Unpacking Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s Constitution salvo through the lens of philosophy

I APPROACH Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s recent attack on South Africa’s Constitution and legal structure in light of the sea of poverty surrounding South Africans through the lens of philosophy.

The critique of Hegel’s notion of dialectics (an approach that describes a method of philosophical argument involving contradictions between opposing sides) by philosophers’ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels noted Hegel’s spirituality and attribution of forces of nature and economics to the realm of the supernatural as misinterpretation of his own discovery and critique of Plato’s dialectics.

But Marx and Engels could not throw the baby out with the bathwater. They retained the kernel of discovery of dialectics by Hegel as a source of motion but threw away the Hegelian notion of spirit and superstition.

From Hegelian dialectics – with which Hegel, criticized Plato’s version of dialectics as a dialogue of opposing sides to one where he saw linearity of development – Marx and Engels in critiquing Hegelian phenomenology of this linearity of dialectical thought established the transformational shift of dialectics from a metaphysical rhythm of dialectical determinism to one of dialectical materialism through their enquiry into dialectics through the prism of historical materialism.

Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist Lenin would expound dialectical materialism as distinct from dialectical determinism as in their nay-nay-ye-nay-ye-ye-nay-ye-ye non-linearity in contradistinction to the linear nay-ye-nay-ye of dialectical determinism. He implored this non-linearity in his thesis of temporary reconciliation of contradictions in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which signified the moment of securing the necessary respite to rebuild the Bolsheviks.

It is through this lens that I approach the title Lindiwe Sisulu’s attack on South Africa’s Constitution.

On this subject of impact of the post-apartheid intervention on the poor almost three decades on, one comes to the sad conclusion that all arms of the state – SA Inc from business, government, NGOs, political parties, individuals, everyone – have accepted and contributed to the biblical writings that – the poor will always be with you.

But we added our own version that there will always be more of the poor that will be with us. This is the point Sisulu is making and ranting inconsolably about. If her so-called tantrum creates a crisis of policy making by revealing the dire consequences and those who are assistive to such policies – it is a tantrum not to be wasted on the basis of focusing on who is the launcher of the missile.

The entire chain of command have allowed this deplorable state of affairs. The judiciary has to lock people up when they ignore judicial injunctions, including those by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who admonished our head of state and Parliament, which abandoned duty.

Lindi correctly pointed to the entire edifice. Perhaps asking what motivates her fiery and fierce salvo is a correct question worth asking. But it is of a secondary order and should come out in the wash of political laundry in the cause of having refocussed us on the primary contradictions of our failure to address the prime evil of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Her first order point is indicting everyone, including herself. She is correct in saying the evidence is that the institutions of government are about management of poverty, while business and the government officials co-opted as assistants to business are managing wealth. Zondo’s report is very illustrious in that regard.

She assets correctly that this is an untenable state of affairs. What we should be asking is if a long-standing member of Cabinet says we are defeated and sinking, what then should be the steps we put in place to deliver the constitutional instructions of a better life for all and not be consumed by unity or disunity of a dysfunctional party, which Lindi’s salvo is so clearly communicating.

Rather than blame the Constitution, which in my analysis remains robust, I would argue that our entire edifice aimed at implementing it has shown debilitating and deliterious dysfunction.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him @ www.pie.org.za and @Palilj01.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.

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