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South Africa saw its most destructive riots in years this past July, ostensibly in response to former President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment and due to socio-economic factors. The Constitutional Court's sentencing of Zuma was widely hailed as a victory for the Rule of Law, but the commentariat in many cases remains blissfully unaware of its diagnostic blindspots.
In 1998, the new democratic Constitution put in place was claimed to be the best in the world. It promised a better life for all. According to this new Constitution, it was necessary for parliament to pass a certain amount of legislation in order to complete the constitutional process.
The Minister of Small Business Development has been parading a draft National Small Enterprise Amendment Bill. The period for allowing interested parties to submit comments about the draft Bill to the department has just ended. This ill-considered proposal would authorise officials to break contracts deemed 'unfair', no doubt causing commercial uncertainty and thereby discouraging larger businesses from contracting with small enterprises. The Bill defeats its own purpose.
Over the past few weeks, the world stood witness to the spectacle of American politics in the twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency. Many in South Africa joined as keen observers. This episode, like many before it, again highlighted the importance of institutions and the ideas that underlie them – a reality often neglected in the realm of the politics of personality.
The Economic Regulation of Transport Bill (B1-2020) published for public comment is problematic across three broad areas. It unnecessarily and unjustifiably expands the extent and potential scope of government interference in the transport sector; like much other legislation it vests executive officials, primarily here the Minister of Transport and the proposed Regulator, with discretionary powers that are not restrained by any objective guiding criteria; and it is clearly aimed at centralising governmental power away from civil society and independent institutions into the hands of the Department of Transport and its Minister. Also, it contains vague provisions that do not meet the requisite quality of legislative drafting.
It is unfortunate that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not use his 17 June announcement of modifications to South Africa’s level 3 lockdown as an opportunity to end the ill-considered ban on tobacco and related products. Appropriately, on the same day, Africa Check confirmed that the government is losing around R35 million per day in excise taxes for tobacco products.
The Rule of Law was mostly absent during Apartheid when a system of parliamentary supremacy elevated the state's effectively absolute power above all else.
The lockdown has begun. Only movement deemed 'essential' is now allowed – a significant limitation if not suspension of our right to freedom of movement guaranteed in section 21 of the Constitution. This opens a can of worms that our constitutional democracy might be ill-equipped to deal with.
The trade union federation Cosatu recently called for tax increases, particularly on the wealthy, to arrest South Africa’s economic down spiral. But economist Arthur B Laffer, known for popularising the Laffer curve, shows us that beyond a certain point, tax revenue will decline as tax rates increase.