Special Online Issue: Taking Stock of Constitutionalism in South Africa South African Journal on Human Rights

South African Journal on Human Rights

This special online edition of the South African Journal on Human Rights re-publishes a number of significant and influential articles published in the past 25 years.

Starting with the debates about a ‘new’ Constitution and Bill of Rights in the early 1990s, through the early development of our jurisprudence and later reflections on the constitutional processes, these articles deal with issues pertinent to South Africa’s developing constitutional democracy, and to local and global debates on human rights, legal theory, customary law and legal pluralism, constitutional interpretation, equality and social transformation. Although only a small selection, these articles demonstrate how the SAJHR has strived consistently to serve as a platform for scholarship dedicated to understanding and critically engaging South African constitutional and human rights jurisprudence, and specifically contributing to social justice and transformation.

Today, South Africa finds itself in a critical moment in which the durability and meaning of constitutional transformation is being questioned and contested with reference to its ability to deliver justice, equality and social change. Public discourse and scholarship is proliferated by calls for accelerating racial and gender equality, fast-tracking social and economic transformation and even decolonisation. We take these as calls to deepen our conversations, to re-examine our past and to expand the archive from which to theorize and advance the cause of justice and equality in our time. Moreover, the fact that the articles in this edition are largely authored by white male scholars cannot help but reflect the inegalitarian conditions that are the legacy of apartheid and gender discrimination.  We take seriously the need for diverse voices and perspectives in the legal academy and commit ourselves to creating a space for a multiplicity of Black, woman and other voices. 

As part of taking stock of our project of constitutional transformation and social justice, it is important to revisit those key debates and ideas that have emerged from the pages of the SAJHR. This is also timely as the journal will be hosting a colloquium in May this year to critically reflect on constitutionalism, human rights and the transition from colonial-apartheid to constitutional democracy from multiple theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. Entitled  ‘Conquest, Constitutionalism and Democratic Contestations’, this colloquium will provide perspectives that foreground the role of land dispossession, cultural decimation (epistemicide), racial capitalism, and the European usurpation of territorial and political sovereignty in the making of the South African state and South African law, in shaping the production of knowledge, and in framing dominant accounts of history, politics and society.  We expect that a Special Issue of papers from the conference will be published in 2018, and will contribute to the growing SAJHR archive.

The below papers are free to access until the end of 2017. Simply select the link(s) of your choice below to begin reading.