Laat jou stem gehoor word: Boodskap tydens US Menseregtedag lesing
Suid-Afrikaners kan nie terug sit nie, maar moet menseregte aktief verdedig en betrokke raak in menseregte opvoeding, burgerlike-samelewing organisasies bou, waaksaam wees en sodoende aan die regering wys wat ons wil hê.
“Dit is op die ou end die beste verweer in die beskerming van ons regte,” het Prof Sandy Liebenberg, van die Universiteit Stellenbosch (US) se Fakulteit Regsgeleerdheid en bekleër van die HF Oppenheimer Leerstoel in Menseregte gesê op Dinsdag, 20 Maart tydens ‘n openbare lesing getiteld: “Menseregte in Suid-Afrika onder aanval?”
Die lesing gehou deur die Afdeling Gemeenskapsinteraksie (AGI), die Beyers Naudé Sentrum vir Publieke Teologie (BNS) en die Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Instituut (FVZS Instituut) vir Studenteleierskapsontwikkeling het deel gevorm van die US se institusionele Menseregtedag vieringe.
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Prof Liebenberg, however cautioned that even though there are concerns “one should be careful not to demonise government. We should acknowledge steps that have been taken, but at the same time be vigilant in addressing concerns and not adopt a passive approach”.
Prof Liebenberg said: “South Africa’s Bill of Rights and Constitution provide a highly conducive normative and institutional framework to advance the constitutional goals of a society founded on ‘democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights’ as well as an improvement in ‘the quality of life of all’ and the freeing of ‘the potential of each person’.
“Certainly cracks do seem to be appearing with increasing signs of government wanting to exert greater control over our independent media through the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal, as well as the introduction of the widely criticised Protection of State Information Bill (dubbed ‘the Secrecy Bill’).
“In addition, certain statements by senior ANC members and members of government in the past two years regarding the fundamental constitutional pact have given rise to deep disquiet amongst many sectors of the population,” Prof Liebenberg added.
She gave the example of an article published in September 2011, by Deputy Minister of Correctional Services and ANC NEC member, Ngoako Ramathlodi. He reportedly wrote that the effect of the constitutional settlement was to surrender “elements of political power to the black majority, whilst immigrating substantial power away from the legislature and executive and investing it in the judiciary, Chapter 9 institutions and civil society movements.” The result was that the black majority was handed “empty political power while forces against change reign supreme in the economy, judiciary, public opinion and civil society.” According to Prof Liebenberg, he went on to argue that elections had become “regular rituals handing empty victories to the ruling party” while minority parties and civil society ran to the courts – “where the forces of change still hold relative hegemony” – to challenge as many policy positions as possible.
Prof Liebenberg also talked about Cabinet’s intention to conduct a review of the impact of the decisions of the Constitutional Court. “What is of concern is whether the proposed review of the transformational impact of the decisions of the Court and the recommendations which will flow from this review signals an intention to interfere with the independence of the judiciary,” she said.
She added that “this is not to say that the judiciary should be immunised from criticism or from evaluating its role and impact in advancing fundamental constitutional goals. Studying and critiquing the judgments of the courts in various spheres occurs on a daily basis in academic conferences and publications as well as through civil society debate and advocacy. Such criticism is not only valuable as an academic project, but helps to promote public accountability for the exercise of judicial power. However, such criticism is largely not – nor should it be – aimed at attempting to influence how the court decides cases before it.”
Prof Liebenberg concluded that “we should be vigilant to ensure that the foundations of our constitutional pact – particularly the Bill of Rights reflecting the struggle for freedom, dignity and equality, and the courts as guardians of these rights – are not compromised. If this is allowed to occur, we will deprive ourselves as a nation of our most powerful tool for advancing democratic transformation in South Africa.”
- Click here for a complete version of Prof Liebenberg’s lecture.