The Constitution means 'the chance to always begin again'

The Constitution means to me: history, hope, and the chance to always begin again.

I worked for the Head of Administration at the Independent Electoral Commission in 1994.

I remember the day the first copies of the Constitution came from the government printers and were distributed to the Legal Directorate at the IEC.

We could help ourselves to copies and I remember taking a copy to my desk and pouring over the words, not reading them, just tracing them with my fingertips, feeling them in my hands because they were living evidence of everything that was about to change.

Those words on the paper were like dancers in firelight, ancient memories, whispers from our ancestors – making us listen, telling us to remember.

I used to take copies with me when I did voter education. So many people now don’t realise that a lot of South Africans didn’t actually know how to vote – what it meant, or how to take part.

This was brand new democracy. A democracy being born in every way. We had posters with pictures of what to do at the voting booth that we’d put together in little packs with information leaflets and booklets.

And I took a whole stack of copies of the Constitution with me to give out with the packs.

I’d tell people “this is the Constitution, this is the highest law in the land, this is proof for you” and they would take it and look and I could tell, just like me, that they knew everything had changed now and their ancestors were talking to them across time, telling them to remember, cautioning them to never forget.

That’s what my Constitution means to me: history, hope, and the chance to always begin again.

  • Toni Jones

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