Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
14 April 2010

Call for papers: Ten years after Grootboom

GOVERNMENT OF THE RSA V GROOTBOOM: A TEN YEAR RETROSPECTIVE

The VerLoren van Themaat Centre for Public Law Studies at UNISA has been presenting a series of retrospectives on key developments in South African constitutional law since 2005. The first retrospective took the form of a two day seminar on S v Makwanyane and its legacy. Some of the seminar papers were subsequently published in the accredited journal of the Centre, SA Publiekreg/Public Law (see (2005) 20 SAPR/PL). The 2006 retrospective interrogated the jurisprudence of Azapo v President of RSA. The retrospective resulted in the publication of a collection of essays (Le Roux & Van Marle (eds) Law, memory and the legacy of apartheid (2007) Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) Pretoria). More recently, the 2009 retrospective was dedicated to the constitutional jurisprudence of Albie Sachs (1995-2009). Selected papers from the retrospective will appear shortly in Southern African Public Law (formerly SA Publiekreg/Public law).

We are in the process of conceptualising and planning another retrospective in the series for 2010. The planned retrospective will focus on the judgment of the Constitutional Court in Government of the Republic of South Africa v Grootboom (CCT11/00) [2000] ZACC 19; 2001 (1) SA 46; 2000 (11) BCLR 1169; (4 October 2000). Ten years after it was delivered, the judgment remains the classical statement of the South African Constitutional Court’s approach to the judicial enforcement of socio-economic rights. During the preceding decade, the judgment has attracted wide-spread attention from academics. Some academics have stressed the importance of greater judicial activism in the formulation of the state’s core obligations in socio-economic rights cases (beyond the procedural standard of good governance), while others have interrogated the importance of greater judicial activism in the enforcement of these obligations (given that Irene Grootboom died during 2008 still homeless and penniless). These academic debates are informed by deep-seated assumptions about the separation of powers and the transformative role of courts in society. The Court itself had the opportunity to revisit its Grootboom judgment on a number of occasions and to respond to these concerns.
The result is a rich body of jurisprudence that deserves a critical retrospective, as we enter the second decade after Grootboom in the context of growing discontent about service delivery, socio-economic transformation and the future of social democracy in post-apartheid SouthAfrica.

Persons who are interested to participate in such a retrospective are invited to submit 500 word abstracts to Wessel le Roux at lrouxwb@unisa.ac.za or Amanda Pieterse-Spies at spiesa@unisa.ac.za on or before 18 June 2010. We will do our best to accommodate most of these papers during a two-day seminar on 7 and 8 October 2010 in Pretoria. Selected papers will thereafter be peer reviewed and published in a special volume of the accredited journal Southern African Public Law.

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