Pierre de Vos

Pierre Francois de Vos (born 29 June 1963) is a South African constitutional law scholar.


Pierre de Vos
Pierre Francois de Vos

(1963-06-29) 29 June 1963 (age 57)
NationalitySouth African
Alma materStellenbosch University
Columbia University
University of the Western Cape
OccupationLaw professor
EmployerUniversity of Cape Town
RelativesAnna-Marie de Vos SC (sister)[1][2]

Early lifeEdit

De Vos was born in Messina, Transvaal, (now Musina, Limpopo) and matriculated from Pietersburg High School in Pietersburg (now known as Polokwane).[3] His sister, Anne-Marie, is a well-known advocate.[3]

He obtained a BComm (Law), an LLB and an LLM (cum laude) from Stellenbosch University, an LLM from Columbia University and an LLD from the University of the Western Cape.[4]


De Vos taught law at the University of the Western Cape from January 1993 to July 2009, when he was appointed the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town.[5] He was appointed Deputy Dean of the UCT Law Faculty in January 2011.[6]

He has published articles on sexual orientation discrimination and same-sex marriage,[7] the enforcement of social and economic rights, HIV/AIDS, the construction of race, racism and racial discrimination and other human rights issues.

Since September 2006, de Vos has written a blog, Constitutionally Speaking, which deals with South African social and political issues from a constitutional law perspective. He is also a contributor to Thought Leader, a news and opinion website owned by the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian. His blog posts are simultaneously published on the Daily Maverick website.[8] He is a regular media commentator on political and legal events in South Africa and has appeared on SABC and e.tv programmes, various South African radio stations, and on the BBC World Service and CNN International.[9][10]

He is the Chairperson of the Board of the Aids Legal Network, a non-governmental human rights organisation, and also served as a board member of the Triangle Project, a non-profit LGBT advocacy organisation.[4][11][12] He is also a member of the advisory council of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.[13]

In February 2004, in the first case considered by the Equality Court set up in terms of the Constitution of South Africa, de Vos and his partner won a case against the owners of a gay bar in Cape Town after the owners admitted that they had discriminated against de Vos's partner because of his race. As part of a settlement, which was made an order of court, the bar was ordered to pay R10,000 to Siyazenzela, a non-profit organisation nominated by de Vos's partner.[14]

Political viewsEdit

In 2008 de Vos became embroiled in a spat with Helen Zille, the leader of the official opposition in South Africa, after Zille had criticised Judge Nathan Erasmus for chairing a Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate wrongdoing by her party.[15] Zille had said that "some judges allow themselves to be abused and I am afraid Nathan Erasmus is one of them".[16] Writing on Thought Leader, de Vos took issue with Helen Zille, saying her party, the Democratic Alliance, was being "hypocritical" in trying to shut down the Commission and that her comment about Justice Erasmus was "politically stupid" and served to undermine the independence of the judiciary.[17] The Western Cape High Court eventually declared the Commission unconstitutional, but said its judgment should not be read to "suggest that Erasmus J was in any way a party to" the nefarious conduct of the then Premier.[18][19]

In June 2009, after a radio debate between de Vos and Paul Ngobeni, a supporter of Judge President of the Cape, John Hlophe, de Vos was accused of being a racist who hated Hlophe. "This guy will be joining a group of gangsters who make Hlophe their do-or-die issue. Whites want to entrench themselves in the last unelected branch of government - the judiciary," said Ngobeni. De Vos denied the charge.[20]

In 2009, de Vos was critical of the government's attempt to evict residents of Joe Slovo Informal Settlement in Cape Town and rulings upholding their eviction by the Western Cape High Court and the Constitutional Court of South Africa.[21] In 2010 he was similarly critical of the decision by the City of Cape Town to build open toilets for the residents of Makhaza, a township in Cape Town.[22][23] He has published many articles in support of the social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, including commentary on the legal aspects of their occupation of land in Macassar and the attack on the movement in Kennedy Road.[24][25][26][27]

In August 2011, De Vos came out in support of a call by South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's for a once-off wealth tax imposed on those who benefited from apartheid.[28] He stated that the tax would be "a small gesture towards reconciliation and redress". He criticised the FW de Klerk Foundation for rejecting the idea of a reparations tax, and for saying in a media statement that it would be unconstitutional to do so, writing on his blog: "Such measures are not 'reverse discrimination' or 'positive discrimination' but are rather 'integral to the reach of our equality protection'".[29]

In November 2015, De Vos wrote several articles arguing in favour of a change to the language policy at the University of Stellenbosch to eradicate the indirect racial discrimination imposed by the use of Afrikaans at the University.[30]

Other writingEdit

De Vos is also the author of a novel, Slegs Blankes / Whites Only, written in Afrikaans. It tells the story of a young white South African man coming to terms with his father's involvement in an apartheid-era police hit squad.[31]



  • de Vos, Pierre (1994). Slegs blankes / Whites only (in Afrikaans). Pretoria: Kagiso Literêr. ISBN 9780798634748.
  • de Vos, Pierre (2018). Scene of the Crime in As You Like It. Johannesburg: Jacana Media. ISBN 9781431426669.


