We are privileged to have with us today a number of eminent South Africans who are very well-qualified to address various aspects of our conference today. Judge Yacoob will give us his assessment of where we stand with regard to constitutionality; Moeletsi Mbeki and Christo Wiese will provide perspectives on governance - particularly with regard to the economy. Our goal will be to consider “The Constitution and Governance in South Africa” and to ask whether these are now “at another crossroads?”
It is appropriate for us to refer to “another crossroads” because we have encountered a number of crossroads on our constitutional journey during the past 30 years.
We were confronted with an historic crossroad at the end of the 1980s. There were many who insisted that we should remain on the road to confrontation and conflict. On the right and on the left there are still those who believe that we should not have made the painful compromises that peace always requires - and that we should instead have fought it out to the bitter end.
However, we South Africans chose instead the difficult and rocky road to negotiations and to peace.
One of the principal voices calling for this option was that of Nelson Mandela. From his prison cell in Pollsmoor he reached the conclusion that continuing conflict would simply leave the country in ruins. There would be no winners - only desolation and destruction. So he opened a line of communication to President PW Botha - despite the fact that he had received no mandate from ANC headquarters in Lusaka to do so.
Again, in September 1992, we had reached a fateful crossroads. The ANC - under the influence of the SACP - had abandoned the CODESA negotiations four months earlier. They had embarked on the so-called “Leipzig Option”. They thought that if they could get enough people onto the streets in rolling mass action for long enough, the National Party government would fall - just as the East German government had collapsed a year or two earlier.
This approach had culminated in a dangerous clash at Bisho at the beginning of September that had brought the country close to the precipice of conflict. The next item on the radicals’ agenda would have been a march on Ulundi - which could easily have pushed South Africa over the edge.
Fortunately, sanity prevailed. Once again, Nelson Mandela chose the right road - the road that led to the Record of Understanding and the resumption of negotiations on the basis of the important agreements that had already been achieved at CODESA.
In the early 90s and soon after 1994 the ANC Alliance once again reached a crossroads: one road led to the adoption of socialist policies as the foundation for a radical lurch to the left. The other road, led to the adoption of conventional economics in which free markets would continue to play a significant role - on the basis of the ANC’s GEAR approach.
To the shock of COSATU and the SACP, President Mbeki and Trevor Manuel took South Africa down the GEAR road. Between 2005 - 2007 this resulted in economic growth rates of more than 5%; to budget surpluses; significant job creation and to the reduction of national debt to only 23% of GDP.
Once again, South Africa took the right road.
And then at its National Conference in Polokwane in December 2007, the ANC Alliance came to another fateful crossroads. One road led to the continuation of President Mbeki’s successful and broadly pragmatic policies. The other road was advocated by the SACP, COSATU and the ANC Youth League under the leadership of Julius Malema. It led to the election of Jacob Zuma as President of the ANC and to the resurrection of the radical policies that the ANC had abandoned when it adopted GEAR.
60% of the delegates at Polokwane voted for Jacob Zuma as President of the ANC - to the shock of a dumbfounded President Mbeki. They did so in the full knowledge that there were 783 outstanding charges of fraud against their chosen candidate for the presidency. Having seized control of the levers of ANC power, President Zuma and his supporters were able to ‘recall’ President Mbeki and progressively jettison his policies.
One of the core goals of the new leadership at Polokwane was to destroy the Scorpions - by far the most effective corruption-fighting unit that South Africa has ever had. They did so because of the relentless manner in which the Scorpions had been investigating and prosecuting those involved in corruption, including many senior ANC members. Their action in so doing opened the way to corruption and state capture.
Five years ago - in 2012 - the ANC encountered another crossroads: one road would have led to the implementation of the National Planning Commission’s National Development Plan; the other led to what President Zuma calls “the radical implementation of the second phase of the National Democratic Revolution”.