NMMU kick-starts 20 years of SA’s Bill of Rights

MARCH 17, 2016

The cornerstone of South Africa’s fledgling democracy – its Bill of Rights – will be acknowledged and promoted by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in 2016, starting with a launch on 22 March.  

The event will focus on “Legislation against racism and hatred?” as the first of a year-long series of events by the Faculty of Law aimed at highlighting the rights of all people and affirming the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

Law lecturer Joanna Botha will present the talk – the topic of her doctoral thesis – at the North Campus Conference Centre from 9.30am to 11am to kick-start ongoing dialogue, debate and recognition of the 20 years of the Bill of Rights.

“In celebrating the Bill of Rights we will also address the question of whether the rights of human dignity, equality and freedom have indeed been affirmed by the Bill of Rights as stated in section 7(1) of the Constitution,” says Acting Dean of Law Prof Andre Mukheibir who is championing the initiative.

Plans to highlight the importance of the Bill of Rights which was signed in 1996 soon after South Africa’s first democratic elections and came into operation in 1997, will take place against the backdrop of the ongoing #FeesMustFall movement.

Aspects of rights and of transformation have been raised by students aligned to the movement and will be raised for debate as part of the project.

The Bill of Rights theme will be embedded in the faculties’ annual events including:

  • The Victoria and Griffith Mxenge Memorial Lecture (date to be confirmed)
  • The Local Government Law Conference with the theme “New Horizons” (June)
  • The 8th Annual Private Law and Social Justice Conference –20 years of the Bill of Rights: Rhetoric, Retrospect and Ramifications for the Future (August)

According to Prof Mukheibir, these events would be complemented by other initiatives to raise awareness around the Bill of Rights, such as student panel discussions on topics such as white privilege, the new black consciousness and land rights. A designated website is being set up on which relevant articles will be published. The students of the faculty will play an important role in facilitating and participating in these discussions.

“The Faculty of Law has always had a good relationship with our students and we have an ongoing dialogue with our students in order to hear what they regard as pressing issues.”

Image: NMMU Law Lecturer, Joanna Botha.