A few reflections on the role of courts, government, the legal profession, universities, the media and civil society in a constitutional democracy
This contribution is a reworked version of a lecture presented at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, commemorating the University's centenary celebrations. Contrasting the pre- and post-constitutional legal landscapes, Justice Van der Westhuizen emphasises that political meddling in judicial affairs, previously left in a legal void, is now very clearly circumscribed by the constitutionally-entrenched principles of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary. Justice Van der Westhuizen proceeds to analyse aspects of the relationship between the courts, on the one hand, and the govenment, the legal profession, universities, the media and civil society, on the other hand. The relationship between courts and the government is fraught with tension, but so far the executive has readily complied with almost all court decisions, and the court has steered a cautious course when it comes to interference in the legislature. The importance of the legal profession, both inside and outside courtrooms, is underlined, and the crucial role of universities in fostering free speech is emphasised in the contribution. Turning to the media, Justice Van der Westhuizen acknowledges the importance of an informed public, and responsible reporting. He takes the media to task for some irresponsible and factually incorrect reporting. In conclusion, the author emphasises the important role of civil society and of continuous debate, analysis and criticism in the attainment of 'our constitutional project'.
Making human rights domestically justiciable by clearly defining their content and subjecting them to judicial and quasi-judicial mechanisms of enforcement is important for their effective protection. Although a legal framework for the justiciability of human rights exists in Ethiopia, the judicial practice reveals some problems. Lawyers and courts tend to avoid invoking and applying human rights provisions in the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and ratified international human rights treaties which form part of the law of the land. There is confusion regarding the mandate of the House of Federation to 'interpret' the Constitution. Procedurally, the basic laws of the country limit 'standing' in human rights litigation to those with a vested interest, failing to make public interest litigation possible and hence limiting the justiciability of rights. The article examines the justiciability of human rights in Ethiopia from a substantive, jurisdictional and procedural perspective. It juxtaposes law and practice in an attempt to show the extent to which rights are justiciable in the Ethiopian legal system.
In search of philosophical justifications and suitable models for the horizontal application of human rights
This article critiques the dominant view that human rights do not bind non-state actors. It ties the dominant discourse to the natural rights theory and, to a lesser extent, the positivist school of thought. A critique of these traditions reveals that there are no insurmountable philosophical barriers to recognising the application of human rights to non-state actors and the private sphere. Drawing on Marxist and feminist philosophical schools, as well as African conceptions of human rights, it argues that the view that non-state actors should be bound by human rights can be defended philosophically. The article ends with an analysis of the various options through which human rights obligations of non-state actors may be enforced within a domestic constitutional framework.
Swaziland gained independence from the United Kingdom on 6 September 1968, under a written, Westminster-type Constitution (the Independence Constitution). This Constitution was unlawfully repealed by His Majesty King Sobhuza II on 12 April 1973, promising that all the people of Swaziland would craft their Constitution in complete liberty and freedom, without outside pressure. In pursuit of this goal, a number of commissions were established to solicit the citizens' views on the type of constitution they wanted to govern them. Because the Independence Constitution was abrogated on the ground that it was imposed by departing colonial masters, it was expected that the Constitution to be drawn after independence would truly reflect the aspirations of all the people. This article, therefore, interrogates the question whether, in light of the wave of constitution making in Africa in the 1990s, the Swaziland constitution-making process fulfilled the requirements of an all-inclusive, participatory, transparent and accountable process. The article examines the independence of the King's appointed constitutional review bodies, given that, in order to produce a credible, legitimate and durable constitution, the review bodies must be as independent from the government as possible. Further, the article looks at the role of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as the Swaziland courts in enhancing a people driven process. The article concludes that the Swaziland constitution-making process did not herald a departure from the constitutional order that existed prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act 1 of 2005. Despite the adoption of this Constitution, the Kingdom does not qualify as a constitutional and democratic state with a justiciable bill of rights capable of enforcement by an independent judiciary.