Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

A letter to my Valentine


Weren’t expecting that one, were you? I’m the anti-love, anti-relationship cynic, right? Well, not quite. So here goes:

Dear Valentine,

To be honest, I wouldn’t say you’re the love of my life. I’ve known you were there, and I’ve known, theoretically, that you meant something to me. When others said you were gay or misguided, or to blame for our problems, I thought they were being a bit unfair.

Then I got to know a bit more about you. How good you are with children. How you care about the environment, and how firmly you support freedom of speech, even when the insults are aimed at you. I love what you stand for. You believe in the dignity and equality of all, and that no individual has rights that supersede those of somebody else just because of religion, or gender, or race, that nobody is more equal than anyone else. I admire your outlook: you’re forward-thinking and you understand that in a diverse society, there must be compromise and flexibility if we’re to get along. There’s a lot I can learn from you.

You’re not perfect. How could you be, when you have to satisfy so many competing demands, some of which are mutually exclusive? I don’t know how you do it – I couldn’t. Overall, you’ve done a pretty good job of being even-handed, I think. I don’t like everything about you, but the funny thing is that often it’s easier to love things that are just a little bit flawed than things that are perfect.

So, yes, I admire you. I’m familiar with your good points. But admiration or pride is not enough. I love you too. I love your values – truth, freedom, dignity, equality. I love your essential goodness and what it symbolises. Oh yes, and I love the fact that you’re better than the Americans – better, probably than any other nationality. I loved it when US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the South African Constitution would make a better model for Egypt than the American one. (Boy, did that get Fox News’s knickers in a knot.)

So I love you, my Valentine, because you’re the document that is the bedrock of our democracy. You’re the set of principles that guarantees my right to love who I choose, an alien concept to many countries around the globe and, increasingly, in Africa. We might not realise it, but you are what makes us who we are. We may all support the Springboks when they play the All Blacks, especially when Bryce Lawrence is involved, but in truth it is our Constitution, especially the preamble and the Bill of Rights, that defines us as South Africans. In it we are reminded of our shared future and our intermingled destinies.

I wish we were better at living up to the standards you set for us, but that doesn’t mean these standards should be lowered or denigrated. You represent us at our best, and I wish more people would see that instead of carping on about their own petty disagreements with you.

I love our Constitution because you are our conscience and our reminder of the kind of society we can and should be, and I will never forget that.


PS I think it would be a very good idea for a lot more South Africans to tell the world why they love our Constitution. A million of us, in fact. Go to to find out more, write a message on our Facebook wall, tweet with #loveourconstitution, participate on MXit or SMS your name and message to 078 949 3735. Better than overpriced red roses any day.

we the people

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    • Graham Johnson

      Oh Sarah, fooled by looks alone. The South African constitution is like a Heath-Robinson machine, it looks fantatstic on paper but it is largely untested and, in fact, doesn’t work in many places.

      I mean ‘fair discrimination’ for example, this is the the heart of the institutionlised racism called BEE, or worse, BBBEE. Wasn’t it the ANC who screamed that THERE WAS NO SUCH THING as fair discrimination before it forced that idiotic phrase (or its equivalent) into the text.

      And the fact that the government makes up the laws that apply to itself as it goes along. The SAPS and SARS ignore any laws that don’t suit them, why do you think Zuma’s knickers are in a knot all the time? The constitution is just a scrap of paper that has wonderful intent, it just fails in reality.

      It needs much more work before we can be proud ot it.

    • Donald Paul

      Dear Sarah,
      Yes. I’ll be your Valentine.
      SA Constitution

    • benzo

      It is nice to hear that you are still romantically inclined.

      Before you get too involved with your new Valentine, check your “7 reasons to never have sex again, ever”. You might find some very close similarities for not having the consumation of your love.

      Specially in times when you Valentine is under severe physical pressure to loose its morality.

      Keep well

    • kram

      oops benzo, you’ll be incurring the wrath of Sarah with your spelling of lose!

    • Philip Cole

      A good article, Sarah. I understand your rationale, but I disagree with you when you say that we should love the values of the constitution.

      Most states have a constitution which provides an independent set of principles for the content of all laws. A constitution is a legal document, but to determine peoples’ values is asking it to do far more than its job. In a democracy, laws govern the actions of people in the nation, but thankfully not their values.

      Values are deeply personal and differ greatly throughout the nation, given the very different beliefs, religions and political affiliations that are held. This is reflected in the national motto, !ke e: /xarra //ke, or ‘unity in diversity’. Unity comes out of a shared recognition and respect for the different values that we hold.

      You seem to expect that we should bring our values in line with the Constitution. The direction is the wrong way round! Any government that expects people to change their values to reflect the law has a strong authoritarian streak, rather than undertaking to lead by example. This is a very different world to ‘unity in diversity’!

