Is government in pursuit of justice or of acquiescence? - Times LIVE
   
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Is government in pursuit of justice or of acquiescence?

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-03-27 01:05:46.0
The Constitutional Court in session. File photo
Image by: JAMES OATWAY

The Times Editorial: The Department of Justice yesterday released the terms of reference of its Constitutional Court review. Surprisingly, it has included the Supreme Court of Appeal for scrutiny after stating explicitly that, though the SCA and the high courts should be reviewed, it would not be done at this stage.

The examination comes at a particularly sensitive time for South Africa given the consistently negative criticism of the courts over the past while by senior ANC leaders.

The key question obviously remains: what is the ultimate objective of the review, and how will it be used to ensure justice for all?

Do the department and the ANC government really want to ensure that all South Africans - irrespective of wealth, race and class - have equal access to justice, or is this a stick with which to bring the Constitutional Court to heel?

How else does the government expect the two courts to serve South Africans? Already a significant number of Constitutional Court judgments deal with ensuring the provision and delivery of socio-economic rights, particularly to the poor.

Cynically, there might be a suspicion that the Supreme Court of Appeal's sudden inclusion might be a result of the view that this court, too, has displayed anti-ANC tendencies.

Perhaps last week's judgment in favour of the DA has swayed the Justice Department into concluding that the court is not fair in dispensing justice.

Ultimately, though, if we are to examine the role of the courts in ensuring justice for all, there are critical elements missing in this review.

There are very basic questions that must surely be asked about the shortcomings of the minor courts, as well as about ordinary citizens' access to institutions such as the Equality Court and the Human Rights Commission.

This is where ordinary South Africans first encounter justice and find it wanting far too often.

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