Aida 203 Con
THEY say you can't have enough of a good thing. Something the ANC seems seriously to have taken to heart. Next month marks "Constitution Week," slotted in between St Patrick's Day and Sharpeville Day (renamed Human Rights Day). To mark the occasion the government plans to unleash on its unsuspecting citizens about 1 200 tons of paper in the shape of 7 million copies of the SA Constitution, in all eleven official languages.
What a delight for SAPPI, the printing industry, whatever services are inspanned to speed the popular publication to its 7 million eager readers: and, of course, the waste paper industry. On March 17 some 4 million high school children will carry these wordy treasures home. In post offices everywhere another 2 million copies of the constitution in eleven distinct piles will join the dusty heaps of telephone directories already clogging the public's queuing space.
A further half million will be handed to the police and army for distribution among the guardians of the state and public order, with strict orders that they are not to be read on duty, enticing as that prospect may be. Unfortunately, they will have to share their portion with jailers and "all prisoners," for whom reading will no doubt be compulsory. In that case, we can expect widespread prisoner protest as they study the human rights provisions.
The last half million will go to "various local government structures, NGO's and members of Parliament." Prolific though the latter are, it is not expected that they will relieve the government of more than a couple of hundred thousand.
For those unlucky enough to be handed a copy in a language which is neither transparent nor accessible (Xitsonga or Sesotho sa Leboa possibly) each copy will be accompanied by an "illustrated guide" which will "make many of the legal concepts contained in it accessible to lay people" - thus rendering our armies of constitutional lawyers unemployable.
Lest this monumental metamorphosis of indigestible legalese into reading for the illiterate masses be considered too soberly instructive for such a festive occasion as Constitution Week, the government has ordered and will deliver "one million copies of a human rights comic" to enliven the lives of students. Teachers will not be left out. They will receive teaching aids to the Constitution. Even the "visually impaired" will not be spared. They will be supplied with tape aids and a ton or two of Constitution in Braille.
Thus will the Constitution be "delivered" by the myriads of paid public representatives (from all ten parliaments) already back in their constituencies to act as midwives in the manifold delivery. All we can say is that the delivery can't be worse than the conception. Or can it?
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