What kind of institutional culture should be created?
From the very first meetings, collegiality defined the culture of the Constitutional Court. The judges referred to each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’, a practice that still exists today. This collegiality permeated beyond the judges to the rest of the Constitutional Court staff, creating an environment defined by ubuntu, respect and inclusion.
An institution is more than the individuals who function within its confines. Institutions have a life and a culture of their own that is both shaped by and influences those who are part of them. The Constitutional Court has eleven judges. We sit en banc and decide cases together. Although we have our differences, what has been of fundamental importance during the first ten years of the life of the Court has been the spirit of collegiality that permeates all aspects of our work. That has been an invaluable asset.
Humility and collegiality are two fundamental virtues that you must have for you to be able to serve in this Court.
I must say, when I arrived at the Supreme Court of Appeal, the environment was not welcoming. It was still at the stage where white judges did not have confidence in black judges. And I think the majority of them thought we were there only on the basis of the colour of our skin. That we didn’t qualify to be there … It took a while for one to establish oneself to be respected at an intellectual level. But when I came to the Constitutional Court it was different. It was welcoming. Everybody was friendly. But the difference was you’re sitting in a big panel, which has its own challenges.
That is not to say that there were no quarrels, or arguments, or heated words from time to time, because of the different personalities, strong personalities. But I think that spiced up the whole existence of that early Constitutional Court group.
One thing that stands out when you compare the Constitutional Court with the other courts … is the genuine collegial relations with your colleagues, as opposed to some other courts where … the relations are more superficial … You build relations, which might be stronger than even your private individual family relations because these are the people with whom you spend more time, these are the people with whom you discuss difficult matters affecting the country. It is quite rewarding in that sense.