Madam Speaker and hon members, our struggle for liberation was a humanist one; one that put the right to human dignity at the very heart of what the ANC hoped to achieve.
However, today many still say, and believe, that the Bill of Rights was a concession on the part of the ANC to allay minority fears during the negotiation process. This may have been the effect of its introduction on those minorities, but the assertion is fundamentally incorrect.
Our Bill of Rights is a very differently crafted instrument to any other similar instrument, as it upholds the right to human dignity as an essential component of every right. Our Bill of Rights was drafted not unmindful that the legacies of the three-and-a-half centuries of colonial oppression would have to be addressed in material ways in the postcolonial era.
So, in designing the equality clause, for example, the question of the redress of past inequalities is specifically provided for in the form of affirming persons who were previously excluded. In other words, affirmative action is a constitutional imperative that would have had to be implemented even if the National Party had won the 1994 elections.
Other rights too have been crafted in such a manner as to redress the past. The right to freedom of expression, for instance, is not unrestricted, as some would have us believe. In exercising your right to express yourself, due regard must be given to people's dignity, and in South Africa that right does not extend to hate speech.
Again, in this regard our Constitution is fundamentally different to others in the Western world. The Freedom Charter gave us our ideal vision for a country that we hoped to build. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the vehicles to attain that particular vision. It is not, as some would want us to believe, a mechanism to preserve the status quo of the old regime. As for those who have in the past spoken out against a two-thirds majority of the ANC because they suggested that we wanted to amend fundamental tenets of the Constitution, their misapprehensions frankly belie their fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the struggle and the nature of the ANC and its values.
They conveniently have forgotten the price that the ANC paid for this democracy. We will jealously guard this Constitution and this Bill of Rights on behalf of our people as a monument to the lives laid down in the struggle.
Some care not to remember that as much as our transition to a democratic order was a negotiated one, it was not completely peaceful. At his inauguration, the former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela spoke of the transition to democracy being relatively peaceful. Relative to what, one may ask?
In the French Revolution, 44 000 revolutionary councils were tasked with purging royalists and in the American Revolution over 50 000 young men perished. It is estimated that a million people perished during the Russian Revolution. Indeed, Madiba was correct. It was relatively peaceful by those standards, but he more than anyone else was acutely aware that during the series of negotiations from 1990 to 1991 between the ANC and the National Party government, thousands of our people were killed, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, the East Rand and the Vaal Triangle.
The Goldstone Commission revealed the extent to which political violence was fuelled by a third force. In March 1992, the referendum in which only whites were able to participate saw former President De Klerk receive a mandate of 68% to continue to negotiate a new Constitution. This was a victory, not only for the National Party but for the country, in that it ensured that the process towards a negotiated settlement could continue. Notably, 42% of the white population at the time were opposed to this and said no to removing apartheid. Not surprisingly ... [Interjections.] Yes, just 32%.
Just three months later, Boipatong and several other attacks took place. The Bisho massacre followed and literally every other day there were reports of killings. Then, in April 1993, Comrade Chris Hani was assassinated, nearly derailing the negotiations.
Once again, the forces opposed to change showed their opposition to burying apartheid and white minority rule. Yet again, the ANC leadership pressed on with negotiations under enormous provocation. Finally, on 18 November 1993, the negotiating parties agreed on the Interim Constitution under which the historic elections of 1994 were held.
However, the killings did not stop. In the first 18 days of January 1994, a total of 193 people were killed. Two days before the historic elections, bombs rocked Gauteng. Seven people were killed in an explosion in Germiston, while nine were killed in a massive explosion in Johannesburg's city centre. Several polling stations were also bombed.
I recall all of these events in order to bring into perspective a few things. Firstly, this Constitution was hard won, and in the big and the small things we must spare no effort to protect it. Secondly, neither our democratic order, nor the Constitution, nor the Bill of Rights itself, had their origins in absolute unanimity. This dissension continues to manifest in diverse ways.
The hon McLoughlin reminded us of this last week when he contended that South Africa's challenges did not arise in 1652 but in 1994. It would be easy to simply dismiss the hon member's assertion as baseless, but for the fact that the hon member is a leader and he and his party occupy their seats in this House, where they are tasked with representing the views of their supporters, who, while not a majority, are nonetheless a significant number of people in our country.
President Mandela continually urged these South Africans to join hands with those of us who were victims of apartheid, in our mammoth task of together building the South Africa envisaged in the Freedom Charter, which proclaims a vision of a country in which all shall be equal and proud.
Our struggle was nonetheless founded on the fundamental principle that all of the people, both black and white, had to be liberated from apartheid and that this system had damaged us all - in different ways, perhaps - but it was in essence a crime against all of humanity.
It seems that today, 20 years into our democracy, we are still at the point where the ANC holds out its hand to fellow South Africans and says, "Let us work together to create a better future."
Speaker, it is heartening that the bold vision of 2030, as captured in the National Development Plan has been welcomed by so many in the country. One of the abiding legacies of the late Minister Collins Chabane is the Twenty Year Review of the period 1994 to 2014, which was published under his leadership when he held office as Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation.
It is a seminal document, which I urge all members to study closely. I do believe that it has as its essence a road map towards social cohesion and reconstruction. In the limited time available, if I may be allowed to read out just one study from the Twenty Year Review, which is quite seminal:
The revolutionary difference between the old and new Home Affairs is revealed sharply in a story told by a white staff member who joined the old Home Affairs in 1973. Working at the birth registration counter, she describes how a baby was typically brought to the office by the mother and was taken by staff to a tea room. They locked the door while they unclothed the child and examined it to determine the race according to the Population Registration Act of 1950. In difficult cases, specialists from Social Services were called in. The process disturbed her at the time and still troubles her. The entire life of the child depended on the racial identity the child was given in that office or through the Bantu Administration System. In the case of Africans, there was a denial of citizenship and of every one of the other 27 rights set out in the Bill of Rights.
Since 1994, in total contrast, the registration of the birth of a South African child by the Department of Home Affairs guarantees that the child has an inalienable right to the status of being a citizen and to all the equal rights and responsibilities set out in the Constitution.
The same white staff member reported that, as a woman, she suffered severe discrimination and had to resign and later reapply as a temporary worker every time she fell became pregnant, as there was no maternity leave. She was paid less than men for doing the same job, and she was never promoted until the new government came into power in 1994.
Let this remind us of the words of former President Nelson Mandela that never, never and never again shall one race dominate another; and once again, let us renew our commitment to our social contract and to everyone, big or small. I thank you very much. [Applause.]