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27 August 2013

HSRC, Fort Hare assigned review of highest courts

Ina van der Linde
Press Release

The Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD) research programme of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), together with its partner the Nelson R Mandela School of Law of the University of Fort Hare (UFH), have been awarded a contract in response to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s (DOJCD) research tender.

According to the terms of reference specified in the tender published in April 2013, the scope of the research is limited to an assessment of access to the courts; costs of litigation; speed of finalization of cases; the constitutional transformation of common and customary law;  the complexities involved in the practical implementation of court decisions by the other two branches of government; new value-oriented interpretive methods and jurisprudential transformation; and the pro-poor orientation of courts in other developmental states such as Brazil and India.

The overall aim of the proposed 18 month research project is to assess the impact of the two highest courts, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, on the lived experiences of all South Africans, says Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller (BJuris LLB LLM LLD), the project leader and deputy executive director of DGSD. Professor Bohler-Muller was a legal academic for 16 years and is an admitted advocate of the High Court of the Republic of South Africa. She will work with a team of legal researchers and social scientists on the project. The study will have a particular focus on the adjudication and implementation of socio-economic rights within the context of a developmental and capable state, and pertinent issues relating to access to justice with a view to addressing inequality and the eradication of poverty.

The DOJCD will officially launch the project mid-September 2013.

Bohler-Muller said the bidding team undertook to produce high-quality research outputs in accordance with the mandate of the Department. Together with UFH the HSRC has the experience and the skills, resources and networks to conduct large scale evidence-based cross- and trans-disciplinary research projects, including empirical assessments and surveys, aimed at social, economic and community development.

 ‘Furthermore, the HSRC is internationally renowned for its research independence, integrity and ethics, while UFH adds value with the UNESCO Oliver Tambo Chair of Human Rights, established in 1996. The main objective of the UFH Research Chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation in the field of human rights and democracy,’ Bohler-Muller explained.

The 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides both the framework and foundation for the transformation of state, law and society. Such transformation occurs within an African and global context, with South Africa being constitutionally bound by principles of international law and the provisions of ratified international and regional human rights instruments. The government is in the process of assessing the impact of court decisions on the socioeconomic conditions of all South Africans.

‘Amongst others, the research will determine, through a mixture of methodologies, what remedies the courts have developed to ensure that court decisions are implemented in the spirit of the Bill of Rights,’ Bohler-Muller said.

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