SA’s constitution is both a curse and a blessing.
It has been described as the “best in the world and a model for other countries to follow”.
It is a constitution distilled from a painful past and based on a hopeful future, hence its liberal outlook.
This constitution that protects and guarantees human rights is also the main reason government cannot act decisively to fight the Covid pandemic more effectively.
When vaccines became available, the president went on a charm offensive to let South Africans know “no-one will be forced to take the vaccine as it is their constitutional right to refuse the vaccine”.
Added to that were the conspiracy theories doing the rounds and the result is vaccine hesitancy that will ensure thispandemic keeps everyone imprisoned by a never-ending lockdown.
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It is the same hopeful constitution that has created this concept of “South African exceptionalism”: because this country overcame so much to get where it is, it has a special place in the world and, particularly, on the African continent.
This entitled sense of “we are special” has made the country and its leadership believe in the false notion that it owes the world honesty in reciprocation, even if that honesty is not its best interests.
The rush by SA scientists to declare the discovery of a new variant of the Covid-19 variant is a case in point.
The virus is known to have originated in China and scientists there have been doing research and discovering new things about it all the time but, unlike their South African counterparts, they understand that shouting aboutevery little new discovery to the world is harmful to their nation.
But South Africans believe they owe the world honesty – and the country’s reward for this outstanding scientific endeavour is to be put on several travel red lists around that world.
The already battered tourism industry is going to experience another bleak festive season, because our constitution requires the country to be honest.
The reason the West initially hogged vaccines is because they were selfishly doing what is best for their countries.
SA’s trigger-happy scientists must continue to do world-class research, but they must also ask themselves if shouting about their discoveries serves their fellow citizens.
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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest “family meeting” to announce that nothing has changed in the lockdown regulations was necessitated by the panic caused by the discovery of a new variant that South Africa’s “too honest” scientists have made sure this country takes ownership of.
Instead of announcing measures that will force South Africans to vaccinate, he again had to “urge” citizens to present themselves to vaccination sites, for their own good.
The constitution protects the rights of those who chose to endanger their own lives and those of others.
The president needs to find a way around this constitutional hurdle to get people to vaccinate.
In the same way that the anti-vaxxers are preparing for legal battles, the government should be banding up with those private sector entities that have made it clear that they will only provide employment and their services to people who are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The world’s “most beautiful constitution” must be allowed to imprison the citizens whose lives it is meant to protect.