From the desk of the General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana
10 December 2021
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is reminded today, as it often is, of the words that form the Preamble to the South African Constitution:
We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to –
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
May God protect our people.
In celebrating a quarter of a century since the signing of the Constitution, we recognise that throughout this decade-and-a-half, we as a nation have not lived up to the prescript of the Preamble of the Constitution. We have not altogether reversed the injustices of the past; we have not fully honoured those who suffered for justice and freedom. We have normalised through glamourising ill-gotten wealth and corruption, undermining and demonising those who seek to build good public values. We have retreated to divisive racial and tribal cocoons that militate against a healthy living in the unity of our diversity as one South African nation; and have neglected the call to build a united South Africa for our democracy.
The social and economic inequalities of our society raise the middle finger against the constitutional prescript of improving “the quality of life of all citizens” and to “free the potential of each person”. The excluded majority of Coloureds, Africans, rural and small dorpie communities, women and young people, live with limited access to health, quality education, housing and the basics of water and electricity. They are subject to the worst ravages of crime and insecurities of life; and have limited access to stable livelihoods, with high unemployment and mass exclusion from the productive economy.
Chapter Two of the Constitution we celebrate today – the Bill of Rights – enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. It creates the opportunity for every child born into this society to grow to their Godgiven potential. This is the South Africa we pray for!
Chapter Nine of the Constitution provides for public entities that ensure the implementation of the various principles of constitutional democracy – the Electoral Commission, the Public Protector, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Auditor General, the Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Public Service Commission, and the Independent Authority to Regulate Broadcasting. As independent of the State, these institutions have the responsibility to ensure that government is aligned with the mandate of the Constitution, and that the public knows and understands their human rights and citizen responsibilities. The lack of effective civic education for most South Africans results in the limited appreciation of the work and worth of these institutions for the sustenance of the constitutionalism embedded in our Constitutional State.
Marking the milestone of 25 years of our celebrated constitution challenges us all to play our role in nation-building. It challenges all our organisations and institutions to examine their role in the failure of our society to live up to the demands of the first part of our constitution, the Preamble that sets the tone for the rest of this national contract document. If we fail in this basic requirement of the Preamble of the Constitution, what hope is there that we could uphold the rest of the principles outlined in all 14 Chapters of the Constitution?
On this day, 25 years since the ink dried on the South African Constitution, we invoke the words of the Book of Revelation where the Lord says, “I make all things new”, and encourage every South African under God’s grace, to commit to a new spirit, to build a united and mutual society of loving thy neighbour as oneself. Such a spirit of mutuality makes the values of our constitution more natural for us all. On this day of observing the solemn signing of this Constitution into law, let us revisit the Preamble of the Constitution, and have an honest conversation with ourselves about the values we each propagate, and the role we should play in bringing to life, the promise of the Constitution. For it is through us the people of South Africa – that God will continue to bless South Africa.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seën Suid-Afrika.
God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika.
Hosi katekisa Afrika.
SACC Communications Consultant
South African Council of Churches
Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email: email@example.com