October 18, 2008
South Africa - Constitution & Judiciary
The South Africa Constitution is deemed by many to be one of the most progressive - - - if not the most progressive - - - in the world. However, recent developments threaten the independence of the judiciary and its power.
Judge Carole Lewis, one of South Africa's most respected jurists, discusses the threats to the judiciary by proposed legislation, concluding that:
The threats embodied in the Bills are now given crass voice by politicians who believe they are entitled to tell the courts how to behave and what to decide. Of course considered criticism of decisions is justifiable and indeed often welcome. Legal academics and commentators play a valuable role in constructive criticism of judgments after their delivery. But ill-informed and strident complaints serve no one well. The combination of the incursions into judicial independence by the proposed legislation, and the attacks on members of the judiciary of late threatens our democracy itself.
In addition to discussing these proposals in the context of specific Constitutional provisions, Lewis also discusses the proposal to expand the powers of the South African Constitutional Court beyond constitutional matters, making it a single "apex" court for the nation. Also helpful for those less familiar with South African constitutional law and courts, the first portion of her piece outlines the history and composition of the post-apartheid judiciary.
Originally delivered as a speech in Johannesburg on 14 October, the text is available here.
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