South Africa’s Constitution

first_imgSouth Africa’s Constitutional Court, which upholds the Constitution, at night. As the supreme law of the country, the Constitution binds all organs of the state – legislative, executive and judicial – at all levels of government.(Image: Chris Kirchhoff, MediaClubSouthAfrica.com. For more freephotos, visit the image library)South Africa’s Constitution, admired and respected around the world for its pioneering approach to human rights, is the symbol of a remarkable negotiated transition – one that turned a country ravaged by apartheid and oppression into one that celebrates democracy and freedom.The interim Constitution, which came into effect in 1994, not only set the stage for South Africa’s first democratic elections, but was – as the document itself explained – “a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex”.Background to the ConstitutionThe interim Constitution was negotiated between representatives of organisations involved in the liberation struggle, political parties and other groups. After the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994, the elected representatives, meeting as a body called the Constitutional Assembly, drafted a new Constitution. In 1996, after two years of public consultation and much debate, the final Constitution was at last adopted.See the Constitutional Court’s website for more about the history of the Constitution.Constitutional supremacySection 2 of Chapter 1 – which is entitled “Supremacy of Constitution” – states: “This Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic; law or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid, and the obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled.”Although South Africa did have a constitution before the interim Constitution of 1994 and the final Constitution of 1996, the “tri-cameral” constitution (which established three separate houses of parliament for whites, coloureds and Indians) was not supreme. Instead, a system of parliamentary sovereignty prevailed – which meant the legislature could pass any laws it liked, as long as the correct procedure was followed.Nowadays, however, the Constitution is superior to Parliament and is the yardstick by which all laws and acts of state are judged. It applies to all organs of government – including Parliament, the Presidency, the police force, the army and the public service. This means any law that violates the Constitution, or any conduct that conflicts with it, can now be challenged and struck down by the courts – most notably the Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in the land when it comes to constitutional matters.Constitutional entrenchmentThe Constitution itself is protected, which means it is harder for the legislature to change it than is the case with ordinary legislation.Section 74(2) states that bills amending the Constitution require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly as well as a supporting vote of six of the nine provinces represented in the National Council of Provinces.However, a bill amending Section 1 of the Constitution, which sets out the founding values, requires a 75 percent majority.Constitutional rightsHuman rights occupy pride of place in the Constitution. The preamble refers to fundamental rights and the first section of Chapter 1 (Founding Provisions) says South Africa is founded on: “Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms”.Chapter 2 contains South Africa’s Bill of Rights. It is this part of the Constitution that has attracted the greatest interest – and has had the greatest impact on South Africans – in the past few years.The first words of the chapter introduce the Bill of Rights as a “cornerstone of democracy” that “enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom”.Among the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights are the right to life, equality, human dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, political rights and the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration. These are the usual “first generation” rights that are guaranteed in most democratic countries.However, a distinctive feature of our right to equality is that it includes a prohibition against unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation – making South Africa the first nation in the world to insert such a clause.Our Bill of Rights also contains socioeconomic rights, or “second generation” rights. They place a duty on the government to work to provide education, health services, water and housing.The last group of rights in the Bill of Rights – the “third generation” rights – often attract praise for our Constitution. They include the right to having the environment protected, the right of access to information and the right to just administrative action.Another special feature of our Bill of Rights – and one it shares with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – is the limitations clause, which allows competing and conflicting rights to be balanced. Section 36 of the Constitution (headed “Limitation of rights”), lays down a test that any limitation must meet. The two central concepts are reasonableness and proportionality: any restriction on a right must be reasonable and must be proportional in that the impact or extent of the restriction must match the importance of the aim served by the limitation of the right.The rights conferred by the Constitution have been the basis of a number of groundbreaking cases. For examples of South