – of land redistribution in Zimbabwe.


The Government’s reticence to criticise the manner in which the elections were held last year and Mugabe’s dictatorial tactics may be a reflection of the sentiment that bona fide national liberation movements like ZANU/PF – and the ANC – should not be subject to the same democratic constraints as other parties.




Dominant party democracy



Erosion of the Constitution


There are some disturbing signs that some important constitutional rights – and particularly some of the rights that protect communities -are being eroded.  Among these are:


According to the Constitution the State may discriminate in favour of certain classes of people only if such discrimination 1) promotes equality; 2) is not unfair; and 3) protects or advances persons or categories of persons disadvantaged by unfair discrimination. However – these tests are seldom applied in practice in affirmative action cases and many people from minorities now believe themselves to be the victims of unfair reverse-discrimination. They want to know whether there will be some cut-off date to affirmative action and are justifiably concerned about the future of their children.


The Constitution stipulates that “no one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.”  Recent mining legislation; the Government’s ambivalent reaction to land seizures in Zimbabwe; and equality legislation that limits the right of minorities to control their own companies have raised concerns over the inviolability of property rights.


In terms of the Constitution  “Every citizen has the right to choose their trade, occupation or profession freely.”  However, rigid labour legislation has practically limited the right of workers to obtain employment because of the constraints that it places on their ability to enter freely into employment contracts.  South Africa has lost more than 500000 jobs in the formal sector since 1994 – arguably because of the obstacles that labour legislation poses for the creation of jobs.


The Constitution recognizes that everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. However, there are fears that educational policy – particularly with regard to tertiary education – is drifting in the direction of imposing English as the de facto medium of education at the expense of all the other indigenous languages.


 The Constitution recognises the eleven official languages of South Africa and stipulates that they “must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably”. Many observers contend that this is clearly not the case and that the Government has adopted numerous policies that promote English as the de facto official language at the cost of other national languages.


The Department of Education has adopted a policy that seeks to prohibit religious education and observances in schools. The policy directly contradicts the Constitution which makes provision for religious observances to be conducted at state or state-aided institutions provided they comply with certain reasonable conditions.





Very little has been done to question the erosion of these Constitutional rights, possibly because of

Many South Africans are not aware of their rights or of the mechanisms that they can use to claim their rights.

Many companies, individuals and organisations are hesitant to claim their rights because they fear that they would be branded as reactionaries.   Others – particularly companies – are unwilling to take action that might bring them into disfavour with the government.

Others cannot afford the considerable legal costs involved in claiming their rights

Most human rights NGOs are not concerned with issues that worry minorities.  Accordingly, they do not monitor compliance with those parts of the Constitution that deal with minority rights. The few human rights NGOs that might be interested in minority rights are embattled and find it increasingly difficult to solicit funds from South African companies.

Others are hesitant to claim their constitutional rights because they fear that any attempt to thwart political initiatives of the Government would simply result in the Government amending or ignoring the Constitution.  On the other hand, others believe that if citizens fail to claim their rights, they will in any event be eroded de facto.  The foundation of the state would then no longer be the Constitution but the will of the Government.