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Achieve justice and equality through the ballot box‚ urges Moseneke

19 November 2016 - 12:42 By TMG Digital

Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke‚ delivering the 2016 Helen Suzman Memorial Lecture on Friday‚ said that the Constitution’s vision of a society of social justice‚ one in which entrenched poverty and inequality are genuinely tackled‚ remains unrealised.

His address at the event‚ hosted by the Helen Suzman Foundation in association with the Gordon Institute of Business Science and the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town‚ was on “shades of the rule of law and social justice”.

Moseneke’s lecture centred on three ways in which the rule of law could be understood. The first is merely that the words of the law must be obeyed‚ but this permitted evil legal systems‚ such as apartheid. The second is more substantive‚ purposive and justice-oriented‚ and a means to bring democracy and accountability to post-colonial societies.

  • Judge swaps gavel for batonInstead of passing judgment, retired judge Dikgang Moseneke is now making music. 

The third way was the one inspired by the Constitution. He said South Africa could not rely only on Chapter 9 institutions and social movements to litigate constitutional rights. The ultimate means to transformation and accountability is at the ballot box‚ he said.

Moseneke criticised a Cabinet decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court‚ saying that when the rule of law fails domestically‚ the ICC is an important‚ although imperfect‚ means to protect citizens from abuses of power.

He began his lecture by paying tribute to Helen Suzman‚ speaking of her commitment to prisoners’ rights. He remembered her regular visits to Robben Island during his imprisonment and her continued opposition to Robert Sobukwe’s indefinite detention.

  • Rich should pay‚ while poor should be funded for higher education: MosenekeRetired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke has put his views on the crisis facing higher education in the country‚ suggesting that the solution should be more nuanced in an unequal society‚ requiring the rich to pay while the poor should be fully funded. 

“I heard of the name Helen Suzman in my township of birth‚ Atteridgeville. The adults said in hushed tones that she was different from them. They never said who ‘them’ were … I was 15 years of age and yet I’d become a child soldier. Soon members of our underground cells were arrested‚ charged and convicted in a mass political trial. I earned myself 10 years on Robben Island.

“Within days of the conviction Helen Suzman rose in Parliament to express her disapproval and disgust … Frankly‚ she was the only one in Parliament to demur publically.”

In the dark days of apartheid she reminded Parliament that no one should be detained without trial; that Parliament is not a court of law. She spoke out about the right to equal worth‚ free movement and the right to work.

  • Country should invest in people to be active participants in economy: MosenekeThe country should be spending a lot of time thinking about ways to invest in the majority of people to enable them to become active participants in the economy‚ retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said on Friday. 

“She interceded for fellow citizens in distress for no immediate gain … Her life was filled with the courage of principles and prompts me to ask difficult questions about shades of rule of law in our democracy.”

For the full version of Moseneke’s address here.