The Political Role of the South African Courts
Timeframe: Jan 2003 - Dec 2005
Funder: Research Council of Norway
This research project, which is a collaboration with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Johannesburg) investigates the role played by courts in the linked processes of democratic consolidation and social transformation in South Africa. The ideological dominance of constitutional democracy, combined with extensive legal and judicial reforms, has increased the potential contribution courts may make to the processes of democratic consolidation and social transformation. But the role courts may - and actually do - play under various conditions is not sufficiently understood. In particular, the accountability function of courts vis-à-vis political authorities, their role in promoting socio-economic development, and their capacity to provide access to justice to marginalised groups are all under-researched. The proposed research project aims to fill this gap by focusing on the role of the South African courts, as well as developing a theoretical and methodological basis for broader comparative study. The ambitious nature of the 1993 and 1996 South African Constitutions mean that the South African case is well suited to this task. Together, these constitutions have created an opportunity for courts to play a meaningful role in democratic consolidation and social transformation, particularly in the domain of social and economic rights.
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