South Africans must debate possible changes to the Constitution as it is not perfect — but it must not be changed for narrow political interests, ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa said on Wednesday.
"We should not, however, shy away from debates as it pertains to the validity and solidity of the Constitution," Phosa told the National Wool Growers' Association of SA in Port Elizabeth.
"It was drafted by humans, and it is human to err," he said.
Phosa pointed out that the Constitution had been amended many times where it was "lacking in clarity, scope or detail".
"The point of departure is a simple one: do not tamper with the Constitution unless it is absolutely necessary, and do not do so for narrow or political interests."
Phosa said debates were raging about the Constitution and the judiciary, the media, freedom of artistic expression, secrecy, and various other social and legal issues.
"I will defend the right to have these debates as it deepens our constitutional freedom, as well as protecting the robustness and transparency of public discourse."
But he warned that focusing on these debates could take the focus off the really important issues facing South Africa.
"Robust and tough public debates are good and necessary, but we have a country to govern, and some of these debates contribute little to service delivery, social cohesion and a practical vision of how we want to define our future.
"Personally, I would want to see more debates about the further improvement of our education and health services, better delivery at local level, and practical implementation of the Mandela vision for nation-building."