n Law, Democracy & Development - The performance of the right to have access to social security

Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



Is the South African Constitution a 'people's document'? Does it give voice to, encourage and protect the actions of the poor, the homeless, the marginalised and the excluded? If the meaning of the rights in the South African Bill of Rights emerges through a complex interaction between the words on paper and its 'open community of interpreters', to what extent does it empower the 'practices of resistance and struggle' of the oppressed and marginalised, the poor and the homeless to 'name human rights and to put them to work'? Can we interpret the rights in the South African Constitution in such an activist way? This democratic conception of rights goes beyond, but draws upon Jennifer Nedelsky's idea that a 'constitutional dialogue' between the branches of the State should decide the content and meaning of rights in a society. This dialogue should make specific allowance for the participation of the beneficiary in both words and action. In this sense the citizen becomes the subject or author of rights, and we may arrive at a conception of rights that enables democracy to exert real influence over society.

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