Edwin Cameron

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Biographical information

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Edwin Cameron

Synopsis:

Activist and advocator of equality, human rights, gay rights and health and HIV/aids rights. Cameron is a practicing lawyer and former Acting Justice of the South African Constitutional Court 1999-2000.

First name: 
Edwin
Last name: 
Cameron
Date of birth: 
1953
Location of birth: 
Pretoria, Gauteng (then Transvaal), South Africa

Edwin Cameron was born on 15 February 1953 in Pretoria. He completed his schooling at Pretoria Boys’ High School and thanks to an Anglo-American Corporation Open Scholarship award; Cameron was able to attend Stellenbosch University. At Stellenbosch, Cameron acquired a BA Law degree, and an Honours degree in Latin – both cum laude.

Cameron was a lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies before he left for Oxford in 1976, on a coveted Rhodes scholarship. At Oxford, he obtained a BA in Jurisprudence with first class honours, the Jurisprudence Prize, BCL with first class honours and the Vinerian Scholarship. Cameron later attained his LLB from the University of South Africa cum laude, and was awarded the Johannes Voet Medallion for Best Law Graduate.

Cameron began practice as a lawyer at the Johannesburg Bar in 1983, and from 1986 conducted a human rights practice from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS). In 1989, he was awarded a personal professorship in law.

His practice was mainly concerned with labour and employment law, and therefore Cameron defended African National Congress (ANC) activists who had been charged with treason. He also took on cases of conscientious and religious objection, land tenure and forced removals and gay and lesbian equality. From 1988 he advised the National Union of Mineworkers on AIDS/HIV, and helped to draft and negotiate the first comprehensive AIDS agreement with the Chamber of Mines.

While at CALS, he drafted the Charter of Rights on AIDS and HIV, and co-founded the AIDS Consortium (a national association of non-governmental organizations). He chaired this association for the first three years of its existence, and became the first director of the AIDS Law Project.

Cameron was also instrumental in the gay and lesbian movement’s submissions to the Kempton Park negotiating process, during the course of which he gave his inaugural lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, entitled "Sexual Orientation and the Constitution: A Test Case for Human Rights". This lecture, along with other work, was influential in securing the inclusion of sexual orientation in the South African Constitution.

In October 1994, he was appointed Acting judge of the High Court and chair of a Commission to investigate illegal arms transactions by President Mandela. He was then appointed on a permanent basis to the High Court from 1 January 1995. In 1999/2000 he served as an Acting Justice at the Constitutional Court and in 2000 was chosen as a Judge of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Cameron has also been involved in other community related activities, which include the following:

  • Chair of the governing Council of the University of the Witwatersrand since 1998
  • Patron of the Guild Cottage Children’s Home
  • Patron of the Sparrow’s Nest Hospice
  • Patron of the Community AIDS Response (CARE)
  • Patron of Soweto HIV/AIDS Counsellors’ Association (SOHACA)
  • Co-founder of Wits Law School Endowment Appeal and first chairman (1998-2005)
  • Assistant General Secretary, Rhodes Trust in Southern Africa (1980-1992)
  • General Secretary, Rhodes Trust in Southern Africa since 2003

On an international scale, Cameron has been a keynote speaker at the XII International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Durban, and was invited to deliver an inaugural lecture for British Academy, United Kingdom

A list of Cameron’s Honours and Awards include:

Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights

Transnet’s HIV/AIDS Champions Award

University of Stellenbosch - Alumnus Award

Special award by the Bar of England and Wales for ‘contribution to international jurisprudence and protection of human rights’

San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Excellence in Leadership Award

‘Witness to AIDS’ jointly awarded Sunday Times/Alan Paton Prize (South Africa’s premier literary award for non-fiction)

Honorary Fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies in London

Cameron is also an accomplished author. He has written scholarly articles on the judiciary, labour and employment law, as well the law of trusts, AIDS and HIV, the legal rights of gays and lesbians and the legal computation of time.


References:
• Justice Edwin Cameron Biography [online]. Available at constitutionalcourt.org.za [Accessed 17 February 2009]

Last updated : 25-Feb-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011