Address by the Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Baleka Mbete(MP), speaking notes on the occasion of the launch of theme books and commemorative book
Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Baleka Mbete(MP), speaking nots on the occasion of the launch of theme books and commemorative book, in the Old Assembly Building, 11 September 2018
Members of the Executive
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very special welcome to the Mandela family who is represented by Chief Mandla Mandela, the Sisulu represented by former Speaker Max and Mrs Elinor Sisulu.
We are particularly honoured to hand over these theme books to you Mr President, as we know that you were an integral part of the constitution making process.
In 2017, the legislative sector marked the 20th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Constitution on 4 February 1997 and the inception of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on 6 February 1997.
Recognizing the significance of this seminal moment in our history, we considered it prudent to commission a body of work, that would document the experiences of those involved in this profoundly historic journey.
Bringing this project to life was a deeply personal experience for a number of us. We had the daunting honour of being part of the constitution drafting process. It was character building and enriching experience. That process changed each one of us that was involved in this process profoundly, this over and above the changes to the entire edifice of our country.
I doubt whether this historic moment and its accompanied energy can ever be emulated again. The writing of the Constitution was a truly democratic and participatory process; its methodology was underscored by the preamble of the Freedom Charter that underscores that the "people shall govern".
Suffice it to say, it was a process that has never again been emulated anywhere in the world.
Today, our Constitution, is regarded as an example of what is truly possible, when we all come together for the greater good of our country and its people!
When drafting the Constitution, we derived our mandate from the people, who instructed us that at all costs the restoration of human dignity and equality should be at the centre of the constitutional project. This by amongst others introducing a very comprehensive Bill of Rights that is intended to protect all people, and advance an enabling environment that propels us all towards a better quality of life, especially for the vulnerable and the marginalised of society.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you all know by now, we are in the throes of marking the centenary of the birth of two giants of the liberation struggle, namely, the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa, Tat'uNelson Mandela and Mam'uAlbertina Sisulu. These two giants stand tall with many who guided and inspired us during our darkest moment.
To this end, Parliament has embarked on a yearlong programme of celebration to amongst others celebrate, reflect and acknowledge the contributions of the late President Mandela and Ma Sisulu to the struggle for democracy and a better life for all.
Significantly, it was Ma Sisulu, who nominated Madiba to become the first President of the Republic, a woman he regarded along with her husband, Walter, as a mentor in life, in and out of prison.
Both former President Nelson Mandela and Ma Sisulu, had a profound respect for the role and vestiges of Parliament. At the final sitting of the first democratically elected Parliament on 26 March 1999, President Mandela said and I quote:
"Because the people of South Africa chose a profoundly legal path to their revolution, those who frame and enact the Constitution and law are in the vanguard of the fight for change, It is in the legislatures that the instruments have been fashioned to create a better life for all. It is here that oversight of government has been exercised. It is here that our society in all its formations has had an opportunity to influence policy and its implementation." We should continue to heed his wisdom.
I wish to thank everyone who contributed to the theme books with so much enthusiasm. House Chairperson Thoko Didiza for coordinating the books project from Parliament; Deputy Minister Enver Surty for all the coordination of the write ups and Secretary to NA Mr Masibulele Xaso for leading the project assisted from Parliament's administration. Thank you for a job well done!
These books are of immense value, as they record the lived experiences of those who had the profound honour of drafting the Constitution which is our north star.
On 10 December 1996, at the signing of the Constitution in Sharpeville, you said Mr President and I quote:
"But the real legacy of the Constitutional Assembly is not merely in the books that will be distributed, it lies in the growing awareness of what a Constitution means. I appeal to you all to nurture this, to claim the Constitution as your own. We have a Constitution we can be proud of, now, let's make it work."
Thank you very much.