Transformative constitution and legislation help to combat poverty
Legislation has to be tested continually to ensure that it complies with the requirements of South Africa’s democratic and transformative constitution, Judge Denis Davis of the Western Cape High Court said at the recent Colloquium on Law and Poverty at Stellenbosch University.
This three-day event was hosted by the Law Faculty’s HOPE Project initiative on Combating Poverty, Homelessness and Socio-Economic Vulnerability under the Constitution.
Prof Karl Klare of the Northeastern University School of Law in the US said in his summary that it was clear from presenters’ papers that combating poverty was a constitutional imperative in South Africa, and that transformation was required by law.
“The constitution can help to alleviate poverty and create a just, decent and humane society. The meaning of constitutional values and how they can be applied in everyday life should be debated.”
He argued that poverty is multidimensional and that the meaning of poverty should be revised regularly. The constitution helps us to obtain a better understanding of the dimensions and meaning of democracy. Democracy should be ‘lived’ at grass-roots level by the people, Klare said.
Earlier, Prof Lourens du Plessis of SU’s Law Faculty argued that legislation – and not only the constitution – contributes to social transformation in South Africa.
“Legislation has grown in stature since 27 April 1994 and started playing a transformative role in our democracy”, he said. The country’s first democratic election took place on this date.
Die colloquium concluded on Tuesday [31 May 2011]. It was attended by more than 120 leading local and international academics, members of the judiciary, advocates, attorneys, as well as representatives of non-governmental organisations, the government and the Human Rights Commission.