Quote of the week

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.

Plasket AJ
Victoria Park Ratepayers' Association v Greyvenouw CC and others (511/03) [2003] ZAECHC 19 (11 April 2003)
24 April 2007

African Court still not up and running

The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights is far from being a reality, Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe said on Tuesday. According to iafrica website the Court will only be up and running towards the end of the year:

“The court only exists on paper,” said Ngoepe, who is one of the 11 judges from all over Africa sworn in July last year to serve on the court. “There are no premises, no staff, nothing. We had to start from scratch with the budget, which is time consuming,” he said at an Institute of Security Studies seminar in Pretoria.

The interesting question is what is going to happen once the Court starts hearing cases and begins to enforce the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. What happens if that court, for example, hears a case from Doctors for Life about South Africa’s abortion law or the same-sex marriage law?

In the same-sex marriage case the Court said that it would be a perversion of justice if International law is used to limit the rights of South Africans, so this should mean the African Court should not be able to take away existing rights. But a decision of that court could give political impetus to reactionary forces in South Africa and could reopened discussions about controversial matters.

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