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Cape Town - The justice department has awarded the controversial tender to review rulings of the country's two top courts to the Human Sciences Research Council and the law school at the University of Fort Hare.
The project would be officially launched in September, Narnia Bohler-Muller, the deputy director of the HRSC's Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery programme, said on Monday.
“The contract has not been signed yet, so I cannot provide details... except to confirm that the department is aiming to have the project officially launched by mid-September,” she said.
The HSRC confirmed, however, that the brief for the R10 million contract consisted of studying the impact of judgments of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal on the country's socio-economic climate.
“The overall aim of the proposed 18-month research project is to assess the impact of the two highest courts, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, on the lived experiences of all South Africans, particularly in respect of the adjudication and implementation of socio-economic rights within the context of a developmental state, and pertinent issues relating to access to justice with a view to addressing inequality and the eradication of poverty,” it said.
The planned review was first announced by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe in 2011, and raised fears that it could compromise the independence of the judiciary.
Among those who warned against it was veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos, who said last year: “I would appeal to parliamentarians and others that in relation to matters of justice, the courts are our final arbiters. Please believe it.”
Mamphela Ramphele, who has since launched the opposition party AgangSA, said the review could be “poison” for democracy.
Radebe has denied that the review is an attack on the judiciary and said the majority of judges had no problem with it.