Procedural justice as a feature of transformative substantive equality: Critical notes on Social Justice Coalition v Minister of Police (CC)

Authors: Gideon Burnett Basson

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Extraordinary Research Fellow, Department of Public Law, Stellenbosch University
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 141 Issue 2, p. 349-390


The case of Social Justice Coalition v Minister of Police 2022 (10) BCLR 1267 (CC) is concerning. The litigants and the Constitutional Court sidestepped the innovative and transformative role that is envisaged for access to courts and judicial proceedings and that is required by a substantive conception of equality underlying impoverished peoples’ equality rights. This article argues that procedural justice was overlooked as a feature of transformative substantive equality to be applied in a claim relating to poverty-based discrimination. Procedural justice is vital, as impoverished people encounter pervasive economic, social, political and procedural barriers to accessing justice in various democratic forums, including courts. To introduce procedural justice as an indispensable feature of transformative substantive equality, I use the work of the global justice theorist, Nancy Fraser. Fraser’s work provides formidable insights into developing the existing constitutional framework to overcome the bracketing of the pervasive material and social inequalities that are characteristic of liberal rights claims. By focusing on courts and the procedurally innovative demands of equality proceedings, I argue that the judgment is a worrying illustration of the deepening of impoverished people’s democratic erasure. The judgment is procedurally formalistic, effectively absolving courts from their accountability function for redressing poverty and inequality.