Building an equal society requires dialogue, practical application of the Constitution and keeping in check those in office, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng declared Saturday.
Delivering the 17th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus, Mogoeng said, “We need to look at how is it that, 25 years after we got our freedom, we still have people who don’t have homes; we still have racial, ethnic and gender discrimination; and we still have tribalism.”
This year’s lecture was on “constitutionalism as an instrument for transformation,” the Johannesburg-based City Press reported.
Speaking to a packed venue that included United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, Mamphela Ramphele and professor Njabulo Ndebele, Mogoeng said the purpose of his lecture was to look at the ills of society.
According to Mogoeng, something is amiss when, 25 years into democracy, it is rare to find women and Black people in the high echelons of the corporate sector.
“Something is fundamentally wrong and we’ve got to confront it and come up with practical steps to give practical expression to constitutionalism in South Africa,” he said.
Mogoeng said very little was going to be accomplished for as long as “we allow our people to be ignorant of their rights in the Constitution.”
“You can’t fight for what you don’t know,” he said. “It is almost as if we take advantage of the ignorance of our people by not doing anything. The greatest facilitator of sustained injustice is keeping people ignorant of what they are entitled to.”
Mogoeng said it is everyone’s responsibility to build the country.
“Let us not waste time polarizing society, wasting energy [looking on] as white and Black people [remain] enemies,” he added. “We must confront and expose any institution and anybody who practices discrimination. It is a shame that 25 years down the line inequality has become sharper than during apartheid.”
The country cannot blame all the issues that people are facing on colonialism and apartheid, Mogoeng said.
“But anybody who says ‘stop blaming apartheid and colonialism’ is being mischievous,” he said. “Most of the problems we have to contend with are direct consequences of colonialism and apartheid.”