College of Law

All rise for Dikgang Moseneke

Justice Dikgang Moseneke, former Deputy Chief Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who obtained a BA in English and Political Science as well as a B Juris degree from Unisa while he was jailed on Robben Island, will launch All rise - A judicial memoir at the university on 21 October 2020.


"Everything I have achieved was made possible because of Unisa," Moseneke said when the university awarded him the Degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in September 2011. He said during his incarceration on Robben Island, it was Unisa that stood as a beacon of hope for him and the other political prisoners.

"Two numbers (my Robben Island prison number and my Unisa student number) were vital for my continued survival and yet they served divergent and often paradoxical ends. The one was the ultimate symbol of deprivation of liberty, repression and human futility. In sharp contrast, the student number served as an icon of goodness. It represented a fountain of knowledge that was life-giving and liberating."

"The university made it possible for me to become an attorney, a businessman, junior counsel, senior counsel, a judge in the High Court, a justice in the Constitutional Court, and deputy chief justice," he said, adding that Unisa made it possible for him to serve the people.

Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s name resonates with the struggle for justice, dignity, equality and freedom. He is possibly best known for his role in the relatively recent Life Esidimeni Commission of Inquiry where he was appointed to fulfil the unenviable task of determining precisely why it was that hundreds of mental health-care users in Gauteng had died - or simply gone missing - after a fatal decision was made by the Gauteng Department of Health to terminate its contract with Life Esidimeni.

This inquiry was essentially the culmination of a life dedicated to the transformation and development of the South African legal system. Accordingly, All rise - A judicial memoir is a fascinating and compelling account of Dikgang Moseneke’s judicial career at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the processes involved to assume office in the highest court of the land.

Labelled a terrorist at the age of 15, convicted for "conspiring to overthrow the apartheid regime", and incarcerated for ten years, Moseneke nonetheless obtained a BA in English and Political Science as well as a B Juris degree from Unisa, recognising that he was obliged to study the same colonial laws that were the root of his oppression. Certainly, it was by no means a straightforward process to be admitted as an attorney, let alone be able to practise law in the blatantly racist society that was South Africa in the 1980s. Indeed, as he describes himself in his previous book, My own liberator, Moseneke is a man of principle and integrity who is not afraid to challenge injustice in all its forms and to expend the long hours required to succeed. His elevation to the bench of the Tshwane High Court after having taken silk as an advocate of the High Court attests to his work ethic. It is no surprise, therefore, that former President Thabo Mbeki selected Moseneke and Judge Sisi Khampepe to undertake a judicial observer mission to Zimbabwe to oversee the 2002 elections against the backdrop of a fragile peace in that country. Shortly thereafter, the Judicial Service Commission unambiguously approved Moseneke’s appointment to the Constitutional Court.

It is Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s stellar career at the Constitutional Court (of which he became the Deputy Chief Justice), that forms the major part of All rise. Albeit humbly, here he describes the hundreds of cases that he was personally involved in deciding and reveals how these cases have crystallised the constitutional vision of ensuring adherence to the rule of law, accountability, the separation of powers, and constitutionalism. Significantly, the political pressure that the judiciary is routinely placed under is also addressed in detail. The clarity with which Moseneke conveys the principles upon which the Constitution is founded, the intricate workings of the legal system, and the manner in which the Constitutional Court decides each and every case that comes before it makes this book invaluable for any person committed to the ideals contained in the Constitution and who hopes to see South Africa flourish.

To register, please click here.

The book launch will be live streamed here.

Former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke will engage with Justice Yvonne Mokgoro and Prof Mbuzeni Mathenjwa during the event.

Enquiries: Prof Mpfariseni Budeli-Nemakonde (budelm@unisa.ac.za) or Dr Lee Stone (stonel@unisa.ac.za).

* By Lee Stone, Doctor and Senior Lecturer, Department of Public, Constitutional & International Law, College of Law

Publish date: 2020/10/23