January 17, 2018

Moseneke’s Impact on Land Restitution

By Byron Crowe

In May 2016, after over fourteen years on the bench, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke retired from his position on South Africa’s highest court. Moseneke, who was an established public figure before joining the Constitutional Court, remains one of its most identifiable members. His retirement provoked an outpouring of support and gratitude from the public and from innumerable South African leaders. Indeed, President Jacob Zuma described him as “one of the country’s finest jurists,” and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng referred to him as a “legal giant.”

In October 2016, Moseneke released his memoir, My Own Liberator. It gives an intriguing account of Moseneke’s life and of the modern history of South Africa. The memoir narrates his early life, political imprisonment, rise as a jurist, and involvement in the building of South Africa’s new democracy. Throughout, Moseneke gives historical context to the personal milestones he describes, showing how the decades-long fight for liberty shaped his life.

My Own Liberator focuses on describing Moseneke’s life before joining the bench, rather than expounding on his jurisprudential views. It also does not give any particularized insight into what he believes his legacy will be. This is not surprising, given the breadth of topics the Constitutional Court dealt with during his tenure. Similarly, this review does not attempt to do so. Instead, this review gives an overview of My Own Liberator while adding color to Moseneke’s work at the Court, particularly as it related to land restitution. Part II provides a summary of My Own Liberator, and Part III discusses the background of land restitution in South Africa and Moseneke’s impact on it. Part IV concludes by giving a brief assessment of Moseneke’s memoir and how it relates to his land restitution jurisprudence.

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