Legislative immobility and judicial activism: The impact on the separation of powers in South Africa

  • Pieter Labuschagne University of South Africa
Keywords: Constitutional state, Judiciary, Legislature, Executive, Supreme Court of Appeal


The  division  between  the  legislature/executive  and  the  judiciary  in  a  constitutional  state  is  a  very  important,  but  precarious  relationship.  It  is  important  that  the  political  arm  (legislature/executive)  understand  the  critical  role  of  the  judiciary  as  custodian  of  the  Constitution  within  the  constitutional  framework.  Without  the  basic  respect  for  and  understanding  of  the  role  of  the  judiciary,  politicians  in  the  government  can  easily  frustrate  the  judiciary  primary  function  to  uphold  the  law  and  to  establish  the rule of law in a country. If the relationship deteriorates and the status of the judiciary is degraded by  the  ruling  party  it  will  in  the  long  run  tarnish  the  status  of  the  constitutional  state  and  that  of  the  
rule of law in the country. This article deals with the internal process to initiate a private members bill in parliament with an explanation how easily it can be frustrated by the majority party in the standing committees and in parliament. The passing of the private members bill could be frustrated by the ruling party by using their numerical advantage. However, it is also pointed out that the purpose or goal of the same private members bill could also be reached by other means, such as a ruling by the High Courts. The  article  analyse  this  phenomenon  and  outlines  the  potential  impact  thereof  on  the  principle  of  the  separation of powers in South Africa.


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