[DEBATE] : Zille on Constitutional politics
bstefan at gmail.com
Wed Jul 23 12:09:11 BST 2008
"Liberation struggles are about attaining power. Constitutional
democracy is about limiting power. Very few activists who have engaged
in liberation struggles understand this distinction, and they
therefore cannot make the transition to the next stage of
ANC going the way of old National Party, says Zille
MICHAEL HAMLYN | CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - Jul 23 2008 08:39
Helen Zille, the leader of the Democratic Alliance and mayor of Cape
Town, said on Tuesday evening that the African National Congress is
divided -- as the National Party once was -- between the "verligtes"
and the "verkramptes".
At times, the National Party "seemed monolithic and invincible,
destined to continue its oppressive rule into perpetuity", Zille said,
in a lecture she gave at the Witwatersrand University Law School.
"Towards the end, it tried to pretend it was a united party, but in
fact it was deeply divided between the 'verligtes' who wanted to
reform apartheid and possibly even to end apartheid, and the
'verkramptes' who wanted to continue its cruel farce. 'Broedertwis'
divided their ranks.
"The ANC, after only 14 years, is showing the same schism. It is also
divided between its verligtes, who support constitutional rule, and
its verkramptes, who want to subordinate the Constitution to the
pursuit of power. Broedertwis has been replaced with comrade-twis."
Zille told her audience that this is a time of peril, asking: "Did we
in South Africa make the transition to constitutionalism too quickly
to understand its significance? Will it therefore decline as quickly
as it evolved? The signs are not encouraging."
She drew attention again to remarks of Jacob Zuma that point to a
fundamental disdain for the Constitution. "He has said openly that the
ANC is more important than the Constitution and that 'once you begin
to feel you are above the ANC, you are in trouble'," she said.
She added: "If Zuma is found guilty of corruption and given a sentence
of more than 12 months, it will prevent his becoming the next
president. His supporters are determined to remove this obstacle, by
whatever means it takes, because for them the ends justify the means."
Fate of the liberation
Zille pointed out that almost every liberation movement has gone the
same way after attaining power.
"The simple reason is this," she said. "Liberation struggles are about
attaining power. Constitutional democracy is about limiting power.
Very few activists who have engaged in liberation struggles understand
this distinction, and they therefore cannot make the transition to the
next stage of development.
"They equate their own power with the revolution. Anyone who limits
their power is therefore counter-revolutionary. Of course, the
opposite is in fact true. As soon as most struggle heroes attain
power, they tend to betray the values that motivated their liberation
struggle in the first place, because they cannot come to terms with
limiting their own power -- a precondition for constitutionalism."
She said that, despite painting a gloomy picture, she believes there
are serious threats to our constitutional rule. "But I am not gloomy,"
she insisted. "In the very schisms and tumults of our politics, there
is great hope."
The mayor said that politics in South Africa is already, largely
unseen, going through a fundamental realignment, and this cuts right
through the middle of the ANC.
She added that she knows there are many constitutionalists in the ANC
who have more in common with the DA than they do with the
anti-constitutionalists in their own party.
Politics are redefining themselves around the Constitution. The
fundamental divide in the ANC is over whether one supports the
Constitution (even if one does not believe it is perfect) or whether
one is prepared to push it aside if it obstructs one's path to power
and personal advantage.
"Professor Kader Asmal of the ANC has recently published a declaration
in defence of the Constitution and invited South Africans to sign it.
I have done so. So have Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ronnie Kasrils,
Mosiuoa Lekota and Ben Turok," she said.
"We have to bring party formations in line with the new reality, the
real political divisions of our time. The biggest barrier to this
process is the democrats in the ANC who believe their party is
redeemable. It is not."
Zille claimed that among the turbulence and clamour in the ANC now --
amid the purging of provincial premiers, the thinly veiled menaces to
the judiciary and the growling of unscrupulous men hungry for power --
there is unprecedented opportunity to reshape the politics of South
Africa for the better.
"There is a chance to break up the present rather sterile party
alignments," she said, "and replace them with parties that represent
issues and ideas rather than races or traditions."
-- I-Net Bridge
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