The Constitutional Court, perched atop Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, is celebrated as one of the most remarkable court buildings in the world. The Court was intentionally designed “to reflect the values of our new constitutional democracy”, to be “welcoming rather than forbidding” and to exude “sparkle and warmth.”
But, for more than two years, the Court precinct has not been used for its main purpose: the hearing of important constitutional cases. Instead, virtual hearings have become the “new normal” — and with it, the “sparkle and warmth” of the Court’s atmosphere has been chilled.
The shift to online hearings was, of course, a necessary measure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the national state of disaster has now formally ended. Other sectors of society have mostly returned to business-as-usual. And courts across the country, including the Supreme Court of Appeal, are hearing matters in their physical courtrooms.
So why has the highest court in the country not done the same? It is not clear.