Former chief justice Pius Langa says poverty poses a threat to reconciliation and the rule of law in South Africa.
Speaking at the law and poverty colloquium at the University of Stellenbosch last night, he said not enough attention had been paid to poverty eradication.
He said addressing poverty was in the interest of national reconciliation and the country’s development.
“Many just throw up their hands in despair; others simply accept it as a fact of life that South Africa and the continent will never be able to rid ourselves of this problem. I need hardly mention that the concession to failure is an extremely dangerous one as it affects the sense of urgency with which we attack the problem,” Langa said.
The colloquium is attended by leading local and international experts on law and poverty.
Poverty and interrelated challenges, he said, posed a threat to the Constitution’s foundation concept of the rule of law.
Langa said the recent elections had been “preceded by unprecedented levels of service delivery protests” in which people voiced dissatisfaction against their political leaders.
“More often that not, the trigger for these protests and upheavals is poverty. The question then is, do we at least have a plan to solve this problem?” he asked.
The legal guarantees of political rights, he said, were “indivisible from constitutional protection for social and economic rights”.
“Without economic security and independence, individuals will be unable to realise individual freedom and express themselves freely in the social and political sphere.
“They will be unable to educate themselves – a prerequisite for robust political participation. Without economic security and independence, culture and civil society cannot flourish, individuals will find themselves turning to crime and violence, and will disrespect the legal system,” Langa said.