by Harold McGluwa MPL – DA Provincial Chairperson in the Northern Cape
Date: 20 October 2017
Type: Speech Extract
Note to editors: The following is an extract from a debate delivered earlier this week in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature by the Democratic Alliance’s provincial chairperson, Harold McGluwa MPL, during the debate on 20 years of the Constitution.
We celebrate the Constitution, one of the major achievements of our supreme law and the living, breathing document which bestows both rights and responsibilities.
The Democratic Alliance acknowledges that some strides have been made in safeguarding these rights and ensuring these responsibilities are exercised. The Constitution devotes itself to the advancement of human rights and freedoms, the eradication of unfair discrimination through the ideals of non-racialism and non-sexism as well as the support given to the supremacy of the rule of law. This can be seen in sections of the Bill of Rights which provide for the rights to life, equality, human dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of association and political rights.
So many lost their lives in the struggle to see the freedoms that our Constitution brings. Our Constitution also requires us to redress historical injustices. If we do not uphold the Constitution, if we do not take the responsibilities imposed on us seriously, we fail this mandate and we fail the people who elected us to serve them. We must be committed as public representatives in Parliament, provincial legislatures and local government to our legal obligations.
As we have seen in the recent NCOP oversight visit, in most reports from provincial departments and entities, and in the mornings when we read the newspaper, there are too many things happening that is morally wrong, criminally wrong and in violation of the ideals set forth in the Constitution that we have sworn an oath to uphold. Human trafficking and the violation of the rights of widows, culturally and otherwise wrong, amoral and against our Constitution.
I believe that the Constitution provides for the cultivation of a culture of human rights, including the rights of women, and has paved the way for the enactment of a number of laws which empower women. It is a great achievement, not only for the purpose of gender equality, but also to acknowledge the role played by women in drafting the most progressive Constitution we have.
Our mothers and sisters still face a lot of challenges. More still needs to be done to ensure that they enjoy the full protection of which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. When it comes to the workplace, where employment equity is supposed to be followed, Business Day reported earlier this year that only 2% of CEOs in South Africa are women. The time has definitely come for us to do serious introspection on whether or not we are creating the environment for women to take their rightful place in our society.
The provision of sanitary products to schoolgirls, for example, is not just about comfort and addressing the issue means that we as men cannot shy away from this discussion. Having access to sanitary products is about health and about encouraging schoolgirls to still attend school even while menstruating.
We cannot say that the right to basic and further education has been fully realised in our province, when learners are impregnated by educators, when only one out of every two children enrolled in grade one makes it to grade twelve or when 12% of qualifying learners in this province alone are denied access to learner transport.
The same goes for jobs. Section 22 of the Constitution states that every South African has the right to choose his or her trade, occupation or profession freely. But our people in the Northern Cape are deprived of this right, because there simply are not enough trades, occupations or professions for them to choose from. As the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey shows, the Northern Cape has the highest expanded unemployment rate in the country. More than 45% of the people in this beautiful province are sitting at home or at a traffic light, waiting desperately for an opportunity that the Constitution has promised them.
We have the highest youth unemployment rate in the country. Those few young people who manage to obtain higher qualifications, leave for other provinces as soon as they can, because there are no opportunities for them here.
The chronic unemployment and high levels of poverty, gross economic and social inequality casts a shadow of doubt on whether or not South Africa is indeed a country for all her people. A case in point is recently where a SASSA employee from Barkly West appeared in court on criminal charges, because she drew money from SASSA cards at ATMs. Can we truly say that we are protecting the rights of all when government employees steal, from the same poor people they are meant to serve?
Our Constitution enshrines the right to quality health care, including emergency care, yet we face long queues outside local clinics or hospitals, serious staff shortages, poor building infrastructure, a shortage of ambulances and bad roads along which patients are transported.
We must guard against those who would use these hard-fought rights as flimsy excuses to tear our nation apart. We cannot delude ourselves – the very lifeblood of our democracy, our Constitution, is under attack.
In many instances, our province remains deeply divided on the basis of the race and the ideal of a reconciled, equal Northern Cape remains a pipe dream. It certainly does not help when political parties choose to play the race card, or focus on petty identity politics instead of focusing on the true issues at hand. Look at what happened recently with the !Khoi-San incident. The word ‘sorry’ is such a short and powerful word. The Premier of this province took seven years to apologise for the hurtful, harmful hate speech she made to the people of this province. She only did so because the court ordered her to do so.
This is why we need change – change that moves South Africa and the Northern Cape forward again, change which helps to reconcile and to unite our people.
In closing, I want to quote from my colleague, the honourable Phumzile van Damme. This remarkable lady was at the forefront of the DA’s campaign to stop the Bell Pottingers of the day from abusing our Constitutional freedom of speech. In a speech to Parliament she said, and I quote, “In order to reach its full potential, our beautiful nation needs reconciliation; economic growth and job creation; and the advancement of the rights in our Bill of Rights and Constitution. Let us reconcile and unite. Let us stand together for economic growth and job creation. Let us stand together for quality education for all. And let us stand together to protect our Constitution.”
Let us unite the Northern Cape and indeed the entire South Africa.
I thank you.