Breaking the chains of discrimination and forging new bonds: the extraordinary journey of Justice Yvonne Mokgoro

SOURCE: Making the road by walking: the evolution of the South African constitution
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2018
TITLE AUTHOR(S): N.Bohler-Muller, M.Wentzel, J.Viljoen
SOURCE EDITOR(S): N.Bohler-Muller, M.Cosser, G.Pienaar
KEYWORDS: CONSTITUTION
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 10200

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Abstract

In this chapter we make an attempt to highlight the main contributions ofJustice Yvonne Mokgoro to South African constitutional jurisprudence.As the first black African woman appointed to the Bench in 1994, she brought with her fresh scars of the oppressive system of apartheid that alienated and marginalised her as a black person and as a woman. Her childhood and youth were marked by the struggle; her first encounter with Robert Sobukwe put her firmly on a path of resistance to injustice. As amember of the Constitutional Court Justice Mokgoro was active andengaged, with her most lasting contribution being her efforts to Africanise human rights through the dignification of the law and theoperationalisation of ubuntu as a constitutional value. The three cases discussed in this chapter are chosen to illustrate thepowerful and unique impact of her judgments and philosophies. InMakwanyane (the constitutionalism of the death penalty), Khosa (the right of foreign nationals to social grants) and Dikoko (determining the quantumof damages in defamation cases) Mokgoro brought to bear her life views and expressed them in ways that continue to shape the ubuntu jurisprudence of the Court. Even post-Bench she has continued to live outher convictions that the Constitution should reflect values that SouthAfricans can accept as their own in order to ensure its legitimacy. The first part of the chapter briefly looks at Justice Mokgoro???s journeythrough childhood and young adulthood, with an emphasis on heractivism, the effects that apartheid had on her life and her thinking, and herstrong sense of gender justice. The second part outlines her unfolding storyof ubuntu and how she expertly crafted this African philosophy to influenceconstitutional interpretation and adjudication in such a way as to recognisethe humanity of ???others??? and our duty to care for ???them???. In the last part wefollow her journey post-Bench and discover that she continues to influencepublic discourse around justice, care and social cohesion.