Belonging in the New South Africa: Johan Froneman’s Search for a Fundamental Constitutional Identity for the People of South Africa

Sarah McGibbon*, Imraan Abdullah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article in journalAcademicpeer-review


On 31 May 2020, Justice Johan Froneman retired from the bench of the Constitutional Court of South Africa after ten years of service at the apex court. From unremarkable beginnings in the Eastern Cape, he rose to become one of South Africa’s unrelenting champions of dignity, equality and freedom in the face of rising challenges to the Court and its integrity. This article traces his journey from Cathcart to Constitution Hill, both from a personal and judicial perspective. Rather than focusing on one particular constitutional theme in his (extensive) jurisprudence, the aim of this article is instead to explore Justice Froneman’s journey from the perspective of what it means to ‘belong’ in South Africa today, or rather, his contribution to the sense of ‘belongingness’ for the people of South Africa. This piece considers Justice Froneman’s attempts to weave the constitutional values into the fabric of South African society and ensure functioning state machinery through his treatment of property rights, language, customary law and matters of the state. Ultimately, we explore his approach to these issues in the context of Justice Froneman’s own personal identity and challenges to his belonging in the evershifting transitional landscape of South Africa’s adolescent democracy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConstitutional Court Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • accountability
  • belongingness
  • constitutional values
  • judicial integrity
  • law clerk
  • tribute
  • retirement

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