The Political Role of the South African Courts

Project Team: Siri Gloppen (project leader), Roberto Gargarella

Timeframe: 01/01/2003 - 12/01/2005

This research project (2002-5), was a collaboration with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Johannesburg) investigating the role played by courts in the linked processes of democratic consolidation and social transformation in South Africa.
The ideological dominance of constitutional democracy, combined with extensive legal and judicial reforms,  increased the potential contribution of courts to the processes of democratic consolidation and social transformation. But the role courts may – and actually do – play under various conditions is not sufficiently understood. In particular, the accountability function of courts vis-à-vis political authorities, their role in promoting socio-economic development, and their capacity to provide access to justice to marginalised groups are all under-researched. The research project aimed to fill this gap by focusing on the role of the South African courts, as well as develop a theoretical and methodological basis for broader comparative study.