On the eve of the South African Constitution’s 20th anniversary, can we say that the Constitution has achieved the goals it sought to? A two-day conference convened by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Thursday, 26 May to Friday 27 May 2016, evaluated the performance of the South African Constitution.
The South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC), a center of the University of Johannesburg, in collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) hosted the conference at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus.
Speaking at the conference was Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela, who spoke about the extent to which the chapter nine institutions have performed according to their mandates. She highlighted some of the institutional challenges that the constitutional provisions have given rise to.
SAIFAC’s director, Professor David Bilchitz explains:
“SAIFAC was tasked by the International IDEA with writing a ground-breaking report. This is the first time a report attempts to implement a methodology for evaluating the performance of a constitution. Through a series of exciting multi-disciplinary panel discussions – the judiciary, chapter 9 institutions, democracy, multi-level governance, security services, constitutional rights and public perceptions of the Constitution – the conference sought to engage critically with this report and stimulate a broader debate on whether our Constitution has succeeded in achieving its goals.”
Leading presenters at the conference included Advocate Thuli Madonsela (Public Protector); Albie Sachs (former Justice of the Constitutional Court); Dunstan Mlambo (Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court); and Justice Edwin Cameron (Judge of the Constitutional Court).
Global experts on constitutionalism in attendance included Prof Tom Ginsburg (University of Chicago Law School); Dr Juan Carlos Henao Perez (former President of the Columbian Constitutional Court) and Jason Gluck (UNDP Policy Specialist, Political Dialogue and Constitutional Processes).
Professor Bilchitz stated that “the conference takes place at a time of national reflection of the success of South Africa’s Constitutional project and the effectiveness of our democratic institutions. In doing so, we draw on the experiences of persons who have played a role in advancing constitutionalism in South Africa”
The full SAIFAC report as well as an abridged version analysing the performance of the Constitution over the past 20 years is available here.