SA going off the rails, says the IRR - Fourways Review, 03 November 2016

The founding ideals of a post-apartheid South Africa are under serious threat as the State slides into lawlessness. This according to the key findings of a report published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in Johannesburg.

 

By John Kane-Berman

 

The founding ideals of a post-apartheid South Africa are under serious threat as the State slides into lawlessness. This according to the key findings of a report published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in Johannesburg.

“Unlike the South Africa of the apartheid era, which was characterised by the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy, the post-apartheid State was supposed to be a rechtsstaat [Dutch and German for a State based on justice and integrity] in which the rule of law would be supreme, power would be limited, and the courts would have the final say,” read the report.

“This edifice and these ideals are [now] under threat.”

Entitled, Going off the Rails: The Slide Towards the Lawless South African State and written by John Kane-Berman, a policy fellow at the IRR, the report lists more than 200 incidents of lawless behaviour on the part of the State and its officials – but said these were but the tip of a large iceberg.
Under the rule of President Jacob Zuma, it said the State had become increasingly lawless, but it did add that the lawlessness on the part of the State predated Zuma’s election to the presidency in 2009.

The report said an early example was the sabotage by the African National Congress of the parliamentary investigation into the R47 billion arms deal which first came to light nearly 17 years ago.
This undermined one of the founding principles of the new South Africa, which was the accountability of the Executive to Parliament.
The culprits responsible for lawlessness, Kane-Berman said, “Run from the president down to clerks of the court, from directors general to immigration officials, from municipal managers to policemen, and from cabinet ministers to petty bureaucrats.
“Lawlessness ranges from protecting the criminal to hounding the innocent, to crushing the poor. It runs from the unconstitutional to the outright criminal, from the brazen and defiant to the negligent or ignorant.

“It embraces slamming down the telephone on judges as well as victimising traffic policemen who flag down celebrities.”
The report states that victims of lawless State behaviour, “Include prisoners denied medical treatment, refugees forced to pay bribes, hawkers whose goods are unlawfully confiscated, and poor people unlawfully evicted from shacks which are then unlawfully demolished.”
However, Kane-Berman said victims also included taxpayers who get fleeced, mining companies whose licence applications are unlawfully denied, and suppliers who do not get paid for their services.

“Moreover, sometimes instead of bowing to the courts and the law, the government seeks – unlawfully – to change the law.”
Commenting on the report, Kane-Berman said lawlessness on the part of the State itself was as serious a problem in South Africa as the country’s high crime rate. “It is difficult to see how crime can be successfully combated when the State itself has become more and more lawless, and even criminal,” he said. 

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a think-tank promoting political and economic freedom

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