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Dr Charl Swart

Home country: South Africa

PANGeA partner: Stellenbosch University

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: December 2013

Department:  Political science

Supervisor: Prof Pierre du Toit

Dissertation title: Contending interpretations of the rule of law in South Africa

Abstract: The following study examines whether there are contending interpretations of the rule of law present within the South African democracy. The study proposes that the rule of law forms part of the societal understanding of democracy and everyday life. Rule of law is defined in terms of mental models which influence how stakeholders conceive and define institutions. Rule of law is more than a mere institutional guarantee or set of rules — rule of law is understood as a component of a specific culture of understanding. It is shown that conceptions of rule of law have a long history in western society and have been influenced by both liberal and social ideals. Contemporary conceptions of the rule of law are tightly bound with specific notions of liberal democracy. It is hypothesised that there are distinctly identifiable opinions, beliefs and views of the rule of law present in South African democracy, and that these can be systematically described at the hand of a conceptual typology. The conceptual typology developed, identifies two contending interpretations of the rule of law, namely liberal and social rule of law. Liberal rule of law emphasises the status of the individual, moral plurality and the creation and maintenance of a rule-based society of the future. In contrast, social rule of law places emphasis on the status of the community, a single communally defined conception of the moral good and places greater emphasis on righting past injustices. Other publications that address the themes of democracy and the rule of law in South Africa are also examined in order to determine whether there is congruence between the conceptual typology developed in this study and other works. It is found that the conceptual typology is congruent with other works that depict the African National Congress's conception of democracy, equality and liberty. These congruencies validate and strengthen the conceptual typology developed in this study. The conceptual typology is subsequently applied to a specific court case, the AfriForum v Malema hate speech case. The conceptual typology is found to be sufficiently accurate in analysing contending beliefs associated with the rule of law as expressed in this court case and identifies the African National Congress's conception of the rule of law as falling under the social rule of law and AfriForum's conception as aligning to the liberal rule of law. It is concluded that the conceptual typology can be empirically validated at the hand of the selected case. The conceptual typology is therefore validated with other works (conceptually) and with a specific case (empirically). It is concluded that the conceptual typology provides a clear, robust, concise and comprehensive analytical description of values and beliefs associated with the rule of law in South Africa.

Click here to download full dissertation: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85623

Click here to download Dr Charl Swart's research outputs​​