Enforcing the South African Constitution: The Fight for Judicial Independence and Separation of Powers
15 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 5, 2014
So-called developing nations often suffer from political and constitutional instability, including fragile judiciaries. The South African Constitution and the Constitutional Court though have received international acclaim during their first 20 years. Yet in South Africa, many expected that African National Congress (ANC) populist President Jacob Zuma would try to reduce the Constitutional Court’s power after he took office in 2009. Zuma and others in the ANC had criticized both the Court and the judiciary. Defenders of the Court responded that Zuma was trying to chill the Court’s potential anti-corruption function. Moreover Zuma eventually appointed a majority of the Court’s eleven Justices.
This article demonstrates, however, that the Constitutional Court and the South African Supreme Court of Appeal have issued several surprisingly strong rulings against Zuma on key executive power issues. Though tensions and concrete problems remain between Zuma’s supporters and the Constitutional Court, these rulings can hopefully provide a model for judiciaries in other nations fighting to maintain their independence against skeptical political forces.
Keywords: South Africa, Constitutional Court, constitutional law, corruption, separation of powers, judicial independence, developing nations
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