The launch and opening of the Justice Edwin Cameron Collection and Reading Room took place in the Stellenbosch University (SU) Library on Tuesday (6 December 2022). The collection, received in 2021, is housed in the Special Collections area of the library and is now ready to be used by researchers.
This comprehensive collection contains publications and lectures by Cameron as well as material on his voluntary community service. Importantly, it also contains material on his career and his years as Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. This includes court cases, speeches, journals, videos, newspaper clippings and photographs.
Ellen Tise, Senior Director: Library and Information Services, said the collection is the culmination of a conversation she started with Cameron in December 2020 and is the 461st collection to be curated by the manuscript section of the Special Collections division.
“This very special collection offers researchers a glimpse of what our future could look like by looking at the past and also what is currently happening in the country," she said.
Prof Nicola Smit, Dean of the Faculty of Law, expressed similar sentiments.
“This collection by one of South Africa's foremost jurors and activists for justice will help researchers and our students to better understand South Africa's history and our past. It is a precious gift to present and future generations of students and scholars. It will help them gain a deeper understanding of how individuals like Justice Cameron took a courageous stand against the injustices of their time in solidarity with others. It will also hopefully inspire them to forge pathways to justice in their own time."
Cameron, who has been Chancellor of SU since January 2020, said he is touched and deeply grateful for being honoured in this way, but reiterated that the collection is not about him.
“It is about history and memorialising the issues that I have been permitted to grapple with and bring to the fore. I hope that this collection will contribute to greater understanding of those issues."
The retired Constitutional Court judge is well known for his HIV/Aids and gay-rights activism. President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed him as Inspecting Judge of Correctional Services from
1 January 2020.
In 2015, SU conferred an honorary doctorate on Cameron in acknowledgement of his “unstinting professional and personal advocacy for the recognition of every person's dignity, freedom and equality – foundational values he has helped entrenched in our legal system and beyond".
He has helped develop South African law so as to truly reflect the fundamental values of the Constitution. Moreover, his role in securing the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Bill of Rights, as well as his advocacy for persons with HIV/Aids, has made him a key player in South African and international law.
Cameron studied at the Universities of Stellenbosch, Oxford and South Africa. He started out his career at, among others, the University of the Witwatersrand's Centre for Applied Legal Studies before he was appointed as senior counsel (SC) in 1994, and as an acting judge of the High Court by former President Nelson Mandela later that same year. He was appointed a judge of the High Court in 1995, judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2001, and justice of the Constitutional Court in 2009.
As the first South African in a high-profile public office speaking openly about his HIV status and experience taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), Cameron has made a credible and crucial contribution to more accessible ARV treatment for all HIV-positive South Africans.
The Cameron Collection takes pride of place next to other collections of SU Chancellors such as Frederik van Zyl Slabbert. The collection has been sorted and indexed and an inventory for the collection is available here.