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)
13 December 2006

Media neglect Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is the highest body of the third branch of government, but one would be hard-pressed to know this if one read some of our newspapers. The papers who obsessively report on the various government ministers, their trips abroad and their every irrelevant cliched utterance, seem to be a bit allergic to the work of the Court.

Yesterday the CC handed down judgment in an important case about refugee rights. The Business Day does report on this case but I find no mention of it in either Die Burger or the Cape Times. Maybe the less parochial papers in Johannesburg carried it?

Perhaps because the work done by the court is less sensational and not prone to the master narratives of corruption and incompetence associated with the legislature or executive, papers do not report on the work of the Court properly. It won’t sell newspapers. But how can we make informed choices about politics if we do not know what the third branch of government is doing?

I will blog tomorrow on my take of the latest decision.

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