The FW de Klerk Foundation writes regular articles on topical issues, supports language and cultural rights and participates in the national debate on racial and cultural issues. The Foundation also promotes communication by holding conferences and workshops.
The FW de Klerk Foundation, through its Centres for Constitutional Rights (CFCR) and Unity in Diversity (CUD) decided to make property and land a focus for 2017 - in addition to a number of other constitutional issues. Hence this analysis of these two important themes as per the recent SONA, and its subsequent discussion in Parliament.
It is important to state at the outset that the FW de Klerk Foundation believes in the need for proper land reform and the extension of property rights to all South Africans, in line with the prescripts of section 25 of the Constitution. However, in the absence of facts on who owns what and who the real beneficiaries will be, as well government’s poor track record in this sphere, we cannot but be very sceptical about the latest government policy of radical economic transformation.
Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, has through word and inaction, demonstrated her clear disregard of the Constitutional Court ruling declaring the SASSA contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) invalid. She has further heaped scorn on the advice of the Minister of Finance in his 1 February 2017 letter to her offering remedial recourse to ensure that almost 17 million people receive their social security grants come 1 April 2017.
The haughty response from the Minister of Social Development to Treasury, dated 8 February, states that, “her Department was in charge of payments of grants and that interactions with Treasury as part of a joint technical team were not to map out the future of social grants, but to merely analyse available options”. By all accounts and simple comprehension of the said letter from Treasury, this was precisely what was being proposed. In addition, Treasury, as the ultimate steward of the resources of the country, added the caution that maintaining the status quo would open government to legal action. This hefty matter appears to be lost on the Minister.
For the poorest South Africans, 1 April 2017 may indeed be April Fool’s Day as they return empty-handed from SASSA collection points, when the contract of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), distributors of social grants on behalf of SASSA, comes to an end on 31 March.
For more than 16 million beneficiaries, the next few weeks remain uncertain and deeply worrying. For people dependent on the Child Support Grant (R350 pm), the Grant for Older Persons (R1510 pm), the Disability Grant (R1510 pm), the Grant-in-aid (R350 pm), the Care Dependency Grant (R1510 pm), the War Veteran’s Grant (R1530 pm), the Foster Care Grant (R890 pm) and the Social Relief of Distress Grant, the unmitigated mess created by the incompetence and leaderless SASSA may be a case of life or death. Government’s R10 billion a month spend on the poorest of the poor is in serious jeopardy.
The FW de Klerk Foundation has responded in the affirmative to a call for submissions by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Racism and Social Media in South Africa, with hearings scheduled for 15 and 16 February 2017.
The largely positive relations between people are disrupted by jarring and painful incidents that have the prospect, through the ease of use of social media to go viral and stir up deep emotions - as has been evident more recently. The Foundation is not contesting the use of social media in its submission, it is the use of racist and abusive terminology to describe other people that is at the core of the argument. Such incidents clearly set the agenda back significantly and have the effect of polarising people.
The FW de Klerk Foundation is honoured to have been requested by the SAHRC to make a submission on Racism and Social Media in South Africa. This written submission could be expanded upon at the national hearings scheduled for 15 and 16 February 2017.
The National Hearing on Racism and Social Media in South Africa is an important forum for discussion in contemporary South Africa and accords with the Foundation’s own mission to support and promote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as foundational and sacred elements of our democracy. The constitutional imperative enshrined in the Preamble and captured in the Bill of Rights promoting unity in diversity is richly captured in the mission of the Foundation and forms the rationale for the establishment of the Foundation’s new Centre for Unity in Diversity.
On 31 January 2017, the FW de Klerk Foundation, together with other advocates of freedom of expression, made a written submission to the Department of Justice on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill (Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill). The Foundation used the opportunity to highlight that bolstering, consolidating and empowering existing laws and institutions is a sounder starting point than promulgating new laws with harsh consequences.
In brief, the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill aims to criminalise the offences of hate speech and hate crimes. In terms of this proposed Bill, it is possible for a person to be imprisoned for three years following their first conviction for the offence of hate speech, with ten years imprisonment for subsequent offences.
"On 2 February 1990 Mr De Klerk stood up in Parliament to make a speech. It should have been an ordinary speech, it should have been a runof-the-mill speech in which President De Klerk would be espousing the policies of the National Party. But instead, in that speech he turned on its head 500 years of history. The speech included announcements such as the unbanning of the African National Congress, as well as the announcement that Nelson Mandela would be released from prison. The speech in essence established President De Klerk’s (as he was then) vision for a new, improved and better society. In 1990, South Africa was isolated globally, on the virtual brink of bankruptcy and was largely operating outside any accepted definitions of the Rule of Law. Fast-forward to today in 2017 - 27 years after President De Klerk gave that monumental speech - and South Africa is fundamentally a different society. A different society for the better, I might add. However, there are certain concerns that remain." - Welcoming remarks by Ms Phephelaphi Dube, Director of the Foundation's Centre for Constitutional Rights
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.