n South African Law Journal - 'The art of the possible' in realising socio-economic rights : the SCA decision in : notes

Volume 128, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



In 1871, the Prussian politician Otto von Bismark is said to have remarked: 'Politics is the art of the possible.' One would not expect to find a truncated version of that same remark in a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in 2011 (see para 54 of 2011 (4) SA 337 (SCA) ('')). However, as I shall explain below, the quotation is oddly appropriate in the light of the decision of Navsa JA and Plasket AJA in (as confirmed recently by the Constitutional Court on appeal in [2011] ZACC 33). Such appropriateness relates to the court's indication in this eviction matter that it will take an increasingly robust approach in ensuring the realisation of socio-economic rights in South Africa. In the words of the judges, a court's approach (or 'role') can rightly be described as 'the art of the possible' in that a court has a duty to protect and promote socio-economic rights, while at the same time having to accept the reality of limited available resources, and that it must not breach the limits set by the separation of powers doctrine ( ibid).

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