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SA is still a much better country despite turmoil


SCA Justice Carole Lewis tells graduates that besieged as we are by bad news daily and by crisis in government, we tend to forget how bad the old days were.

Justice Carole Lewis congratualated on her Gold Medal by Professor Tawana Kupe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Advancement“You graduate with a country that is better than it was when I graduated. That may sound very strange when there is so much political and economic turmoil in South Africa where citizens have to turn to the courts to make government do its duty and to undo what government has done unlawfully.

“The fact is, however, that you do have a very powerful constitution to turn to and an independent judiciary to protect your rights,” Lewis, one of South Africa’s most senior justices in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), told graduands from the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management.

She was awarded a Gold Medal by the University today for her rich contribution to the life of the University while she was on its academic staff and her service to the institution during her subsequent and most distinguished judicial career.    

In delivering her acceptance speech, Lewis told the graduating lawyers, accountants, financiers, economists and business people that in the wake of the current political and economic crisis and the vacuum in leadership we tend to forget how life was like under apartheid.

“Today you live in a democracy where there is a free press despite pressures being put on it and where there are no oppressive laws in place – at least not yet. There are no pass laws, no influx control, no job reservation, no legitimated racism, segregation and discrimination.

“You all have the same opportunities. And despite very difficult economic circumstances that many of you have lived through as graduates you will have the capacity to prosper and make other people’s lives better. It may be difficult and there will be obstacles throughout your life but there is nothing that lawfully stands in your way as there was for many of the generations that preceded you,” she said.

Gold Medal

A Gold Medal, instituted by the Council of the University, is awarded to honour persons of outstanding distinction who have been important to the life of Wits University. Lewis has served Wits as a student, academic, lecturer, Head of the Wits School of Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law, as well as Senate member on the Wits Council, and Deputy Chair of the Wits Council.

When the South African judiciary was in need of excellent women candidates after 1994, Lewis was called to the Bench, and first served as judge on the High Court and since 2003 in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

During her time on the SCA Lewis has written many significant judgments in areas ranging from contract and property to administrative law, and has earned the respect of her colleagues and indeed of all in the legal profession for her penetrating intellect, her incisive reasoning and the clarity, brevity and elegance of her writing.

Lewis has maintained a close association with the University since becoming a judge. Wits University in general and the Wits School of Law in particular have had the benefit of Lewis’ clear and principled thinking, wise administration and good judgment for nearly forty years.

Read the full citation.