n South African Journal on Human Rights - Court of first instance? : towards a pro-poor jurisdiction for the South African Constitutional Court

Volume 22, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



Despite being premised on a transformative constitution, the South African Constitutional Court has not always functioned as an institutional voice for the poor. This is apparent in the relatively low number of cases brought by poor people, as a percentage of the total number of cases in which decisions are handed down by the Court. This article examines the extent to which the Court can in fact be said to have a pro-poor jurisdiction. In particular, it considers whether the Court's practice regarding direct access applications adequately facilitates the uptake of issues affecting the fundamental rights of poor people. The Court's record indicates that it has failed to utilise the direct access mechanism to allow constitutional matters to be brought directly to it by poor people who have been unable to secure legal representation. In so doing, the Court has failed to live up to its transformative promise. Two recent decisions of the Court - <i>Mnguni v Minister of Correctional Services and De Kock v Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry&lt;/i&gt; - are used to indicate how the Court might pursue a different modus operandi to develop a pro-poor jurisdiction.

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