Through the magnifying glass: the South African Constitution

Dumile Mlambo -- Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:54

Through the magnifying glass: the South African Constitution

When many of their peers were gearing-up for the autumn recess in mid-March, Dr Ilyayamba Mwanawina and Adv Steven Serumaga-Zake, both lecturers within the subject field of Law, from the School Basic Sciences at the Vaal Triangle Campus of North-West University (NWU Vaal), attended a thought providing conference in Pretoria.

Held over a period of three days, the conference themed: “20 Years of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa: Looking Back, Thinking Forward”, saw several speakers from various universities across the country take to the podium to “dissect, discuss and contemplate” the South African Constitution.

In line with the theme of the conference, the academic duo from the NWU Vaal presented conference papers titled: “Appraising the role of International Law: from S versus Makwanyane to SALC versus Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Others” and “Pillars of State Integrity: The importance of keeping Chapter 9 Institutions truly independent” respectively.

The conference, organized by The Centre for Public Law Studies in collaboration with the Centre for Indigenous Law, housed in the Department of Public, Constitutional and International Law within the College of Law at the University of South Africa (UNISA), comes as the country stands on the brink of celebrating 20 years since the inception of the Constitution in 1996.

Amongst other things, the conference sought to look back, and perhaps take stock of the challenges that have persisted in achieving the goal of being a democratic, free, fair and open society.

While it provided an opportunity to think forward, and to discuss and contemplate new ways to address the present and anticipated challenges at hand, it also aimed at addressing issues of contemporary relevance to the South African society through the following seven sub-themes:

  • Constitutional Litigation and the Bill of Rights;
  • Principles of Government and Principles of Governance;
  • The Rule of Law;
  • The Development and Role of Customary Law;
  • Structures of Government and Constitutionally Mandated Institutions (including Chapter 9 Institutions);
  • Constitutional Imperatives and Criminal Justice; and
  • International and Comparative Perspectives.

According to Dr Mwanawina and Adv Serumuga-Zake, the confernece afforded them an opportunity to establish new relations with other experts in the field of Law.

In his paper, Adv Serumuga-Zake tested the importance of having truly independent Chapter 9 Institutions in a country like South Africa where the culture of impunity by those vested with state powers, has been the order of the day for the largest part of the country’s history. This, he did with reference to the recent powers of Chapter 9 Institutions, especially that of the Office of the Public Protector being a matter of concern to mostly politicians attached to the country’s ruling party.