18 October 2007

Division Of The Spoils

Today’s “codification” (representation of the life situation) is a letter published in yesterday’s Johannesburg “Business Day” concerning the standoff between the South African Police Force (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The latter includes the Department of Special Operations (DSO), otherwise known by its self-invented bravado nickname: “The Scorpions”.

In addition we have the article by our good Cape Town comrade Mervyn Bennun, to which the letter was a response, and the e-mail version of the letter, as it was sent to the newspaper. The sub-editors cut the text from about 550 to about 320 words, but they have kept the meaning very well.

The YCL exhorts readers of
The Bottomline to “Write, write, write!” and many of them do so. They and others could draw a few lessons from the exchange given here. The first lesson is that the sub-editors know their job, and it is better to learn from them than to complain against them. From their point of view a 300-word letter is better than a 500-word one, for a start. That means keeping it short (not like our example), and as simple as possible. One good point makes a letter worthwhile. It’s enough. You can always write another letter, another day, to make another point.

Even if they don’t publish your letter, newspapers are extremely interested in what their readers are thinking. To them, letters are zero-cost, high-value market research. Editors read letters. By the way, the YCL has a discussion forum which you can
join by clicking here. It’s another good way to practice writing.

Now, what about our “constitutional crisis”? Is there one, and if so, what does that phrase mean?

The Constitutional Court’s
web page on the History of the Constitution confirms that the drafting of the present constitution, and the 1993 Interim Constitution that preceded it, was a continuation of the CODESA process that began in 1991. The constitution was passed by the Constitutional Assembly (both chambers of parliament) on 8 May 1996, the year of the “Class Project”, but was then rejected by the Constitutional Court, which demanded, and got, changes! It finally came into force on 4 February 1997.

Our constitution is often boasted as the “best in the world”. This phrase is politically loaded. Communists know that the State is only the “executive committee of the ruling class”. How can the constitution of an openly bourgeois state, or worse, a self-deludedly class-blind state, be “the best in the world”?

For today’s purposes, two things stand out about this constitution. One is the fiction of “Constitutional Sovereignty”, whereby the paper constitution, interpreted by the unelected judges, is held to rule over all. The other is the “Division of Powers”, whereby parliament’s power is even further restricted in a division between it and the executive (government). All of these things mean that “Power To The People”, the great slogan of the liberation movement, has been mocked and trashed in this constitution. Con Court Judge Zac Yacoob told this writer, in public, that majority rule would be “the law of the jungle”.

Between 1990 and 1996, People’s Power was found, lost, and finally stolen in this country. The thieves are still holding power today. It is their bickering over the spoils that constitutes most of our daily politics. But then, division of the spoils is what bourgeois democracy is all about, and always has been.

Frene Ginwala (pictured above) was the first Speaker of Parliament after the 1994 election. She did nothing to exert Parliamentary supremacy. Thanks largely to her, the SA parliament is commonly described as a lapdog or a rubber stamp, because it has no power - least of all over its rivals in the competition for the “division of powers”. In this constitutional league you have government versus judges, contending for the championship of the Premier Division, while parliament is relegated to one or even two divisions lower down. Below that again is “the street”, which is the electorate, the big mass organisations of the working class, and all of the poor in their base communities. The “street” is a far more reliable defender of liberty than parliament is, or ever will be.

After 1997 the judges were lording it over the constitution, but they were still hungry. They started to maneouvre for an extra bite, and for more advantage over their rivals in the “powers division”. They decided to break the power of the police and to take charge of criminal investigation, using the Scorpions as their golem. At the time of his suspension last month, Adv. Vusi Pikoli of the NPA was leading the charge. But these scorpions had gone a bit too far. The “street” had long since begun to detest them.

The aforementioned Frene Ginwala, by now an ex-Speaker, has been appointed to head a commission investigating the circumstances of the suspension of Vusi Pikoli. As a major player in the game of “divisions” since at least 1994, Ginwala is impossibly, outrageously, compromised.

Crisis, or dirty business as usual? You must be the judge. We will return to this question, and to that of
The State in general, very soon.

Click on these links:

When lawyers are investigators, D Tweedie, Business Day (323 words)

Re Mervyn Bennun on the NPA, draft letter e-mailed to Business Day (552 words)

Nitty-gritty of the law, Mervyn Bennun article, Business Day (1372 words)


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