Professor Sustein stated in his paper Social and Economic Rights? Lessons from South Africa that South African’s constitution is the world’s leading example of a transformative constitution. He states that ‘If is it opt to describe the South African Constitution in these terms, this is because the document is designed to ensure that future governments do not fall prey to anything like the evils of the apartheid era… the creation of socio-economic rights is best understood in this light.’
The principles laid down by the Constitution Court for the interpretation of socio-economic rights in the landmark decisions of Grootboom, Soobramoney and Minister of Health v Treatment Act Campaign were used as basis for assessing progress and obstacles in the implementations of these rights.
In this essay I shall discuss, criticise and evaluate the implementation and enforcement of socio-economic rights taking into consideration relevant cases and writing of academics on socio-economic rights in South Africa. Lastly, I shall look at social-economic rights inequality and the solution.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS?
Professor Sustein argues that the purpose and aim of socio-economic rights is to prevent the ‘recurrence of apartheid-like evils and overcome the legacy of apartheid.’ In other words Sustein’s argument is that socio-economic rights aim is to bring about change, not to maintain the status quo. Roux on the one hand argues that ‘perhaps more plausibly it could be said that the current South African Constitution is designed to prevent recurrence of totalitarian...the inclusion of justiciable socio-economic rights were seen as integral to that enterprise.’
Both Roux and Sustein are correct, the purpose of socio-economic rights is to transform our society into one that is based on human dignity. These have been implemented in our Constitution to help government to transform. The best way to describe the purpose of