Africa’s recent human-rights jurisprudence, see the Constitutional Court website’s discussion of rights for women, children, workers and gays and lesbians. Institutions to support democracyA significant feature of our Constitution is that it sets up several independent bodies to support and safeguard democracy. These are often referred to as the “Chapter 9 institutions”, because they have their origins in that part of the Constitution. These are:The Auditor-GeneralThe Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic CommunitiesThe Commission on Gender EqualityThe Human Rights CommissionThe Independent Electoral Commission The Public ProtectorStructure and other contentsOther than a preamble at the beginning and seven schedules at the end, the Constitution is arranged into 14 chapters, namely:Chapter 1: Founding Provisions (sections 1-6)Chapter 2: Bill of Rights (sections 7-39)Chapter 3: Cooperative Government (sections 40-41)Chapter 4: Parliament (sections 42-82)Chapter 5: The President and National Executive (sections 83-102)Chapter 6: Provinces (sections 103-150)Chapter 7: Local Government (sections 151-164)Chapter 8: Courts and Administration of Justice (sections 165-180)Chapter 9: State Institutions Supporting Constitutional Democracy (sections 181-194)Chapter 10: Public Administration (sections 195-197)Chapter 11: Security Services (sections 198-210)Chapter 12: Traditional Leaders (sections 211-212)Chapter 13: Finance (sections 213-230A)Chapter 14: General Provisions (sections 231-243)Chapters 3 to 7 detail the country’s democratic system of government, one characteristic of which is the stress on interaction between the national, provincial and local levels through the mechanism of cooperative governance.Other important characteristics are those generally considered essential to democracy, such as the specification of the manner in which representatives are elected, limitations on terms of office, and the majorities required to pass legislation.The Constitution goes on to deal with the courts and administration of justice, public administration, security services (defence, police and intelligence), the role of traditional leaders and finance.The final chapter covers general provisions, including international agreements and international law. Among other things, the final chapter requires that all constitutional obligations “be performed diligently and without delay”.Coming late to democracy, South Africa was able to draw on the collective wisdom of the democratic countries of the world in creating its Constitution. Having come along a route of struggle and pain, the country took the process deeply to heart – and takes great pride in the result. Useful linksThe Constitutional CourtSouth African Government OnlineGovernment Communication and Information SystemThe Auditor-GeneralThe Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic CommunitiesThe Commission on Gender Equality The Human Rights CommissionThe Independent Electoral CommissionThe Public Protectorlast_img read more

Down the !Gariep River by kayak

first_imgRaising a bottle of champagne at Alexander Bay, the end of the journey. A tranquil moment on a clear day. Waterfalls had to be portaged, a major undertaking. A view down to the !Gariep, under a moody sky.(Images: Senqi2Sea)MEDIA CONTACTS • Sam Jack,  Plant Conservation Unit, Biological Sciences, UCT+27 (0) 21 650 2483Lucille DavieThe !Gariep River – which is also known as the Orange – is South Africa’s longest river, at over 2 000km, and it takes 61 days to paddle from source to sea. We know this because three men stepped out of their kayaks in mid-March after completing the trip.In what has been billed as the first eco-census of the !Gariep, the three – from the University of Cape Town (UCT) – James Puttick, Sam Jack and Ian Durbach, came back with some “pretty weird calluses”, but more importantly, with valuable data.The 2 125km river starts in the high mountains of Lesotho on the eastern side of the continent, where it is known as the Senqu. It creates the borders of several provinces, cutting through the centre of Northern Cape, and separating South Africa from Namibia before it empties into Alexander Bay on the Atlantic Ocean – on the western coast of southern Africa.Averaging 40km a day, after two months it was good to paddle on to the beach and smell the salty air of the Atlantic Ocean, say the three. “The last few kilometres were a lovely paddle through lifting mist and fog in the soft dawn light, with the smell and roar of the Atlantic growing slowly stronger,” they say on their blog, Senqu2Sea.“We must have arrived at the changing tide, because we were able to paddle right up to the river mouth, being washed ashore for the final time by small wavelets. A few local fishermen were already at their business nearby. As we hauled our boats ashore it didn’t feel as if anything was out of the ordinary.”The expedition, called Senqu2Sea, was supported by UCT’s Plant Conservation Unit, the Mazda Wildlife Vehicle Fund, and the National Research Foundation’s South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). Puttick and Jack are biologists, with masters’ degrees in botany and conservation biology, and Durbach is a statistician, with a doctorate in statistics.