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Pretoria - “When I see Mr Malema speak with the utter openness and lack of respect for authority as he does, my heart sings.” So said Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron at a meeting of paralegals, lawyers and law students in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
“But I am not looking at what or who he is talking about,” said Justice Cameron.
The prominent judge was talking at a meeting hosted by NGO Dikeletsong Citizens’ Advice Bureau, where he gave an address on “The Rights of Ordinary South Africans”.
The “proudly gay” judge said the constitution protected anyone who had permanent residence in South Africa, including foreigners.
“Our constitution is one of the most unique as it includes rights against the government.
“This makes us fortunate, unlike Zimbabwe and Swaziland’s despotism and autocracy,” said Justice Cameron.
“In our country the courts can issue orders to government to provide adequate housing, basic education and health care to complainants.
“And the government is under obligation to act,” said the Constitutional Court judge.
He lashed out at former president Thabo Mbeki’s notions that HIV did not cause Aids and his refusal to provide antiretrovirals to pregnant mothers while he was still in office, calling his ideas “incoherent nonsense”.
“This is an example where government failed to deliver and courts had to bring the government to order,” Justice Cameron said.
In 2001, Pretoria High Court judge Chris Botha ruled that the South African government was obliged to provide the toxic and experimental Aids drug nevirapine to pregnant women and newborns.
Justice Cameron, who openly said he had been taking anti-retroviral drugs for 16 years, said that this ruling helped save his life and those of thousands of South Africans living with HIV.
He added that Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema’s outspokenness against the government was “constitutionally protected.”