n South African Journal on Human Rights - Remedying the maladies of 'lesser men or women' : the personal, political and constitutional imperatives for improved access to justice

Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-7203



The South African Constitution establishes a vision for the country that is based on fundamental individual equality and non-discrimination, supported through rigorous respect for the rule of law. This vision of the role of law in society as integral to upholding constitutional principles, however, relies on ensuring access to legal services. This is, in fact, directly provided for in s 34 of the Constitution. The recognition of the importance of access to justice has been a cornerstone of the work of Justice Edwin Cameron throughout his career as both a judge and an activist. This article examines the continuum between access to legal services and access to justice and the need for individualised access to legal services in order for constitutional rights to be enforced. The authors hold that there are positive obligations on the state, as well as the courts, to facilitate access to justice. While the state has been discharging this duty mainly in the sphere of criminal justice, there is a duty and a growing need to enable the advancement of constitutional and civil claims. Unless the need for justice and remedies for injustice are met by the courts and the law, there will be negative consequences for the popular legitimacy of the courts and indeed the Constitution itself.

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