President Jacob Zuma has congratulated South Africa on marking the 20th anniversary of the Constitution being signed into law.
“It’s a birth certificate of a democratic nation,” said Zuma to several hundred guests gathered at the Sharpeville Sports Ground on Saturday.
He spoke about the Constitution’s history and role, adding that it stipulated the separation of powers.
He focused on the different spheres of government and said people benefited when the judiciary, executive and Parliament worked well together.
He said the judiciary needed to be supported in doing its work.
“Our courts are trusted final arbiters in disputes in society. To maintain this role our judiciary needs to jealously safeguard its dignity, accessibility, impartiality and independence,” the president said.
Zuma said when challenges arose between the three arms of the state, they were often addressed.
“When problems emerge, we meet and discuss them,” said Zuma, regarding this as a sign of democracy.
Although Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng were absent, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, head of public prosecutions Sean Abrahams and public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane were in attendance.
Before Zuma delivered his address, Economic Freedom Fighters councillors from the Sedibeng and Emfuleni regions staged a walkout.
This prompted a chuckle from the president, while ANC supporters in the marquee sang praise songs about him.
Sello Mahlare, an elderly Sharpeville resident, criticised Zuma for celebrating the Constitution.
“He has no respect for the Constitution,” Mahlare told journalists.
His comments, which had been echoed by some on social media, come on the back of a Constitutional Court finding against the president earlier this year, that he had failed to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution in the Nkandla saga.
Zuma, in what seemed like a carefully crafted speech, also addressed concerns over growing racism and a need to protect women and children in South Africa.
“The Constitution says we must heal the divisions of the past, we must all play our part in building a non-racial society.”
The president said it was clear based on recent media reports of racist incidents, that more work needed to done.
But at the same time he said it was important to acknowledge that a lot of progress had been made in that regard.
December 10 also marked the end of the 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children.
Zuma urged South Africans to continue spreading the message of the campaign.
“All of us must continue to be vigilant to promote safer homes, communities and work places for women everyday of the year,” he said. – News24