How should the Court be staffed?
The Court was also in the position to hire new staff ranging from cleaners, accounting clerks, administrative clerks, personal assistants, librarians and security. The judges decided that the Court should have as diverse a staff as possible.
We didn’t have offices; we didn’t have staff and we didn’t have equipment. We were lent staff by the government service … We got some good people and we also got some duds. But we got started. We got a registry going and we started drafting rules. It was a fun time. We started getting to know one another and of course the next major phase was then to be actually formally inducted and start our first case in those exciting days.
It was so exciting because we didn’t know much about constitutional matters or what a Constitutional Court is. We were so excited to be the first people who are working here. Even when the people from the outside ask, you tell them proudly, ‘You know, I am working at the Constitutional Court’. The management team and the judges were so nice to us. They treated us as one family and did not exclude us because we were cleaners.
People here are at ease. You don’t get stressed out and such. You hear people telling you about how their workplace is like this, like that, and then you compare their workplace with yours! I know I’m better off.
The former Chief Justice (Arthur Chaskalson) was a nice person. He was down to Mother Earth. Every time he sees you in the passage … he will greet you and he will ask you, ‘How are you? Is everything alright?’ Justice Langa was also a nice person … Even at Christmas parties with the judges, you don’t feel like an outsider. You communicate with the judges freely. You feel that this is a fair country now. You feel that thing of democracy. It’s all around this building.
One amazing thing is that when you walk in the corridor, the judges call you by your name. Ja, they were very nice. Justice Langa was always busy, but whenever he meets you in the corridor, he would always say, ‘Hello’, and he would always talk to you.
The first bench was friendly. In the beginning, because I was new, I didn’t interact much with them but as time went on I saw they were friendly people.
I remember the first day I started at the Constitutional Court, the Court was having their Christmas party. It was a nice way to ease into it but I was very scared. You know, you have all the judges and the Chief Justice, and you don’t really know how to greet them. I was quite nervous. I must be honest.
It is an honour to work here because it is the highest Court in the land. People respect this Court a lot. We have a very good relationship with the judges. They are our first priority.
Because of the staff’s belief in the Court as an institution, and because of the Court’s collegial and inclusive culture, many staff members have dedicated themselves to the Court for a number of years and many have been able to move up the ranks from interns to permanent staff members.
It’s been a privilege to have been part of the first Constitutional Court of South Africa. Its growth and reputation have been due to all who have worked within it, to a myriad of people, most of them unacknowledged, who have contributed to its day-to-day activities. This is an opportunity to thank all who have been part of this endeavour, which I do most warmly and with great appreciation.
If you look at where we are right now, it’s a big achievement … my respect really goes to those who started the Court. All the eleven judges who were appointed in 1994, and started the Court from basically nothing … created what we have inherited … And the jurisprudence that you see right now is because of the resilience and the dedication, the hard work, the commitment of the best eleven, I call them.