South Africa is still a society in transition, and the foundations of its new democratic order still need to be cemented. Its potential fault-lines – of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and access to resources – have to be addressed within the context of a democratic constitutional order. Some may seek to exploit this vulnerability for personal or narrow gain, threatening the progressive values of human dignity, equality and freedom that underpin the Constitution which, hard-won as it was, should not be taken for granted.
The Constitution is a social contract, resulting from, among others, ordinary peoples’ struggles, and must therefore be honoured by both government and the people. It must be protected and advanced as an instrument of social transformation, so that the majority of South Africans will identify with it and will be willing to mobilize in its defence if required. Only by being seen to work in favour of all South Africans, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised, will the Constitution sustain the support of all the people of South Africa.
‘The people’ are the principal custodians of the values of the Constitution, and custodianship needs to be relocated from institutions to people. Once constitutional rights are claimed by the many, ordinary people will undertake extraordinary acts to assert their rights and protect and advance the Constitution.