An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany would like to draw the attention of the Cape Town legal community to a public panel discussion on Monday, 24 January 2011 at 6.30 at 6, Spin Street (Idasa Building), Dakar-Room.
21 and 15 Years on: to what extent can Germans and South Africans enjoy their respective „living“ Constitutions?
The 1949 German Grundgesetz (Basic Law) which was amended after German unity in 1990 and the 1996 South African constitution both marked the onset of genuine democracy.
Henceforth, the executive, legislative and the legal arms of the state recognize the supremacy of the rule of law as embodied by the respective written constitutions. Nevertheless, a constitution is not a „dead body“ but lives through its daily implementation and the interpretation provided by the Constitional Court. Individual citizens and the public in general view a constitution as a protection of basic rights and expect legislation and executive decisions alike to take into account their actual situation in society.
The panelists will discuss whether the constitutional practice in both countries is living up to this challenge, bringing the constitution in line with current developments and problems in society as a whole.
Justice (ret.) Pius Langa, former President of the South African Constitutional Court
Roelf Meyer, former Minister of Constitutional Affairs (1992 to 1996) and chief negotiator at Kempton Park
Professor Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former Federal Minister of Justice and Member of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament), honorary professor at the Free University of Berlin
Professor em. Hans-Peter Schneider, founding director of the German Institute of Research in Federalism, Hannover, and member of the Constitutional Court of several German Federal States (Bundesländer).
Moderator: Jaco Barnard-Naudé, associate professor, University of Cape Town
Following the discussion refreshments will be served.
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