Dikgang Moseneke, an internationally revered jurist who helped build and lead a post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, will receive the 2020 Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law, David F. Levi, director of the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law School, announced today.
A lifelong advocate for justice, human rights, and the rule of law, Justice Moseneke helped draft South Africa’s Interim Constitution, laying the groundwork for a post-apartheid society rooted in the just and equal application of law. Over the course of 15 years as a justice and then deputy chief justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, Moseneke authored numerous influential opinions that helped clarify and strengthen democratic principles and the separation of powers among the branches of government in South Africa.
Justice Moseneke also has written and spoken extensively on the rule of law and its importance, offering a perspective shaped by his experiences as a political prisoner during apartheid, which used the cover of law to exact damage and injustice. His knowledge of apartheid is first-hand; at age 15, he was imprisoned at Robben Island, alongside future president Nelson Mandela, for protesting his country’s segregated system. Justice Moseneke earned two of his three degrees during the decade he spent there.
“Justice Moseneke is a globally respected judge and thinker who, with great devotion to the rule of law and a deep understanding of the principles that animate a democratic society, helped bring a broken nation into a new century of promise, equality, and justice,” said David F. Levi, director of the Bolch Judicial Institute.
“Justice Moseneke has articulated an understanding of the rule of law as a legal system that defends individual rights and freedoms, that pursues social justice, and that in content and spirit advances democratic principles and human dignity.”
“Through his example and his writing, he has helped us understand that the ideal of the rule of law must be more than a system of rules and adherence to them — a threshold that apartheid met. Instead, Justice Moseneke has articulated an understanding of the rule of law as a legal system that defends individual rights and freedoms, that pursues social justice, and that in content and spirit advances democratic principles and human dignity. That vision transformed South Africa and offers a beacon to nations around the world where the rule of law has not taken hold or has not yet lived up to its ideal.”
The Bolch Prize is awarded annually by the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School to an individual or organization who has demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the rule of law and to advancing rule of law principles around the world. By honoring those who do this work, the Bolch Prize draws attention to the ideals of justice and judicial independence and to the constitutional structures and safeguards that undergird a free society. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was the inaugural recipient of the award in 2019. The prize, which includes a custom artwork and a significant monetary award, will be given during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in April (program postponed).
About Justice Moseneke
Born in 1947 in Pretoria, Justice Moseneke was arrested at age 15 for opposing apartheid, the state system of institutionalized racial segregation, and sentenced to 10 years in the prison rock quarry of Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa. His fellow political prisoners included future South African presidents Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma. While in prison, Justice Moseneke earned two degrees through a correspondence course with the University of South Africa. He went on to become a leading law practitioner, defending political prisoners and representing corporations.
As apartheid ended, Justice Moseneke helped draft South Africa’s Interim Constitution. A year later, in 1994, he served as the deputy chair of the Independent Electoral Commission that oversaw the tense first democratic elections in South Africa. He was appointed to the nation’s High Court in 2001 and elevated to the Constitutional Court in 2002; he became the deputy chief justice in 2005, a position from which he retired in 2016.
Justice Moseneke’s legacy as a leader in the law includes jurisprudence on affirmative action, rule of law, separation of powers, socio-economic rights, property, economic justice, and anti-corruption law. He earned the 2018 “Order of Luthuli in Gold,” South Africa’s highest honor, in recognition of his “exceptional contribution to the field of law and the administration of justice.”
He holds multiple honorary degrees, has held numerous positions of leadership in business, higher education, government, and law, and is a widely published scholar. He is serving as a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke University during the spring 2020 semester; while in residence at Duke, he will participate in events and roundtables, co-teach a class at the Sanford School for Public Policy, guest lecture in selected courses, and conclude his second memoir, reflecting on his time in judicial office.
About the Bolch Judicial Institute
The Bolch Judicial Institute’s mission is to study and advance rule-of-law principles, to protect and support judicial independence, and to explore the ways in which technology can improve the administration of justice. The Institute provides unique educational opportunities for sitting judges in the United States and around the globe; conducts research and supports teaching and scholarship on courts and judicial decision-making; and develops civic education initiatives to advance its mission.
MEDIA CONTACT: Melinda Vaughn
- Event at Sanford School of Public Policy, “My Own Liberator: A Conversation with Dikgang Moseneke” (21 January 2020)
- Conor Colasurdo and Rebecca Marlin. “South Africa’s Constitutional Jurisprudence and the Path to Democracy: An Annotated Interview with Dikgang Moseneke, Acting Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa,” Fordham International Law Journal (2014)
- Dikgang Moseneke. My Own Liberator: A Memoir, Picador Africa (2016)
- Alistair Price. A Warrior for Justice: Essays in Honour of Dikgang Moseneke. Juta (2017)
- Dikgang Moseneke. “Establishing Social Consensus on the Shifting Boundaries Between Judicial and Executive Functions of the State – Lessons from the Recent Past” Inaugural Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge Memorial Lecture (30 October 2009)
- Dikgang Moseneke. “Striking a Balance Between the Will of the People and the Supremacy of the Constitution,” Claude Leon Public Lecture University of Cape Town (29 September 2011)
- Dikgang Moseneke. “A Journey from the Heart of Apartheid Darkness Towards a Just Society: Salient Features of the Budding Constitutionalism and Jurisprudence of South Africa,” Georgetown University Law Center (4 April 2012)