Justice Edwin Cameron's farewell ceremony at the Constitutional Court. Picture: Freddy Mavunda
Justice Edwin Cameron's farewell ceremony at the Constitutional Court. Picture: Freddy Mavunda

As SA appears to be in danger of sinking — economically, politically, socially — and some of the very institutions designed to protect the country’s democracy seem determined to break it, it is the courts that have provided the democratic ballast the listing ship of state so desperately needs.

So it marked a sad day this week as the Constitutional Court bade farewell to Edwin Cameron, who has served on the judicial benches of SA for 25 years.

Concerningly, Cameron’s retirement brings the vacancy count in the 11-person apex court to three. Of equal concern is how long the court has been running at less than full steam: Raymond Zondo left a gap when he was promoted to deputy chief justice in mid-2017; Bess Nkabinde retired later that year. And while the Judicial Service Commission presented President Cyril Ramaphosa with a list of possible candidates in April, the president is apparently still "applying his mind".

On his last day of service, Cameron acknowledged that the court had come under tremendous pressures during his time on the bench — and would continue to do so. "The fight for our constitutional values is now more urgent than ever, and future-directed and future-regarded commitment is more vital than ever," he said.

Would that Ramaphosa evinced a similar commitment, and urgency, to bolstering the ultimate bulwark of democracy.