South Africa: Edwin Cameron - From an Orphanage in Queenstown to Constitution Hill


Throughout his career, Edwin Cameron has been recognised for his brilliance, commitment to human rights and social justice, and his HIV-Aids activism.

As a youngster in the little orphanage home in New Orleans, I was the bugler of the institution. When I got to be around 13 or 14 years old, they took me off the bugle and put me in the little brass band. -- Louis Armstrong

Justice Edwin Cameron retired from the Constitutional Court on 20 August 2019, after a distinguished legal career and more than 10 years on the bench of our apex court.

He was born in Pretoria on 15 February 1953. When he was very young, his father was imprisoned for car theft and his mother did not have the means to support him and his two sisters, Laura and Jeanie. He, therefore, spent much of his childhood in an orphanage in Queenstown.

His sister Laura was killed in an accident when he was just nine years old. He recalls his father attending Laura's funeral and not understanding why he had been imprisoned. Cameron has described this as his first encounter with the law:

"Was it only an instrument of rebuke and correction and subjection?...

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