      There are many states that had wonderfully worded constitutions that then proceeded to oppress their people, including both the Soviet Union and the apartheid state. Constitutions are great but they are less important than a strong base of popular democracy that always holds the state to account. Power always comes from the people, not the state!

    • Guinnessholic


      The New (unimproved) South African Constitution is jam packed with major flaws, the biggest being that your ministers are appointed by the ruling party, and NO ONE is answerable to the people. I know the office numbers of my Congressman and Senator and if I believe they are not doing their jobs properly, I can call them at any given time and make my voice literally heard. The same with my State Senator. Who do you call?

      It should also be well noted that the architects of your Constitution were the dreaded Nats. They inked every word only receiving tacit nodding-dog approval from Ramaphosa and Mandela who were still grappling with the fact that they were about to rule the country. Their only contribution to the Constitution was at the Fourth Constitutional Workshop where they both INSISTED that the Constitution could be adapted with a 2/3rds majority by the ruling party. Of this point they could not be swayed. And why was that, you may ask (or at least should ask)? Could it perhaps be because they had little respect for it in the first place? That they believed with time the ruling party may be required by the people to make some drastic alterations to the way the country is being governed? A belief that one day the rule of law may be a hindrance to their ultimate goals? Or all of the above?

      Ginsburg believes America should be ruled from the bench. It is no small wonder she admires your Constitution.

    • Andrew

      Hi Sarah. We can extend your metaphor. We love you SA constitution, even though despite your progressive qualities, you are a limp wristed hippy who is powerless when it comes to putting your ideals into practice. And we would prefer not to have sex with you, because it seems you have been F&%@ed by almost every politician in SA.

    • benzo

      @Kram: my sincere apologies to all for slippng in another “o”.
      That’s what looove sometimes does as one gets older :-))

    • Richard

      Guesaholic, you guys are still bickering over whether the gun-rights part of your constitution applies. Good thing they didn’t say “everyone should test their horse weekly” or everyone would still have a horse.

    • Abdi A. Jama

      I think you are doing fairly well in South Africa as far as personal freedoms. But is wont to happen in many third world places especially in Africa, the few powerful few will their best overwhelm your liberties despite your fantastic constitution.


    • MLH

      @Guinnessholic: “That they believed with time the ruling party may be required by the people to make some drastic alterations to the way the country is being governed?”

      I think you misworded this. There is little sign that the people require drastic alterations…there are huge signs that the ruling party does.

    • Percipient

      How drab, how absolutely boring, how distastefully politically-correct you are Missie Sarah… I would get bored of you so quick. I expected something a little bit more interesting from you for this very special day. You and Karl Marx would’ve gotten along just fine. Blah. Well, world, go meet my Missie Valentine but I ain’t seen her since circa-1969… when we were each ten years old… my Darling Linda. Old junior school pic. Epiphanic.

      Thats her, tallish girl, grey-blue eyed, with young mare fluttering eyelids, coy but not prude, totally innocent and just too damn gorgeous for words, slightly to the right behind teacher. And that’s me, top row, fourth from left. The lout. My gang will get you. Happy Valentine’s!

    • Graham Johnson

      Our constitution is destroying our primary, secondary and tertiary education by subsiising one group, bussing them to other areas and forcing another group to pay full fees. Then putting priapic teenage boys into classes of pre-pubescent girls and expecting mothers to remain unworried.

      Then forcing merit onto a back page as ‘fair discrimination’ puts uneducated and unqualified cadres and malcontents into positions of authority and watches as central, regional and local government goes into administartion.

      No, our constitutionis is a heap of excrement. Until it makes equality the base, then it is a creeping cancer on our society.

    • Robin Palmer

      Dear Sarah
      Clever and timely piece of work- your blogs are of article standard: well thought -out, insightful and provacative.

    • http://M&G Bluntpiro — Nelspruit

      In 1994, we all (most) believed that we would be receiving back a world of equality, when we voted. However, all “they” did was to create reverse-apartheid and to further inequality, albeit this time around, by an overwhelming majority over minorities, which is as despicable, if not more so. The constitution is constantly being raped by fat-cats to suit and embellish personal gain and power and not to protect the rights of the people it was designed for, and to protect them from evil.

    • Graham Johnson


      I so agree. The moment our constitution started included qualifying adjectives it became a letter, a note to the populace, a ‘nice’ set of ideals that anyone could interpret for themselves.

      I am tired of my children and I being raped by this constitution in the name of people like Juju.

    • OneFlew

      I think the sentiments are fine.

      My concern would be that it’s another attempt to milk the events of 1994 to boost national pride.

      I would have thought it would be better to find something a little more up to date and ideally a little less abstract.