William Bird, Director of Media Monitoring Africa, and various stakeholders, have developed an exciting project to draw attention to one of South Africa’s most remarkable assets: our Constitution. It’s the most advanced constitution in the world! It came into effect on 3 February 1997: meaning it celebrates its 15th birthday this year – so what better time to celebrate it?
Here, William Bird urges us all to get involved and to tell the world why we love our Constitution:
“We the people, is the preamble to the Constitution of both The United States of America and South Africa. It is also the title we have given an initiative we started to celebrate our constitution. It is 15 years old in February and despite the challenges we face in South Africa we think this is something to celebrate. Turns out a whole lot of others think so too. We have been overwhelmed by the support from some of the biggest stakeholders in the country. From Parliament and the ANC to crucial NGO’s and massive media companies, Media 24, Mnet, Kagiso, Avusa Print Media South Africa and more.
We set out to get a million people to express their love of the Constitution – and to be honest we are not at all close to that. We have to ask why? Perhaps it is because we are asking people to think and find a reason as to why they love the constitution, and a cynic might say people don’t like to think. Perhaps it is because we tend to be good at focusing on the bad things in South Africa. We can mobilise and complain about all the things that go wrong, and I guess it is easier to complain than to celebrate. To be clear, what we are setting out to do, as evidenced on the website www.wethepeople.org.za is to clearly and unambiguously celebrate one of our country’s finest achievements. It is a great document, it easily ranks amongst the best in the world. It’s not just me who thinks that but lots of legal experts get excited talking about it too. Our Constitution is so good that when it comes to children we do have the best section in the world, better even than the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is the single most signed international convention in the world. That alone is a wonderful achievement.
My feeling though is that this isn’t why we haven’t met our ambitious target of 1 million messages of love for our constitution. I think the most likely reason is that people simply don’t know what is in the Constitution. Difficult to love it if you don’t know what’s in it. If this is true we have a challenge as a nation. Not only to celebrate but to inform people about what we need to celebrate. On one level it is depressing that 18 years into democracy people may simply not know what is in the cornerstone of our democracy. On another level though, the positive response as well as the potential to build our nation, fills us with hope and energy. We the People will carry on and continue to grow, so that in the not too distant future we really will be able to celebrate as a nation a document that embodies our potential for greatness.”