Ninth Omar Memorial Lecture

The Dullah Omar Memorial Lecture Series celebrates the memory of a person who worked tirelessly towards, and achieved so much, in realising the goals of human rights and democracy. The Community Law Centre and the Faculty of Law wish to honour the late Dullah Omar, by hosting this annual lecture on human rights and democracy in his name. As a fighter for human rights and democracy, he leaves behind a rich legacy on which we as a Centre and a Faculty can draw inspiration and guidance.

Dullah Omar believed that law must serve justice. That law must serve the community, must give effect to human rights and democracy. He put that belief in practice. When he was in practice most of his clients were people who had been victimised by apartheid laws. He was the lawyer of numerous political prisoners. He also acted as legal counsel for trade unions, civic and religious organisations.

By living out his quest for justice, he became a guiding light to many. As an attorney, as an advocate, he had played over the years an important educational role to the many who came in contact with him. At the height of repression in the states of emergency, he played a key role, often at great personal sacrifice, in the flagship civic organisation fighting against apartheid, the United Democratic Front. With the normalisation of politics in 1990 he became the chairperson of the African National Congress in the Western Cape.

With the unbanning of the liberation movements in 1990, a vision for the new legal order based on justice, human rights and democracy was required. To this call Dullah answered. He brought to bear this vision and intellect to the University of the Western Cape and the Law Faculty when in 1990 he became the director of the Community Law Centre. Dullah was the inspiration behind the Centre and worked tirelessly to establish it as a centre of research and advocacy on human rights and democracy. Under his directorship the Centre became a major contributor to policy formulation for the new constitutional order, focusing on the structure of the state, the electoral system, gender issues, children's rights, policing, and the transformation of the judiciary. With his colleagues at the Centre - including Bulelani Ngcuka, Brigitte Mabandla, Zola Skweyiya and Albie Sachs - he participated in the constitutional negotiations, charting the course towards the shaping of the new South Africa.

Dealing with the big issues of the day did not cut him off from the University community, in particular the law students. He often spoke to them, instilling the excitement, the challenge, and the promise of a career in law in service of their community, to the benefit of the new South Africa.

With the first democratic election in 1994 Dullah was elected to Parliament. Befitting his role in the struggle for justice, he was appointed by President Mandela as Minister of Justice. On his shoulders thus fell the task of transforming a legal system that had propped up the perverse system of apartheid, into a system that embraced democracy, human rights and justice. This he did with great zest and success. Under Dullah's ministry, the administration of justice was transformed. Eleven apartheid-based administrations were fused into an entirely new Department of Justice. The Constitutional Court was established, and the foundation was laid for the meaningful transformation of the judiciary. A single national prosecuting authority was formed. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created. Overall, the framework was developed for the transformation of the many facets and institutions of the administration of justice.

The Dullah Omar Memorial Lecture Series celebrates the memory of a person who worked tirelessly towards, and achieved so much, in realising the goals of human rights and democracy.

Author: calitz
Published: Apr 24, 2014
Author: calitz
Published: Feb 03, 2014
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