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24 May 2001

Constitution Dilemma's 


Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife if Nelson Mandela has been in the news on several occasions, the most notorious being her "matches" speech. For some time now she's been running the ANC Women's League. 

A new scandal is busy erupting around her as the Sunday Times investigated loans issued via the ANC Women's League to bogus employees of the League. Documentation was found with her letterhead and a signature "similar" to hers (Winnie). Winnie immediately wanted an interdict against the Sunday Times preventing them from publishing these documents. Arguing that the public might get the impression that she is involved in this scam. She failed - with costs. 

The cherry on top though was her council's remark: "She has the right to a good name, dignity and reputation." What a lot of crock! 

Tony Yengeni (the man with the luxury cars involved in the arms deal scam) offered the same sentiment when asked why he never declared these gifts to parliament and the subsequent newspaper reports on his possible involvement. 

What do these people think? Because they have a hotshot, big bucks job, they deserve to be respected? Don't they know that every person alive has to earn his or her good name and respect? Don't they realise that a reputation can go both ways, good and bad? Do they really think that by sucking their country dry they deserve a good name and reputation? Maybe what they're referring to is a reputation within their own hotshot communities. The ones that only the select few belong to. 

Rights? My backside. People in charge of organisations (other people) and government are all accountable for their actions. Some are role models, others are there for the free ride. And a good reputation and name takes years to accomplish. 

Seems the government is at last waking up to the computer age. At last they're now planning to pass a new bill called the "Computer Misuse Bill". This nearly a year after a programmer sabotaged the Edgars groups computer systems, costing the company more than a Million Rands worth of damage. He could not be prosecuted. A disgruntled ex-employee seeking revenge? You're damn right! 

Human rights to the fore again. And will the Constitutional Court be up to the job? This is a tricky one considering that South Africa claims to have the people's rights at heart. Now this challenge - Will Rastafarians be allowed to smoke "dagga" without harassment? It's their religion and according to our constitution, their right. Gareth Prince, a law student heading up this whole issue on behalf of the Rasta's, cannot be a lawyer because of his smoking habits - and that was decided by South African law. 

A further interesting development on the rights of South African citizens involve schools. Our education department decided that languages (all eleven of them) should be offered at schools as first and secondary subjects to be taken by pupils. Deciding on the secondary language will be up to the individual schools (English being accepted as the first language), dependent on demand and resources. Now, if the secondary language at a predominantly Afrikaans school is Afrikaans, what are the rights of the other nine official languages? What if a Xhosa fails Afrikaans (and therefore might fail the year) because Xhosa is not in a big enough demand? Can the Constitutional Court rule on this and force the school to offer this as a second language to students? Or will this be up to the parents to find a school that does offer this language as a subject? This will go against the rights of the parents as well as the pupils who should have the choice of where they want to be educated. But seeing we live in Africa (which, we've established a long time ago, belongs to the black African), Afrikaans will probably be dropped in future in favour of whatever black language group is the most predominant in that specific area. Then it will be up to the white, Afrikaans speaking families to decide which school their kids should attend. Majority rules. 

What gets me uptight though is that even though black parents have a choice of schools, they mostly insist on sending their kids to white, Afrikaans schools. We've seen so much conflict and violence amongst pupils in the past which does nothing for the reconciliatory wishes of government nor the majority of citizens. And what does government do about this? The easiest way out. Force the school the adapt, which leaves the majority of pupils in a lurch.