Protests: “The prerogative of we, the people”

by Iswamo Kapalu

“Illegal protest.” This is how the state has chosen to describe the call for mass-mobilization invited into our fragile society by the recklessness of our head of state. There have been threats that these “illegal” protests will be met with a show of force by the police. One mayor went as far as equating the rights to protest and organise behind any political cause with “treason.” But in the shade of Orwellian irony sits a truth, rested and ready for its moment in the sun.

That truth is the very first that our Constitution tells. The preamble, written to tell the world and all posterity the reason we adopted the Constitution, begins with the words “We the people.” In these words and the ones that follow the source of all power in the land confesses knowledge of a greater power: the will of the governed.

These words stand guard at the gate of all authority; ever-vigilant. Reminding all who dare ascend power’s greatest heights that the will of the people is the wind at their backs. And when that wind turns, they are powerless to resist it.

This power does not rest when the last vote is cast and counted. Instead it lives, breathing life into every exercise of authority, giving meaning to all titles and content to all responsibilities. Absent of the will of the people, there is no legitimate mandate.

Whatever happens tomorrow, this is a truth that every official will do well to remember. But more importantly, it’s a truth that the people must remember.

We must carry our collective sovereignty with confidence in the face of all threats, violence and insults. Because that is the prerogative of we, the people.

Mr Iswamo Kapalu

Iswamo Kapalu is a young South African of Zambian origin. He holds an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and currently works as a researcher, writer and social justice advocate at the Jesuit Institute.
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