Ramaphosa, Sisulu disagree on Constitution

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has reprimanded a senior minister after she slammed the constitution and “mentally colonised” judges in a scathing attack that has fuelled speculation about new rivalries within the ruling party.

Tourism Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, daughter of revered anti-apartheid activists Walter and Albertina Sisulu, launched her extraordinary attack on both the judiciary and the constitution in opinion pieces on the Independent Online (IOL) news site in recent days.

The 67-year-old veteran minister is widely seen as a likely candidate to square off against Ramaphosa if he seeks a second term as ANC leader at the party’s next conference scheduled for December.

In her latest article, Sisulu attacked, for the second consecutive weekend, the ground-breaking post-apartheid constitution, saying that it has not helped improve the lot of the majority of black South Africans still living in poverty.

It has failed to embrace “especially the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalised. It has failed in its primary function regardless of how it may offend us to accept such,” she wrote.

Without directly referring to Sisulu’s article, Ramaphosa stressed the “need to protect our constitution, our democratic state and the electoral process from anyone who wants to weaken our democracy”.

“We must safeguard against any and all efforts to diminish our hard-won democracy,” he wrote in his weekly newsletter on Monday.

Ramaphosa also hit back against “attacks on the independence and integrity of our judiciary” after Sisulu derided unnamed judges as “mentally colonised Africans” who are “only too happy to lick the spittle of those who falsely claim superiority”.

Sisulu’s hard hitting remarks have triggered heated debate and fuelled speculation that she is planning to run for the leadership of the ruling ANC at a party conference in December.

The party of late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela is riven with factions.

Ramaphosa is expected to seek a second five-year term but could face a challenge from a faction of the party that is loyal to corruption-accused ex-president Jacob Zuma.

Sisulu, daughter of Mandela’s former comrade-in-arms Walter Sisulu, has served as a lawmaker since the advent of democracy in 1994 and been a cabinet minister for more than 15 years.

She went further in her article, saying the much-lauded 1996 constitution “far too often serves the few, the powerful, and the well-connected” while acting as a mere “palliative” for apartheid victims faced with “a sea of African poverty”.

One of the co-authors of the constitution, retired judge Albie Sachs told AFP “the whole of parliament was involved in its creation, the main core of which had been in the resistance to apartheid”.

“It was born out of legitimate aspirations and great intelligence,” he said in an interview in Cape Town.

While conceding that “there is still gross injustice in South Africa, there is still racism, massive unemployment, …utterly unacceptable inequality,” Sachs qualified the Constitution as “strong…a very living and alive document”.

“Political figures are challenging the Constitution. But there is massive broad public confidence in the Constitution. It embodies so much of what we struggled for,” said Sachs.