Beja and Others v Premier of the Western Cape and Others (21332/10) [2011] ZAWCHC 97

4th May 2011

1. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa1(hereinafter referred to as the "Constitution") has as its primary objective the protection and the restoration of human dignity; it means simply that human beings be treated as human beings2. We have a duty, more particularly public representatives and government to promote human dignity. This duty must be fulfilled responsibly and with the utmost maturity. A failure to do this diminishes us all.

2. It is unfortunate that in the scramble for limited resources, which have to address the historical imbalances and to cater for immediate needs, it has become the subject of political contest and patronage as opposed to the responsible use thereof to fulfill the State's constitutional obligations.

3. In this matter we have seen, various government organisations litigating on opposing sides at a high cost to the tax payer. The Mayor of the City of Cape Town (the second respondent, hereinafter referred to as the "Mayor") Mr Dan Plato and second applicant, Mr Andile Lili, who purports to be a political leader and an Executive member of the African National Congress Youth League, (hereinafter referred to as "ANCYL") simply failed to rise above their political contest as opposed to their duty towards those that need to benefit the poor and vulnerable.

4. In Shabalala and Others v Attorney-General of the Transvaal and Others3 the Constitutional Court stated: "What is perfectly clear from these provisions of the Constitution and the tenor and spirit of the Constitution is that the Constitution is not simply some kind of statutory codification of an acceptable or legitimate past. It retains from the past only what is defensible and represents a radical and decisive break from that part of the past which is unacceptable. It constitutes a decisive break from a culture of Apartheid and racism to a constitutionally protected culture of openness and democracy and universal human rights for South Africans of all ages, classes and colours. There is a stark and dramatic contrast between the past in which South Africans were trapped and the future on which the Constitution is premised. The past was pervaded by inequality, authoritarianism and repression. The aspiration of the future is based on what is "justifiable in an open and democratic society based on freedom and equality". .... The relevant provisions of the Constitution must therefore be interpreted so as to give effect to the purposes sought to be advanced by their enactment". (my underlining)

5. The marginalisation of poor and vulnerable groups in our society remains an obstacle in the realisation of our national goals. "It must be emphasised that the entrenchment of a Bill of Rights, enforceable by a judiciary, is designed, in part, to protect those who are the marginalised, the dispossessed and the outcasts of our society. They are the test of our commitment to a common humanity and cannot be excluded from it"4.

6. The Preamble to the Constitution states:

"We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to;

Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;


Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and

Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations"5. (my underlining)

Hence the realisation of rights and the demands therefore should never be trivialized and made off lightly.