The Constitutional Assembly appointed a team of advocates to defend the draft text. Advocate George Bizos, a leading human rights advocate who had been involved in many high-profile political cases against the apartheid government, led a team consisting of Wim Trengove, Marumo Moerane, Nona Goso and Khomotso Moroka. Forty-eight advocates represented the objectors, excluding the attorneys that had briefed and supported them. This was the largest number of legal professionals to be involved in a single case.
One hundred and fifty-five issues to be heard over two weeks with more than 50 lawyers arguing one issue after another, was a hell of an exciting and very pressurised and extraordinary thing.
Most extraordinary of course was that in every legal system, the constitution would normally be the base rule against which everything else is measured and argued. We were now going to be debating the underlying foundation of our law. We knew at the time that this was a highly unusual, once in a lifetime event that we had been called on to do.
Five of us in our team drafted more than 250 pages of argument that we hoped would show conclusively that the proposed Constitution complied. We filed copies of our argument almost a month before the hearing. From the submissions made by the parties we knew that once the oral argument began we would have a lot of work to do.
The Court had divided the objections into broadly associated topics that were to be heard at specific times on specific days over a period of 11 days. The lead Counsel for the Constitutional Assembly were to be afforded the right to open the debates. Each objection was then heard from individuals, representatives of the organisation concerned or political parties.
The Court set out in advance how much time – specified in minutes not hours – the Constitutional Assembly and the objector had on every issue. They introduced a unique system of very strict time keeping – a system of three lights. When a person’s time started, the green light would go on. A minute or two from the end of the allocated time, a yellow would go on. The red indicated the time to stop.
You can imagine how fascinating it was because lawyers are used to going to court usually and having a single issue to
argue for a whole day.