s South African Journal on Human Rights - Human Dignity: Lodestar for Equality in South Africa, Laurie Ackermann : book review

Volume 31, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-7203
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2126



Justice Ackermann was a member of South Africa's Constitutional Court for its first decade, between 1994 and 2004. In a major book he has endeavoured to elucidate the meaning, rationale and some of the modus operandi for the central commitment to equality in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. The country's Bill of Rights, which forms chapter 2 of the Constitution, highlights in its first clause the core values of 'human dignity, equality and freedom'. Laurie Ackermann proposes that the first two values are fundamentally connected, for dignity provides the key to interpreting equality. To the question 'equality of what?' he replies: equality of human dignity, human worth (Menschenwürde in German, menswaardigheid in Afrikaans). The application of this principle of equality of worth (or 'worthiness') will, he argues, help to resolve issues in the interpretation of rights and of conflicts between rights.

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