Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Asmal's cry the beloved country

13 April 2010, 07:07

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By Gaye Davis

Bullying and intimidation had become the style of political engagement in South Africa, with ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema its lightning rod, veteran ANC Professor Kader Asmal lamented last night.

In a hard-hitting speech at Unisa, he said political activism had become synonymous with an excuse for personal position, access and wealth.

"This is corruption of the most corrosive kind and must be tackled at root," he said.

The former cabinet minister warned that the constitution's core values, which had protected the country from calamity in the past, were being "chiselled away".

Asmal, who played a key role in drafting South Africa's democratic constitution, was speaking at a ceremony in which he received an honorary doctorate in law from Unisa.

Speaking two days after President Jacob Zuma publicly castigated Malema, he said it was unacceptable for leaders to "genuflect to constitutionalism while attacking it by stealth".

He singled out Malema as "the lightning rod for much of this politics of intimidation" and saw "too many youth chasing material wealth and bling, without giving questions of social justice a second thought".

Currently professor extraordinary in the law faculty at the University of the Western Cape, Asmal resigned as an MP soon after the ANC's Polokwane conference in 2007 at which Jacob Zuma became the party's leader.

He used his speech to repeat "for the benefit of some of our leaders today" that the constitution was a "native-hewn" document, "not imposed on us, but negotiated by South Africans".

"I fear we are observing our constitutional order being chiselled away to the point where we risk losing sight of the founding principles and practices of our democracy. One can see it and hear it."

Yet it was the principles enshrined in the constitution that had rescued the country from potentially "cataclysmic events" during the past 20 years, he said.

The assassination of Communist Party leader Chris Hani on an Easter weekend 17 years ago aroused deep-rooted fears and could have been disastrous, but for the calm and restraint urged by leaders at the time, Asmal said.

By contrast, AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche's killing this Easter weekend had not put the country on "a knife's edge".

"Most of us will not be mourning the passing of this man, yet the scenes of jubilation that greeted his suspected killers... must unsettle us," he said. "So too, the remnants of the AWB, intent on provoking and intimidating."

The danger lay in "the politics of intimidation, of bullying - that seems so much today the style of our political engagement; a style, I am sorry to say, very much favoured by our political superiors," Asmal said.

He cited the re-militarisation of the police, with national police commissioner Bheki Cele in "military insignia"; the detention of a jogger by Zuma's bodyguards; and attacks on judges for unfavourable verdicts.

Academic freedom, "the heart and life (of) an academic", had been "dangerously dismissed as the vehicle for counter-revolutionaries" - a reference to comments by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

He also listed appointments to judicial and quasi-judicial offices, "that appear deliberately to change the nature of these organs" (a reference to Menzi Simelane's appointment as national prosecutions chief) and the ANC Youth League's threats against journalists who reported on Malema's business interests.

Asmal referred to Malema's response when asked to respond to a court decision to ban the singing of "Shoot the Boer". Malema had said the order was granted by "an untransformed judicial system, the same one that was operating during apartheid".

Attacks on the judiciary were now "standard notes in our political discourse". Co-operative governance was compromised when those in powerful political positions decided not abide by court rulings.

"I am not advocating amendments to the constitution. What I am advocating is both easier and harder: discipline, measure, relection, depth, self-restraint and forbearance.

"And I don't mean only within the ruling party. The carping, scolding tone that is so often the opposition is also lacking in these qualities."

This article was originally published on page 1 of The Mercury on April 13, 2010

The Star

Comments by Sonny

Apart from the shady political corruption, one only has to look how the ANC is trying

to disarm legal firearm owners of their protection!

The time has come for all South African to wake up and smell the burnt coffee!

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