The Courts Vs. Apartheid

It seems the sharpest of paradoxes: an independent judiciary housed within an authoritarian state. Yet at various times over the past four decades, South Africa's courts have challenged the government in an effort to protect the civil liberties of the country's black majority. Last week, as a three-judge panel of the Natal Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the state of emergency, the world saw a bold example of a maverick judicial system in action.

The character of the South African courts has undergone several changes since the ruling National Party came to power in 1948. The 110 judges in...

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