Oral history of the Constitutional Court

The death of Judge Tholakele Madala in August 2010 was the third among the original appointees to South Africa’s first Constitutional Court.  Judges John Didcott and Ismail Mahomed preceded him.

The Oral History project  captured the memories and experiences of the remaining Judges, some of their successors and others active during the formative years of the Court, while these are still relatively fresh. These records, supplemented with materials from radio broadcasting archives, were collected into an oral history of the Court, covering the period from inception to the end of the first period of the Court’s existence.

Oral histories are growing in importance. Oral histories not only fill in the gaps, but they tell the story in a different way, as a lived experience, or ‘phenomenlogically’.  In our case, we hoped to learn  how the founding generation perceived their participation and role in the process of realizing South Africa’s constitutional ideal.

A total of one hundred interviews were conducted by oral historian, Roxsana Patel between November 2011 and February 2012 and about 93 of the 100 interviews are now available to the public through the Cullen Library at Wits University and the Constitutional Court Library.

The project is funded by the generous contributions of the Ford Foundation and the C S Mott Foundation.