The undersigned organisations oppose the recent complaint against the Chief Justice and regard it as ill considered. The complaint does damage to the much-needed project of transformation in the legal profession and threatens to chill the important dialogue about sex, race, sexual orientation and gender on the bench, at the bar and side-bar. The Chief Justice’s jurisprudence while in this office is considered and respected and the complaint against him is, in our view, ungrounded.
The democratic right to speak openly and honestly should be celebrated. While no one in South Africa is immune from public scrutiny, we regret that the complaint against the Chief Justice, which affects all of us, amounts to a personal attack on his integrity. While we may differ about the tone of the debate and the emphases in it, the debate itself is seminal to the process of developing a transformed legal community that overcomes the structural legacies inherited from past inequalities. Transformation means an open, bias-free and non-hierarchical profession which sees the removal of prejudices so that talent can flourish, unhindered by the assumptions that are often linked to the characteristics of race, sex, gender and sexual orientation, among others. This requires us to ask deeply uncomfortable questions and we urge that the discussion remain dignified and communal, and not an individualized one reduced to the Chief Justice and his/her office.
Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
Centre for Child Law
Foundation for Human Rights (FHR)
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
Legal Resources Centre (LRC)
National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL)
Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI)
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)