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uBuntu Project



















In July 2014, The Department of Jurisprudence once again hosted Prof Drucilla Cornell (Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Women’s & Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University) as part of the uBuntu Project.  Together with Professor Cornell, who is also Extraordinary Professor in the Department and Director of the uBuntu Project, a number of events were organised.

On 14 July 2014, the book launch of Albie Sachs and Transformation in South Africa: From Revolutionary Activist to Constitutional Court Judge (a book authored by Professors Cornell and Karin van Marle and Emeritus Justice Albie Sachs) together with a film screening of Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa (directed by Abby Ginzberg) took place.  Community members, faculty staff and students from across the University were in attendance and had the opportunity to engage with Justice Sachs on his life in exile as an anti-apartheid struggle activist and how this impacted him during his tenure as a judge in the Constitutional Court.

On 15 July 2014, the Department convened a small Feminist Theory Workshop bringing together an intergenerational group of South African legal scholars to reflect on the state of feminist theory in South Africa and to share and discuss their current research projects.  Prof Cornell opened the discussion with a thought provoking discussion of the connections between feminism, revolution and socialism and this was followed by a number of further discussions on sexual freedom, gay marriage, women’s subjectivity, sexual violence and the relationship between gender and memory.

The following week, on 21 July 2014 was the uBuntu Conference which focused on the exploring the philosophical resources of African jurisprudence. In addition to scholars from South Africa and abroad, and from the disciplines of law, literary studies, political science and women’s studies, the event was also attended by former justices of the Constitutional Court, in particular Emeritus Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo who also presented a paper on the tensions between African customary law and Western jurisprudence in the context of the Constitution as well as Emeritus Justice Yvonne Mokgoro who also participated in a panel discussion on the constitutional operationalisation of uBuntu in early South African constitutional jurisprudence. 

Attendees also took time to reflect on the uBuntu project, and to start planning for a national conference in 2015 as well as other projects to expand the reach of the uBuntu Project.  The issues of transforming legal education as well as the introduction of African philosophical and jurisprudential thought into the broader conversation on South African constitutionalism were raised by attendees as particularly pertinent lines of future enquiry.

















On 22 July 2014, Prof Cornell presented excerpts from her recent book Law and Revolution in South Africa: uBuntu, Dignity, and the Struggle for Constitutional Transformation at a seminar on “uBbuntu and the vulnerable city: feminist reflections and revisions” jointly hosted by the Cities Revisioned Cluster of the Capital Cities IRT, the Theological Cluster of the uBuntu Research Project, the Department of Jurisprudence and the Centre for Contextual Ministry in the Faculty of Theology.  This was followed by responses from the perspectives of those working in the inner city as well as from law and theology scholars.

The Department of Jurisprudence, through its relationship with the uBuntu Project and Prof Drucilla Cornell affirms its commitment to the transformation and reimagination of South African law and jurisprudence and hopes to reach more and more students, scholars and law teachers in continuously cogitating about law, politics and ethics in post-1994 South Africa. In this respect, the four events that were hosted this year contributed greatly to this endeavour.





Last week, the Department of Jurisprudence at the University of Pretoria hosted two important events in collaboration with the uBuntu Project (under the directorship of Professor Drucilla Cornell, Professor of Political Science, Comparative Literature and Women’s Studies and Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Jurisprudence). On 24 July, the launch of Emeritus Justice Laurie Ackermann’s new book Human Dignity: A Lodestar for Equality took place. At the launch, members of the panel consisting of Prof Cornell, Emeritus Justice Kate O’Regan and Justice Edwin Cameron each offered critical reflections on the book as well as on the Legacy of Justice Ackermann’s dignity jurisprudence.

Main photo above:  Prof Drucilla Cornell

Main photo above:  Prof Laurie Ackermann

On 25 July, scholars, judges, lawyers and students convened for a one-day conference in honour of Emeritus Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo’s jurisprudence (Click here to access the programme of the event). Each panel focused on Justice Ngcobo’s judicial philosophy as well as his contribution to the administration of justice as the head of the nation’s highest court. Key aspects that were raised included Justice Ngcobo’s groundbreaking dissenting judgement in Bhe, which paved the way for a new understanding of the relationship between customary law and the Constitution, as well as the scholarly depth of his judgements in HoffmanDoctors for LifeJordanPrince and Matatiele.

The event concluded with a dinner and an address by Emeritus Chief Justice Ngcobo in which he gave a robust lecture reiterating the core themes of his jurisprudence, with a strong emphasis on the constitutional recognition of the African customary law. The Department of Jurisprudence looks forward to next year’s conference, as it joins the uBuntu Project in calling for a deeper engagement with constitutional values and African jurisprudence.

Above: Emeritus Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, Emeritus Justice Yvonne Mokgoro,
Justice Johan Froneman, Emeritus Justices Albie Sachs and Kate O'Regan.




In 2012 the uBuntu Project, under the leadership of Prof Drucilla Cornell, an Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Jurisprudence, sponsored two events which were hosted by the University of Pretoria's Department of Jurisprudence, Faculty of Law.

On 2 August 2012, a workshop was convened on the question of authority within the living customary law.  It featured legal scholars, judges and anthropologists from South Africa and abroad.

Later, on the same day, a book launch and discussion on Drucilla Cornell and Nyoko Mavangua's edited collection 'uBuntu and the law: African ideals and post-apartheid jurisprudence' was held.

The next day (3 August), South African legal scholars and Constitutional Court Justices held a number of roundtables in honour of Emeritus Constitutional Court Justice (and now judge of the Namibian Supreme Court) Kate O'Regan. Each of the roundtables critically engaged with Judge O'Regan's jurisprudence traversing issues as diverse as socio-economic rights, constitutional interpretation, feminism, LGBTI rights, legal theory and her role in the institutional affairs of the Constitutional Court.

The evening ended off with a dinner in her honour with justices, judges, academics and students celebrating the former Justice's contribution to post-apartheid jurisprudence and transformation.

Click here for more information on the uBuntu Project and here to access the gallery of these events.

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Last edited by Zamandina MthembuEdit