Quote of the week

Universal adult suffrage on a common voters roll is one of the foundational values of our entire constitutional order. The achievement of the franchise has historically been important both for the acquisition of the rights of full and effective citizenship by all South Africans regardless of race, and for the accomplishment of an all-embracing nationhood. The universality of the franchise is important not only for nationhood and democracy. The vote of each and every citizen is a badge of dignity and of personhood. Quite literally, it says that everybody counts. In a country of great disparities of wealth and power it declares that whoever we are, whether rich or poor, exalted or disgraced, we all belong to the same democratic South African nation; that our destinies are intertwined in a single interactive polity.

Justice Albie Sachs
August and Another v Electoral Commission and Others (CCT8/99) [1999] ZACC 3
14 August 2023

On the pardon power of the President

The mercy power also triggers philosophical reflection. Any discussion of the mercy power must rest on the fundamental tension between a conception of clemency as a rarely used “act of grace” within the sole discretion of an executive, or a routine, rule-bound process, publicly transparent and amenable to judicial review. Max Weber’s distinction between legitimate charismatic authority and bureaucracy may be relevant here: is a grant of clemency a form of charisma, an other-worldly power outside the
rational world of legal rules, or a routine administrative decision that is repetitive, subject to explicit criteria, and consistent?

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