More than 40 years after he graduated from Stellenbosch University (SU), Constitutional Court Judge, Edwin Cameron, describes his time on campus as years of intense questioning, challenges and discomfort despite his beautiful surroundings. He questioned himself about his own and Stellenbosch’s political positioning in relation to apartheid as well as about his career choice where he had to decide between literature and law and his sexual orientation. He graduated from SU in 1975 with a BA Honours degree. After this, he went to Oxford University and switched to law. Back in South Africa he also obtained a LLB degree at UNISA.
The choices he made in his student days paved the way for the direction of the rest of his career. He wants to encourage law students to be inspired, empowered, courageous and active and to use post-apartheid law to create social justice for all. “I’m inspired daily by the idea that each of us can, practically and beneficially, make a difference to our own lives and the lives of others. Life offers us no excuse for inaction, and no excuse for complaining without doing something positive.” Edwin supports SU’s future as an outstandingly excellent, increasingly diverse, increasingly inclusive, research, teaching and learning institution.
With time and practice things usually become easier. Not in this case. After nearly 24 years as judge, more than nine years in the country’s highest court, he admits that all cases are difficult and becoming even more difficult. “I truly thought that with age and experience and (one hopes) wisdom, cases would become easier, but the opposite has happened.” Although his work is demanding and stressful, he also finds it intensely rewarding.
His approach towards handling difficult situations is built on two principles which are of the utmost importance to him: integrity and preparation. “You cannot find truth and integrity without searching for it within yourself first. Prepare, prepare, prepare – the more you read about a case, the more you work on it, the more chance you have of eventually finding what may be the answer to it.”
- By Elbie Els -