5 August 2015 – Tomorrow the Constitutional Court begins its third term of the year. It will be a busy one, with eleven hearings scheduled.
Justices van der Westhuizen and Zondo have returned from long leave, reducing the high number of acting judges that marked the first and second terms of the year. But Justice Froneman now departs, replaced by Malcolm Wallis, one of the SCA’s most respected judges. It will be interesting to see how Wallis, a cerebral black-letter lawyer with a PhD in maritime law, takes to the Constitutional Court. The Court will be one judge short, since the Skweyiya vacancy has still not been filled — even though it has been four weeks since President Zuma received the shortlist of candidates (who we discussed here), and a full fifteen months since the vacancy arose. (Update: The Constitutional Court has since announced that Elias Matojane, of the Gauteng High Court, will act in the Skweyiya vacancy.)
The term’s cases are varied. Makate v Vodacom holds some gimmicky public interest, since it is about the invention of the “please call me”. Of more lasting public concern are three cases on land law, including a challenge to the amendment to the Restitution of Land Rights Act, pivotal legislation in the government’s attempt to address racially skewed land ownership and historical dispossession. Also important is Kham v Independent Electoral Commission, in which the Court is asked to ensure a robust institutional response to allegations of vote-rigging. But the highlight of the term is undoubtedly De Lange v Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church of Southern Africa, about the lawfulness of the Methodist Church’s ejection of a lesbian minister. This is one of several David and Goliath tales in which a plucky plaintiff takes on an imperious institutional defendant.
Here is the full list of cases, each of which we will preview during the course of the term:
Thursday, 20 August: Land Access Movement of South Africa v Chairperson, National Council of Provinces CCT 40/15 (court papers) (Update: This case has since been removed from the roll.)
Tuesday, 25 August: Links v MEC, Department of Health, Northern Cape CCT 29/15 (court papers)
Thursday, 27 August: De Lange v Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church of Southern Africa CCT 223/14 (court papers)
Tuesday, 1 September: Makate v Vodacom (Pty) Ltd CCT 52/15 (court papers)
Thursday, 3 September: Klaase v Van Der Merwe NO CCT 23/15 (court papers)
Tuesday, 8 September: Steenkamp v Edcon Ltd; NUMSA v Edcon Ltd CCT 46/15; CCT 47/15 (court papers)
Thursday, 10 September: Kham v Independent Electoral Commission CCT 64/15 (court papers)