  • de Vos, Pierre; Freedman, Warren, eds. (2014). South African Constitutional Law in Context. Oxford University Press.

Recent academic articlesEdit


  1. ^ de Vos, Pierre (23 May 2013). "The curious case of the pastor punished for honesty". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 18 October 2013. my sister, Anna-Marie de Vos, SC, argued her case
  2. ^ Adams, Sheena (19 October 2005). "Lesbian judge quizzed about her lifestyle". IOL. Retrieved 18 October 2013. De Vos became a household name in South Africa four years ago when she and her partner Suzanne du Toit won a Constitutional Court case to be recognised as the legal parents of their two adoptive children. See also Du Toit v Minister of Welfare and Population Development.
  3. ^ a b de Vos, Pierre (7 September 2010). "Who is digging a big hole for itself?". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Pierre de Vos". UCT. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  5. ^ "De Vos is new chair in Constitutional Governance at UCT" (MS Word) (Press release). University of Cape Town. 19 June 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  6. ^ "The Senate". UCT. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2013. Law – Deputy Deans – Professor Pierre Francois de Vos (Undergraduate Studies) (01.01.2011 to 31.12.2013)
  7. ^ Robson, Ruthann (30 May 2009). "Dignity, Freedom and South African Constitutional Justice Ackerman: Robson's Saturday Evening Review". Constitutional Law Prof Blog. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  8. ^ "Opinionistas". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  9. ^ de Vos, Pierre (3 September 2012). "Opinion: Why South African miners will not be convicted of murder in Marikana dispute". CNN. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  10. ^ de Vos, Pierre (21 July 2008). "Judiciary judged". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  11. ^ "AIDS Legal Network". ALN. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  12. ^ "Annual Report 2010-2011". Triangle Project. Retrieved 15 April 2013.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "CASAC". www.casac.org.za. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  14. ^ Kassiem, A'yesha (11 February 2004). "Gay nightclub admits to racial discrimination". IOL. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  15. ^ Hartleb, Thomas (7 February 2008). "Cape Town spy commission is unlawful, says Zille". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  16. ^ Powell, Anel (16 April 2008). "DA launches court bids to halt commission". IOL. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  17. ^ de Vos, Pierre (16 April 2008). "Zille, Zillier, Zilliest". Thought Leader. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  18. ^ "Court rules that Erasmus commission is unconstitutional". Mail & Guardian. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  19. ^ "City of Cape Town v Premier of the Western Cape and Others (5933/08) [2008] ZAWCHC 52; 2008 (6) SA 345 (C) (1 September 2008)". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  20. ^ Mtyala, Quinton (21 June 2009). "UCT law faculty's 'group of gangsters'". IOL. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  21. ^ de Vos, Pierre (14 June 2009). "Joe Slovo case: the good, the bad and the (mostly) unstated". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  22. ^ de Vos, Pierre (21 June 2010). "Pierre de Vos on Toilets, Helen Zille and the Human Rights Commission". Centre for Law and Social Justice. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  23. ^ Zille, Helen (13 October 2010). "Pierre de Vos's spectacular flip flop - Zille". Politicsweb. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  24. ^ de Vos, Pierre (2 July 2009). "The Rule of Law and 'conflicts of interests'". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  25. ^ de Vos, Pierre (28 May 2010). "Amnesty International Human Rights Report on South Africa". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  26. ^ de Vos, Pierre (9 September 2010). "In defense of the Internet". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  27. ^ de Vos, Pierre (9 October 2010). "About glue and superglue". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  28. ^ Grobler, Fienie (15 August 2011). "Constitutional law expert supports wealth tax". News24. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  29. ^ de Vos, Pierre (15 August 2011). "Where are you going to stand, my fellow white South Africans?". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  30. ^ de Vos, Pierre (18 November 2015). "Debate on Stellenbosch Language Policy is about who is made invisible and who counts". Constitutionally Speaking. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  31. ^ Vos, Pierre De (1994). Slegs blankes (in Afrikaans). Kagiso Literêr. ISBN 9780798634748.