Quote of the week

Excluding refugees from the right to work as private security providers simply because they are refugees will inevitably foster a climate of xenophobia which will be harmful to refugees and inconsistent with the overall vision of our Constitution. As a group that is by definition vulnerable, the impact of discrimination of this sort can be damaging in a significant way. In reaching this conclusion it is important to bear in mind that it is not only the social stigma which may result from such discrimination, but also the material impact that it may have on refugees.

Mokgoro J and O’Regan J (dissenting)
Union of Refugee Women and Others v Director, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority and Others (CCT 39/06) [2006] ZACC 23
31 July 2008

Sandile Ngcobo Chief Justice?

The first thing that strikes me about the Constitutional Court judgment in the main Zuma application is that it was not unanimous. Justice Sandile Ngcobo dissented and would have found in favour of Zuma and Thint. Given the extraordinary political implications of the judgment, it is fair to assume that the Chief Justice would have tried very hard to get consensus among the judges to deliver a unanimous verdict.

The fact that Justice Ngcobo dissented will thus raise eyebrows among Constitutional Court watchers. In the year before the current Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice were appointed, many of us noticed that Justice Ngcobo suddenly wrote an extraordinary number of opinions, either dissenting from the majority or concurring with it in a separate judgment. Some interpreted this zeal as a sign that Justice Ngcobo had ambitions to become Chief Justice and was trying to show his mettle.

The fact that he has dissented in this case may create the impression that he is trying to position himself as an alternative candidate to Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for the post of Chief Justice when Pius Langa retires next year.

This perception may well be unfair. He might just have a view that the rights of individuals should weigh far heavier than the interest of the state and of society in fighting crime. After all, he wrote the dissenting opinion in the Prince case and argued there that the state had not justified the law that failed to make an exception for Rastafarians to posses and use dagga.

Nevertheless, a dissenting opinion in such a high profile case that went against the man who might well appoint the next Chief Justice, will not go unnoticed.

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