International Association of Constitutional Law: Cape Town Roundtable, 9-11 April 2006
The 1990s was a decade of constitution-making around the world. A central interest of comparative constitutional lawyers then was the role of constitutions in facilitating democratic transition. In addition to laying down the democratic ‘rules of the game’, some of these constitutions also had a clear transformative intent, promising social justice after a period of totalitarian or otherwise unjust rule. Ten to 15 years later, the question is whether these constitutions have been successful – have they served to entrench constitutionalism and lived up to their transformative promise?
The Cape Town roundtable conference aimed to use South Africa as a focal point for addressing this broad question. It was organised around three themes: past political violence, ethnic minorities and poverty alleviation. Each of these themes was chosen for its importance to South Africa’s transition and post-transitional challenges.
In keeping with the focus on the role of constitutions in poverty alleviation, the conference included presentations and a specialised workshop on the domestic implementation of international trade agreements in Africa. tralac, with the support of Ausaid, hosted the workshop on the second day of the conference.
Several papers were delivered during the morning session (as part of this conference) and dealt with the incorporation of international legal instruments, in particular trade agreements and protocols, in the countries of Southern Africa. Papers were delivered by Prof Gerhard Erasmus, Dr Steven Churches of Australia, Dr Steven Kokerai of the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone, and Prof Cistac of the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique. These papers deal with constitutional and public law provisions in Australia and a number of Southern African states. The South African Constitution (sections 231 - 239) and related legislation on trade administration were discussed in detail.
The ad hoc workshop was convened in the afternoon for participants from member states in Southern Africa. This provided an opportunity for the various legal advisors of the governments, of SADC and SACU to explain their needs and views on future developments.