Neither Adopted nor Borrowed: A Critique of the Conception of the South African Bill of Rights

Keywords: International human rights movement, International Bill of Rights, human rights discourse, South Africa, Bill of Rights

Abstract

The failure of the post-apartheid government to deliver on some of the promises of the South African Bill of Rights, coupled with the appropriation of the Bill of Rights by the international human rights movement, create the impression that the Bill of Rights is a neo-liberal instrument which is irrelevant to the needs of South Africans and the realities of their circumstances. If the people of South Africa are convinced that the Bill of Rights embraces a Western agenda more than it expresses their collective aspirations, it will lose its legitimacy. While acknowledging that the conception of the Bill of Rights is contested between the international human rights movement and some South Africans, this article shows that the Bill of Rights was neither adopted nor borrowed from the international human rights movement. South Africans did not assimilate the International Bill of Rights but conceived their own Bill of Rights in the early decades of the 20th Century. The conception of the South African Bill of Rights was a response to colonialism and apartheid and was not a consequence of tutelage by the international human rights movement.

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Published
2020-08-28
How to Cite
Dube, F. (2020). Neither Adopted nor Borrowed: A Critique of the Conception of the South African Bill of Rights. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 23, 1-26. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2020/v23i0a8794
Section
Special Edition: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70