How should the judgments be written?

We took a decision very early on to use simple language, we wanted our judgments to be understood not only by lawyers and academics but by women and men in the street and we decided for that reason to outlaw Latin phrases. Why use Latin when you can use plain English? And that was a change that was made.

Justice Richard Goldstone

We don’t say ‘inter alia’ (meaning amongst other things) and other Latin phrases. We kept ‘prima facie’ because it had become part of English. We also had translation booths in the Court so that people could address us in any of the official languages as it was a right that we have 11 official languages.

Justice Albie Sachs

Sitting ‘en banc’ is not an easy thing because you have more voices … The process is a bit slower in the sense that you have to defer to colleagues and you must have patience, tolerance, and a teachable spirit as well. This is the only way of realising the values of our Constitution. But at the end of the day, the beauty of being here …  is the wisdom of having diverse voices. We all make a contribution because for me it is this diverse society where we come from.

Justice Bess Nkabinde

What really struck me was the fact that … the judgment that I would have to produce would have to have the general consensus of the majority of the judges. After a hearing, the practice of drafting post hearing notes which I had never heard of before …  is very useful because by the time you get to draft your judgment you already have the advantage of having a number of your colleagues, if not all of them, having commented on the approach that you intend to adopt and the reasons that you intend to cite for coming to a particular conclusion.

Justice Sisi Khampepe

Interestingly, in 2017, Justice Johan Froneman took the unusual step of writing his entire concurring judgment in Daniels v Scribante and Another in his mother tongue of Afrikaans, with an English translation provided. He did so because he wanted to speak to the hearts of the applicant and Afrikaans community at large regarding the issue of land.


Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994