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Tribute to Justice Edwin Cameron

- Lee-Anne Bruce

As he steps down from the Constitutional Court, CALS would like to celebrate the remarkable legacy of one of our most illustrious alumni: Justice Edwin Cameron

Today, as he steps down from the Constitutional Court, CALS would like to celebrate the remarkable legacy of Justice Edwin Cameron. Without a doubt one of our most illustrious alumni, he has been a force for change and social justice in many areas of our law for over three decades. Long before he would take up a position at our highest court, Justice Cameron fought injustice as a human rights lawyer during apartheid, and as an HIV/AIDS and LGBT+ activist in the early days of our democracy.

Justice Edwin Cameron is retiring today after twenty five years serving his country as a member of the judiciary. Since the beginning of his legal career, Justice Cameron has shown an incredible commitment to human rights. Just three years after joining the Johannesburg Bar in 1983, he moved his legal practice to the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University. At CALS, he was able to use the law as a tool to oppose apartheid at a number of levels, including challenging charges of treason against members of the ANC, combatting unfair labour practices, and contesting forced removals from land.

Later, Justice Cameron would argue a number of cases of discrimination based on HIV-status, including a landmark case in the then Supreme Court which guaranteed the confidentiality of people living with HIV must be protected. He would go on to found the AIDS Consortium and the AIDS Law Project while still at CALS, as well as begin crucial advocacy around HIV and AIDS which confronted the stigma of the epidemic in South Africa. Justice Cameron was the first senior official to state publicly that he is living with HIV/AIDS. His advocacy did not stop there: in the early 1990s, he oversaw the gay and lesbian movement’s submissions on the development of the new Constitution and helped to ensure that sexual orientation would be included as a protected category under the right to equality clause.

Justice Cameron was made senior counsel in 1994 and appointed as a judge of the High Court shortly thereafter. He has served as a member of the judiciary there, in the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court, for the last twenty five years, making an incalculable contribution to South African jurisprudence. His impact on our country, the formulation of our constitutional democracy and strengthening of our rights-based framework, cannot be overstated.

It has been our privilege over the years to appear before Justice Cameron in the Constitutional Court, to hear him speak at our events and to read his work in articles and his award-winning memoirs. We wish him nothing but the best in this new phase of his journey.

CALS will also be participating in a symposium in honour of Justice Cameron, celebrating his constitutional service with a day of critical legal dialogue. The symposium will be hosted by the School of Law on 4 September 2019 from 10:00 at the Chalsty Centre. Please RSVP to by 2 September.