EDITORIAL NOTE: INVENTING DEMOCRACY
Although South Africa has the best Constitution in the world on paper, it is one one-party state riddled with corruption. It was years ahead of the US as it recognized the rights of gays, homosexuals, yet there is no open gay leader in the ruling African National Congress.
As the Vietnamese (overseas and inside Vietnam) are preparing for the demise of communism and the dawn of NEW DEMOCRACY in Vietnam, Bill Keller has suggested the following rules. Especially, the Viet Kieu have to share a common sense of purpose and responsibility.
1. Take your time, talk to everyone and don't be proud to borrow
It took South Africa five long years to draft its Constitution.
2. Peace before justice
In 1975, the communists shove all southern officials and ARVN soldiers to their gulags with appalling results. Many southerners ended up spending a quarter of a century in jails and southerners' properties were looted and confiscated. The result is the constant division of northerners and southerners, which has a profound impact of Vietnamese society and culture.
3. Activist judges are not so bad
It (South Africa's Constitution) prohibits discrimination based not only on race and gender, but also on “sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth” up to a point.
4. Make citizens
The curse of many transitional states is that they have no cohesive sense of nationhood, no common sense of purpose or responsibility. A generation past liberation, South Africa has had inspiring moments of unity, but it still has not fully coalesced.
Mamphela Ramphele, a wise and nonpartisan anti-apartheid activist and academic, attributes this in part to the sense of impotence that infected South Africans — and not just blacks — under the bleak tyranny of apartheid. And it is partly due, she says, to the cynicism generated by pervasive corruption under the African National Congress government.
Freedom, she would advise the founders of new democracies, has to be won over and over.
“South Africans liberated themselves,” she told me, “and now they must do it again.”