“My research has mainly focused on a specific species (the Aloe dichotoma or the quiver tree) in the arid south-western parts of southern Africa, but I have a broader interest in ecological systems,” says Jack.Puttick is busy with a PhD thesis focusing on an assessment of land cover change and its causes in Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal. He is also a skilled photographer. Durbach’s chief interests are in multi-criteria decision analysis and behavioural decision making. More recently, his focus has shifted to applied statistical problems in the fields of energy and ecology.On the trip, Puttick was responsible for the photographic component of the data collection and for recording the daily list of animal (mainly bird) sightings. Durbach was responsible for recording locality and descriptive information for a number of things, including weirs, bird sightings and water abstraction points, and helping with diatom sampling. Jack was responsible for diatom and isotope sampling, and recording of certain location information, such as 2km river photo intervals, fishing and mining activity and general navigation.Puttick returned with a vast collection of dramatic and beautiful photographs which document the river at 2km intervals and from various elevations along its banks, capturing the surrounding landscape, its geology and flora.Memories and mishapsWith virtually no paddling experience, the three have stepped out their boats with enough stories to last a long time – such as an unusual sighting. Late one night they were woken to thrashing sounds coming from the river. The light of their torches revealed the heads of dozens of large barbell, their mouths open above the water. “We’d seen this phenomenon at our camp below the Kum-Kum Falls, and had debated whether it might be some form of migration, perhaps to deeper water,” says Durbach on the UCT website.“However, the aggressive splashing and herding formation in the direction of the shallows suggested some kind of pack-hunting strategy. Indeed, closer inspection revealed numerous smaller fish hiding in the shallowest water between rocks and pebbles.”Other memorable experiences include paddling up to a herd of gemsbok swimming across the river, only their heads and horns visible. There were minor mishaps, especially when facing rapids with names like Sjambok, Rollercoaster and Rocky Horror. Despite this, they had only one disaster, when Jack’s and Puttick’s kayaks sustained tail damage in a weir. Luckily for them, a local manufacturer of plastic water tanks fixed their boats promptly.Samples takenIn all, 61 diatom (water algae) samples were collected every 40km along the river, 53 isotope or water samples were taken from the Senqu and !Gariep rivers, over 1 400 GPS locations of interest were charted, including places where water was extracted for irrigation, mining or human consumption. Ornithological data consisting of daily bird lists as well as more detailed locations of selected species like goliath heron, giant kingfisher and African fish eagle, were also recorded.The results of the diatom samples will only be available at the end of the year. These were taken for a SAEON project led by Dr Jonathan Taylor at North West University. Roger Diamond, who leads an oxygen isotope project in UCT’s department of geology, will study the water samples to get a picture of the different conditions in the tributaries during rainfall highs and lows.The photographic record of the river is important as a baseline for future researchers to return and reproduce the images, noting the changes over a specified period. As it is, the river is not in its original state as a seasonally dry river because the periodic dams along it have meant it flows all year round. Each photograph has a GPS position to provide a good visual baseline for assessing the impact of broader climatic changes as well as policy decisions on the management of the river on the surrounding vegetation.The data collected on bird sightings will be integrated with other existing ornithological data sources like the South African Bird Atlas Project. While parts of the !Gariep are quite densely populated and hence well represented in terms of bird sightings, the new data should prove particularly useful in improving the reliability of information in the relatively under-populated western portion of the river.Water quality changed significantly along the length of the river, the researchers noted, with extremely silted samples collected in parts of Lesotho after heavy rains suggesting unchecked erosion. Silted water also posed challenges for their drinking needs, and water took several hours to filter every day. “We had to plan camps so that they were positioned near side channels where we could get less silty water. Even when this was the case, we had to filter water on a daily basis for cooking and drinking,” explains Jack.ChallengesOther challenges were head winds, particularly on the dams they had to cross, where there was no current to push them along. Wind on dams also meant big waves which slowed down progress. They solved this by paddling close to shore where it was less windy, or waiting for calmer conditions.Portaging dam walls or waterfalls was hard work, they say, involving several trips to carry gear and food, then dragging the boats over rocks and down steep river banks. The heat, particularly below Augrabies Falls in Northern Cape, was “difficult to describe”. They “struggled to stay cool and had many sleep deprived nights because it was just too hot to relax!” The temperatures often went above 40°C.Navigation through the diffuse sections above and below the falls was sometimes slow and tricky. They learned patience and made full use of GPS technology. “It also made