In light of the recent racist remark uttered by the president of the United States, I think we deserve to grab a leaf from that country’s book of braggadocio and rah-rah, reverse our humble postures and declare ourselves the greatest country on the face of the planet. To help our indulgence, here are a few, rather random reasons why an African country such as ours is not a s***hole and does not need to make itself great again.
Our anthem is considered the best in the world
The South African national anthem came up tops in a straw poll on The Economist:
Taken from a protest hymn, the lyrics combine Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho [sic] in an act of musical healing for the Rainbow nation.
Among a few other symbolic honours, for a relatively small country (population: 55 million), it’s impressive that its capital, Pretoria, has the second highest number of foreign embassies and commissions in the world, after the United States. Incidentally, our nurses are in high demand, particularly in the UK. And going more broadly, Africa has the fast-growing middle class in the world. Furthermore, it is the home of humanity and contributed in no small way to the success of Europe. I feel like scrambled eggs all of a sudden…
We have impeccable progressive bona fides
We were among the first countries to legalise gay marriage* and even though 80% of South Africans are religious, abortions were made legal not long after the advent of democracy. We have a large social safety net (some would argue it’s too large) and unqualified the right to life (the section in the constitution responsible for this is one of two consisting of only one line, and it has six words). We owe these liberal stances to our incredible constitution.
Our constitution is a beneficiary of modern times
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an associate justice serving in the Supreme Court of the United States, said if she were to draft a constitution today, she would look toward the South African constitution, mainly because it’s a post-World War II document that spells out the rights of citizens and good checks and balances. She said:
“That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights [and] had an independent judiciary. It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.
While both constitutions are amply infused with moral justice, one of them had to be amended several times to get on par with the social and cultural zeitgeist of today. In an egregious example of the negative impacts of the US constitution’s age, the 13th Amendment prohibits involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime, the reason being in the private prisons game is so profitable. And let’s not even talk about the Electoral College that defeated the will of the American people in electing their president not once but twice.
We don’t have popular election of judges
Speaking of elections, for the life of me I cannot understand why judges being elected by the ballot is a good idea. If the arbiters of justice are subject to the same popular influences as politicians are, would it not be an inescapable conclusion that their rulings would be affected by those forces and not the constitution or the law? Going back to The Economist, which is no left-leaning paper, it cites a study proving just that:
A study of rulings in 276,000 cases in Washington state by Carlos Berdejo of Loyola Law School and Noam Yuchtman of the University of California, Berkeley found that judges gave criminals sentences that were 10% longer when they were about to face re-election. Another study by the left-leaning Centre for American Progress found that races that cost over $3m led to more rulings favouring the prosecution.
On this side of the Atlantic, the framers of the constitution of South Africa came up with an ingenious mechanism to fill the Bench: the Judicial Service Commission. More specifically, the genius lies in how this body is comprised, which is described in section 174 of the constitution. It consists, in various proportions, of academics, current judges, members of political parties represented in Parliament and members of the national executive. This composition ensures that there is widespread agreement across the government on the nominees to be presented to the president for appointment.
Whereas in the US, the president’s administration directly appoints federal judges, in South Africa, the president is given a choice of three more than the number of judges to be appointed to choose from. Not only that, as I said, some members of this cabinet serve on the commission.
This is all not to say that South Africa or Africa in general does not have its issues. We certainly do. But these lands hold so much promise the biggest countries in the world, including China and Russia**, are looking for investment opportunities here. The international community often looks to us for moral inspiration. We are giants on the cusp of roaring and the whole world, besides Donald Trump, knows it.
*As in civil unions.
**Might not be a good thing.