Mzwanele Manyi, president of the Progressive Professionals Forum. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu
Mzwanele Manyi, president of the Progressive Professionals Forum. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

'SA needs improved leadership, not a new constitution'

By George Devenish Time of article published Jan 31, 2017

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According to Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi, South Africa must abandon its constitution and embrace a majoritarian parliamentary system in order to address the socio-economic challenges besetting our country.

He furthermore asserted that the concept of a constitutional democracy was the ploy of the Broederbond designed to ensure that government’s intervention was somewhat limited in addressing the country’s structural challenges.

Although Manyi does not explain what exactly a majoritarian parliamentary democracy entails, it can be presumed he means a system in which Parliament is sovereign and, as a result, the majority party, which would be the ANC, would use its majority to govern and legislate without the constraints of a rigid constitution and an enforceable Bill of Rights.

Such a radical change would in effect amount to a return to the kind of constitution that prevailed under apartheid and white minority rule, with the exception that there would be adult universal franchise. It would be more or less what prevails in the UK in terms of the Westminster model of government.

It is highly ironical that from time to time, ANC politicians accuse the DA of desiring to reintroduce apartheid, and now a very vocal and prominent ANC spokesperson is advocating that we should actually return to an apartheid-like constitution – designated as a majoritarian parliamentary one – which would give the ruling party untrammelled powers.

He declares that we must abandon constitutional democracy because it causes “spiralling poverty” and both inequality and unemployment, and that this constitution was inspired by the Broederbond.

The inordinate challenges that South Africa faces are not the fault of an exceptional constitution, but rather the fault of the present ANC government, which finds itself mired in controversy, corruption and maladministration. What is required of the government is inspired political leadership to address the vast socio-economic problems.

Furthermore, the constitution is working, as reflected in the exemplary judgments of the courts, which have been used to prevent the executive from exceeding its powers. Chapter 9 institutions of the constitution, which facilitate accountability, such the public protector and the auditor-general, are working well.

Also of considerable importance is the growth of minority parties. As a result, the party political scene is in the process of significant transition. This is a beneficial development that should lead to improved service delivery, greater transparency, accountability and less corruption.

If Manyi were to address the above issues, he would make a more fruitful contribution to our democratic discourse than the preposterous suggestion that we return to an apartheid-era majoritarian parliamentary system.

– Devenish is Emeritus Professor at UKZN, and one of the scholars who assisted in drafting the Interim Constitution in 1993

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