Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke has lauded the "remarkable" achievements of South Africa's courts under democracy. He also highlighted some "regrets" about how they have functioned in the last 18 years.
Moseneke delivered the Ruth First Memorial Lecture at Wits University earlier. His address marked 30 years since the assassination of writer and activist Ruth First. The latter, author of a number of influential books and an investigative journalist in South Africa before going into exile in the early 1960s, was killed by a parcel bomb in Maputo in 1982 sent by apartheid agents.
A one-day colloquium, with speakers including Njabulo Ndebele, Essop Pahad, Mark Heywood, Eusebius McKaiser, Joel Netshitenzhe and Ferial Haffajee, was also hosted today by Wits Journalism at the Wits Art Gallery, followed by Moseneke's keynote lecture.
On the achievements of the courts, Moseneke cited: "The proliferation of cases where the courts have refused to tolerate inequality and discrimination, notably "homophobia or gender inequality inspired by religious or cultural patriarchy"
The protection of children, victims of domestic violence, people with disability, refugees and migrants;
The many times the courts have "required the executive to give effect to the socio-economic claims of the poor and vulnerable". He pointed to judgments which promoted access to healthcare, housing and drinkable water.
"We have required that learners be furnished with study material. We have ... required the social grants to reach all, promptly." There was a proud jurisprudence on workplace justice, he said.