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Publish date: 10 June 2024
Issue Number: 1080
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: general


Ahead of South Africa’s first democratic elections, Cabinet Minister Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa headed negotiations to put the country on a path to peace. The Daily Maverick asked Meyer what good talks look like as SA begins an intense and short period to negotiate power sharing.

How do you build rapport and relationships across canyons of mistrust and positions so widely different they feel difficult to breach? The one benefit is the Constitution, a distinguishing feature. In the early Nineties, we had no commonality about the content of a future Constitution. Today, we have that starting point. We know those that support (the Constitution) and those that don’t. That is a clear line as a starting point. That is in the leaders’ minds, as (former President) Kgalema Motlanthe (recently) said. The Constitution is based on the founding principles, which are found in Chapter 1. This chapter states that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and that we are one people in one land. Chapter 2 provides the binding factors, which are provided in the Bill of Rights.


But what happens when you have a party, like MK, whose manifesto says one of its first steps as a (potential) government is to hold a referendum to scrap the Constitution? These guys want to take us back into the dark ages. They want to scrap the Constitution and make Parliament the sovereign. In apartheid times we didn’t have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. (The Manifesto) risks a repeat of an order that reminds one of apartheid times. When the autocratic leadership of the day could decide what to do with the people of the country. It seems MK wants to replicate that order.


Are there huge gaps among parties even when they support the Constitution. How do they communicate their differences, which often seem intractable? You seek agreement on the bigger issues and in the national interest. It’s easier to find agreement at the higher level. When you go down through the layers, you find various layers that are more difficult to agree on.  You need to start with the subjects and values you can find agreement on. And work from there to tackle the differences one by one. There are those you can’t find agreement on, and (you need to) find a model for addressing differences. 

Full interview

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