Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, October 27, 2006

SA Constitution Under Threat?
Interesting op-ed piece in the Business Day today by Aubrey Matshiqi covering our constitution and its role in a secular state. He hones in on the liberal democratic values it espouses:
This model of liberal democratic values is blamed for being the main source of the evil perceived to be afflicting our society. In other words, in the minds of a growing number of South Africans, the constitution symbolises the corrosion of our moral fibre and thus stands in the way of moral reconstruction and regeneration.

Personally, I don't ascribe to this, and think the an open constitution allows all to share the freedoms that many fought so hard for. Matshigi however, raises some important questions about a secular democracy and a Christian majority:
These are questions we have to confront, given that the majority of South Africans across racial, class and cultural lines would definitely vote in favour of capital punishment and against pro-choice legislation and same-sex marriages if they were given the opportunity to participate in referendums.

This raises questions about the position of the constitution and the Constitutional Court in society. Our society is becoming increasingly polarised on this question and this may lead to tension between those who stand in opposition to the constitution on religious and cultural grounds, and advocates of the “basic structure” doctrine. Basic structure doctrine is a theory according to which certain features of the constitution are “beyond the limitation of the powers of amendment”. If this approach were to be taken, it would mean there would be clauses permanently protected from the possibility of amendment.

The proponents of this theory may want to argue that constitutional provisions which pertain to issues including, but not necessarily limited to, the death penalty, gay rights and the termination of pregnancy should become subject to the basic structure doctrine.

Well worth a read.