Sandra Liebenberg reviews the the three leading judgments of the Constitutional Court on socio-economic rights: Soobramoney, Grootboom, and Minister oj Health v TAC. The paper also seeks to identify key areas where the jurisprudence can be developed to make it more responsive to the needs of the poor.

It argues that the Court's rejection of the notion of minimum core obligations will make it very difficult for individuals living in extreme poverty to use litigation to get immediate relief. There is also a danger that the state will fail to prioritise the basic needs of vulnerable groups without the Court affirming this constitutional obligation. The author concludes that while the Court has developed clear criteria for a reasonable government programme to realise socio-economic rights, it has limited the potential of these rights to contribute to a better quality of life for all.

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