Towards the end, during the closing statements, I thought that it had been remiss of me not to count how many times Cyril Ramaphosa had said that we should not be afraid; that we should not fear. Should the constitution then later be ravaged by the ANC, I could refer back to this post and write a new one about how Comrade Breakthrough was sent to the launch of One Law, One Nation: The Making of the South African Constitution at the Constitutional Court last week to make reassuring noises while his comrades looted the Bill of Rights. It was a negative moment, true, in an evening that was otherwise quite pleasant.
I like Cyril. Sometimes I think that he may be a good president… one day. But there is something indecipherable about him and even as one is drawn to his easy and reasonable charm, he remains inaccessible, and it is impossible to know if the words from his mouth are just words. I only met him once. A few years ago I interviewed him for a Nelson Mandela obit doccie (that happily remains in the SABC archives for now) and he said a very strange thing to me while the crew was setting up and I was making preliminary conversation: something to the effect of “from under which rock have you crawled?” It was a disconcerting moment, and I cannot remember how I responded but although the words were nasty, there was nothing in his demeanour but curiosity and humour. I think this describes it.
Anyway. I realise that, as the chairman of the Constitutional Assembly he was not sent to the event by the ANC. He is, after all, on the cover of the book. The photograph captures the striking moment in which he, standing next to Madiba at the signing of the constitution on 10 December 1996, holds the bound document aloft. They are both smiling; his eyes are crinkling. The only words on the first page are also his.
I lifted the constitution into the air in the heat of the moment. I hadn’t planned it. I had to do it to show the people that this is it. This is the document that they had struggled for, died for and wept for. This document binds us all together to a common destiny, a common future and a joint aspiration of what this country should be.
Amen. Or, actually, ahem. Only time will tell, but contrary to Cyril’s crooning reassurance, I think some fear may be called for.