us appreciate the normal single channelled river when we finally made it through the tangle of reeds!”Plastic touring kayaks were used, which have ample storage capacity. This meant that the three could carry enough food for about a week to 10 days, allowing them to restock from towns that were closer to the river. “Our longest stretch without a proper resupply was probably the initial section from Qacha’s Nek to Aliwal North, which was about 10 days.”Alien vegetationThe team noted alien vegetation along a good deal of the river. The upper reaches of the Senqu are heavily invaded by silver wattle or Acacia dealbata, and black wattle or Acacia mearnsii. To a lesser degree, grey poplars or Populus spp have colonised the river banks in patches. Black poplars are also visible down the river, near to the !Gariep Dam. “These species are root succouring and extremely hard to eradicate.”After the !Gariep and Vaal river confluence in Northern Cape the team noted a dominance of Prosopis glandulosa (mesquite), and occasional blue gums, or Eucalyptus spp. “Prosopis remains dominant, to the same degree as Acacia dealbata (ie impenetrable thicket lining the riverbanks) for much of the middle and lower course of the river. It only drops out when conditions become hyper-arid in the Richtersveld [in the Northern Cape] and on the desert plains to the west.”Jack finds the aliens problematic. “As a botanist, I see the prevalence of alien species along the riverbank as an ugly scar of human short-sightedness and mismanagement. I wonder what the banks would have looked like before the alien species took hold.”But he cautions that the aliens do perform a valuable function to those living along the river. Cattle find shelter from storms or midday heat under the shade of the trees, and the pods provide fodder for them. The branches provide building material or firewood in areas that are usually barren of trees. “While I would rather the trees were not there, I think it is important to consider the benefits [they] provide,” he says.Quiet momentsAs for quiet moments on the trip, they took a day off every week or two, to catch up on data recording, updating their diaries, or planning for the following day. They would generally relax in the late afternoons after the day’s trip. A pot of coffee would be made, and the conversation would be about the day past. “There was very little serious conversation and most of the time we were joking about this or that.”Yet those days off were often their busiest times as they had to compose blog entries, sort photographs, mend or service equipment, and resupply. Charging of GPS equipment, mobile phones, cameras and laptops was done with the aid of a solar charger. This works by charging a battery, which stores energy, which can then be transferred to the devices. Power from the Eskom national grid was still required from time to time, and was used when they stayed at a campsite. There were few rest days when they would get to bed before midnight.“Southern Africa is full of adventurous potential, and friendly people, should you need some help with directions. We live in a corner of the world where you can get lost, and find yourself, just as easily. What’s more, it doesn’t need to involve a huge financial outlay, or a massive carbon footprint,” they say on their website.“So next time you’re in need of some rejuvenation, go beach camping up the West Coast, go walking in the Cape mountains, or go cycling on some quiet farm roads. There are rich memories out there to be made, and the stars will light your way (except in Alexander Bay)…”last_img read more

FCPX Tip: Cut Editing Time by Showing Only Unused Media

first_imgThis rarely used feature in FCPX will help significantly reduce your editing time on projects with heavy amounts of b-roll.Final Cut Pro X is an extremely fast editing system, especially for those willing to adapt to its unique structure and format. But there are many features within FCPX that even the most proficient users aren’t utilizing as often as they should be. One function in particular is FCPX’s ability to show only unused clips when browsing your media.On the events panel, you can filter the media that you’ve imported based on a variety of options, such as All Clips, Hide Rejected, Favorites, and so on. On that menu you’ll also find the Unused option, which of course only shows you media that hasn’t already been used in your project.This FCPX feature is very powerful, especially considering the fact that it allows you to not only filter full clips that haven’t been used, but even portions of clips. So for instance, if you have a ten minute clip and have only used the first two minutes of it in your edit, the remaining eight minutes of the clip will still show up when filtering the Unused media.Projects that deal with a lot of b-roll (documentaries, reality shows, etc.) can benefit greatly from this function, as it can save hours of time over the course of an edit. It’s not uncommon to spend more time digging through clips looking for the right shot, than actually editing the creative aspects of your project. This small yet powerful function in FCPX not only speeds up your process, but it also virtually eliminates the possibility of using a clip twice in your edit accidentally.The video below from Larry Jordan touches on this function in some detail, and also showcases some other similarly powerful functions:Got any cool FCPX tips you can share with the community? Let us know in the comments below!last_img read more