All rise: UP hosts Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke in book launch webinar

Posted on October 23, 2020

UP Law recently hosted Emeritus Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for a discussion on his latest book, All Rise – A Judicial Memoir.

UP’s Faculty of Law (UP Law) was honoured to host Emeritus Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) of the Constitutional Court of South Africa Dikgang Moseneke for a discussion on his latest book, All Rise – A Judicial Memoir

The event, which was live-streamed on 7 October from the Future Africa Campus studios, featured a discussion between DCJ Moseneke, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe, and a UP Law panel consisting of Dean Professor Elsabe Schoeman, Deputy Dean Professor Charles Maimela and Dr Joel Modiri, Acting Head of the Department of Jurisprudence, who moderated the discussion. The event attracted significant participation from a virtual audience during and after the recording.

This latest non-fictional book is the follow-up to DCJ Moseneke’s 2016 bestseller, My Own Liberator – A Memoir. Over 60 minutes, the discussion traced DCJ Moseneke’s extraordinary career as a servant of the people; a campaigner for justice; an intellectual and writer; a constitutional lawyer; a Robben Island political prisoner; a businessman; an enemy of racism and inequality; and a humanitarian with a deep love for education. While the book is undoubtedly important for its exposition of the legal career of DCJ Moseneke and its narration of South African political history and constitutional development, it is also elegantly and thoughtfully written – serving as a testament to DCJ Moseneke’s status as a legal giant in South Africa.

In the exchange between him and Dr Modiri, key moments from the book were extensively debated. These included the young DCJ Moseneke’s entry into youth politics, joining the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, to his 1963 prosecution for conspiracy to overthrow the apartheid regime, which resulted in a 10-year prison sentence on Robben Island. Dr Moseneke’s political experiences led him into law practice, which anticipated his post-1994 entry into the judiciary as a High Court judge and then a Justice of the Constitutional Court.

Remarking on these beginnings, DCJ Moseneke reflected on his upbringing in Atteridgeville in Tshwane, which he described as “the epicentre of Africanist thinking and remains so in many significant ways, and automatically led to jurisprudential thinking”.

“Our history converted the Pan-Africanist Congress into a horrible spectre that ought to be hated and avoided; yet, in My Own Liberator, I explain the fundamentals of Africanist thinking. Of course, the first is to overthrow white domination and colonialism, as these were the obvious sources of oppression. Next, setting up collectively with others to overthrow it. Overturning and overthrowing was such an obvious call, leading to fundamental change and resulting in the rearrangement of power relations in society. Its target is always fundamental in order to be able to achieve a just, open, non-racial, inclusive society.”

The discussion then turned to the hotly debated status of the 1996 Constitution. In All Rise, DCJ Moseneke described a shift from the early optimism of the early 1990s and its later erosion in the wake of the political and economic malaise now confronting post-1994 South Africa. He responded with an impassioned defence of the promise and potential of the post-1994 constitutional project: “The debate we will have and I hope we will have over time is, ‘What did we do with that transition?’ In a complete revolution, you march with guns over your shoulders and whistle on your way, then you establish a government from ground zero. That is one scenario. Our scenario was not like that for many reasons. For me, the important thing that changed my newer decisions was that we have what potentially could be a valid democratic arrangement, provided those who inherit power do the right things.”

He added that he dreamed of a time when every young man and woman in SA and Africa will recognise when they are being oppressed and excluded, and rise up. “Once we had established the potentially democratic arrangement in the country, I think we could have reversed the consequences of colonial oppression, exclusion and economic exploitation. Provided we had set up a competent state. And I thought we could protect that process by having an effective judiciary that is true to the broader aims and objectives of that which we set out in the Constitution.”

All Rise pulls no punches as DCJ Moseneke openly calls for a recognition of the common law as a colonial imposition. This prompted the Dean, Deputy Dean and the VC to offer their own reflection on progress made by UP and UP Law to transform the curriculum and engage in interdisciplinary thinking to resolve the challenges of our society, continent and the world.

To watch a recording of the discussion, click here.  

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