n Acta Juridica - The three Rs of the Constitution : responsibility, respect and rights

Volume 2004, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



What do respect, responsibility and rights have in common? Many commentators criticise the South African Constitution and our emerging constitutional jurisprudence on the basis that they are all about rights, and not responsibility. This criticism is misplaced, in my view. For me, respect, responsibility and rights are the building blocks of the Constitution.

In the course of my remarks, I will put forward a proposition concerning constitutional principle, and then substantiate it and make a few further comments about it. I should start, however, by noting that on putting up a proposition of this sort I am painfully conscious of the dangers of judicial self-delusion. It was the early German legal thinker Otto Kirchheimer who analysed the dangers of judging in a divided society (he was analysing the judiciary in the Weimar Republic).

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