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.
This is an invitation to all readers of this Blog. Why not get involved in the debate about who should be appointed to the four vacancies on our Constitutional Court? I therefore invite readers to get involved in the debate by proposing their “dream candidates” for our highest court.
In several judgments – including the Doctors for Life case and the Matatiele case – the Constitutional Court has emphasised the important role that participatory democracy plays in our constitutional order. The problem is that many South Africans are world champions at complaining but far less enthusiastic about actually participating in debates or getting involved in actions to help build a more fair and just society that works for all.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) opened nominations on Monday for four judges to fill vacancies in the Constitutional Court. Until 15 July, the commission will accept the names of candidates, and it will begin its interview process in Johannesburg on 5 September.
So here is the deal.
All the clever, compassionate, obstinate, know-it-all or just plain experienced people out there must surely know lawyers, judges and academics who they think can serve with distinction on our highest court. So you are all invited to “nominate” your dream candidate (or candidates) on this Blog. Write a short motivation (no more than 350 words) on why you think a particular person will make a good Constitutional Court judge and post it in the comments section of this post (or later posts I will put up). To encourage practicing lawyers to participate, you are allowed to write under a pseudonym.
Readers are free to debate these “nominations” by either stating agreement or disagreement with a nomination.
I will read all the motivations and other contributions and on 13 July I will announce the winner of our own Constitutionally Speaking competition. The winner will be the person who wrote the best motivation – regardless of whether I agree with the candidature of the person “nominated” or not. If you write a brilliant motivation in support of Judge President John Hlophe, say, you will be adjuged the winner. I cannot offer a prize, but if you find yourself in Cape Town I would be more than happy to buy you dinner.
At the end of the process I will put forward my own own list of “dream candidates” – for what it is worth.
Let us debate and argue and engage! It is OUR democracy and we should get involved. If we do not, why would anyone need to take us seriously when we complain (as we surely will!).
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