Quote of the week

This is a book of desire denied, of what the pain of that impotence drives people to do, and how it makes them unwilling contortionists and even co-conspirators in their oppression. From ‘The Transformation of Harry’: “And there we all were; in an uncertain country, ourselves uncertain. A land with a sly heart; and ourselves ready to be deceived.” For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening. First published in 1978, The House of Hunger speaks, or rather shouts, forward from its own time to 2017. Perhaps the most painful parts of the book to read are those that show how little has changed in thirty-nine years. For if colonialism was any one thing it was denial: denial of land, denial of African culture, denial of any form of psychic nourishment—including hope—denial of black existence itself. And neocolonialism is the denial that any of that is still happening.

Efemia Chela
On The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera
14 May 2007

Constitutional Court judges do argue

In response to the “male rape” judgment by the Constitutional Court, a reader asks:

Excuse my ignorance, but do these judges each come up with a ruling (like in a game of rock, paper, scissors) or do they discuss the ruling? What I want to understand is whether Justice Langa could or did try to convince the majority of his point of view?

The short answer is no. A longer answer would be that the eleven judges first read all the documents submitted to them, then listen to the advocates making their arguments on behalf of their clients while they also grill those advocates on any conceivable aspect of the case. Then the judges retire to a beautiful room where they all sit around a big round table (it looks a bit like a huge tree stump) to discuss the case.

I think there is a vote at first to see who supports what position. They will then argue their positions and at some point the Chief Justice will appoint one of the judges who supports the majority view to write the majority opinion for the Court. The judge will then write a draft judgment (with some help of his or her clerks) and this will be circulated to the other judges. They might make suggestions for things to add or to take out. Some judges will say, well, I will support your opinion if you add this or take that out.

In the end all the judges who agree with the majority judgment signs on to it but it is published under the name of the main author.

Judges who do not support the majority judgment or want to add their two cents worth can write their own judgment. In the death penalty case – the first heard by the Constitutional Court – all eleven judges wrote their own judgment but that has never happened again. (And law students are rather grateful for that.) Usually Justice Albie Sachs writes his own judgment, whether he is supporting the majority or the minority – he really likes to write judgments. . .

In any case, the judges have plenty of time to argue with one another and to try and convince the other judges of their opinion. The previous Chief Justice, Arthur Chaskalson, appeared to have been particularly good to get others to agree with him. Chief Justice Langa does not seem to hold the same sway. But whoever talked a hole in the head of those judges who signed on to the male rape majority opinion should really be kept in check. And the judges who signed on to that judgment should really feel a bit embarrassed.

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