Let us stand together to protect our Constitution

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP, during the debate on 20 years of the Constitution.
Honourable Chairperson,
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution, it is important that we carefully assess where we are in achieving the human rights obligations imposed by the Bill of Rights, so we can map a way forward for achieving those still outstanding.
Our Bill of Rights forms the cornerstone of our democracy, enshrines the human rights of all people in South Africa and requires that the rights it affirms are respected, promoted, protected and fulfilled by the state.
In assessing whether the ANC government has fulfilled its human rights obligations as per the Bill of Rights, it is necessary to acknowledge the gains that it has made.
Achievements worth applauding include the abolition of the death penalty, the legalization of same sex marriage and the protection of the freedoms related to religion, political choice, culture and language.
Many rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, however, remain unachieved and it is those that need intensified focus.
In particular, and of paramount importance, is the right to education.
The systemic failures in our education system have prevented young South Africans from realising their rights as enshrined in s29 of the Bill of Rights, which states that everyone has a right to basic and further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.
We cannot, Honourable Speaker, say the right to basic and further education has been achieved in South Africa, when:
• The Eastern Cape has 800 schools identified as having inappropriate structures that need to be replaced;
• Kwazulu-Natal has 1 379 schools which have pit toilets only;
• 58 schools in the Eastern Cape have no water;
• Only 45% of top-up textbooks have been delivered in the Eastern Cape;
• NSFAS had turned down more than 53 000 applications for the 2017 academic year; and
• Students who get qualifications through TVETs have waited up to two years to receive their certificates.
Without quality education, we are nothing.
The same goes for jobs. S22 of the Constitution states that every South African has the right to choose their trade, occupation or profession freely.
Over 8 million South Africans cannot enjoy this right because there are simply no trades, occupations or professions for them to choose from. It is a right to choice that many are prevented from exercising. The rampant joblessness in South Africa directly affects many other rights in the Bill of Rights such as human dignity; life; movement and residence; housing; healthcare, food, water, social security; and access to courts.
Honourable Chairperson, another right that has not been fulfilled, is the protection against unfair discrimination, on grounds of race, gender, sex and sexual orientation.
South Africa sadly remains a largely patriarchal and sexist society, where the rights of girls and women are not advanced or protected sufficiently.
Our country unfortunately also remains divided on the basis of race. A reconciled and equal South Africa remains a pipe dream.
It certainly does not help, when, unable to deliver on its constitutional obligations, the ANC chooses to divide South Africa along the lines of race.
The ANC has abandoned the value of non-racialism as espoused by the Constitution and has done so because it is no longer convenient for it that the people of South Africa are reconciled. Race-based politics has become the order of the day.
As South Africans who love our country, and want it to prosper, we must stand against this, and continue to fight for ensuring that the values of our Constitution, including non-racialism, are upheld.
In order to reach its full potential, our beautiful nation needs reconciliation; economic growth and job creation; and the advancement of the rights in our Bill of Rights and Constitution.
Let us reconcile, and unite.
Let us stand together for economic growth and job creation.
Let us stand together for quality education for all.
And let us stand together to protect our Constitution.
I thank you.