Opera in Practice: Strengthening Implementation of Strategic Litigation in South Africa


Opera in Practice: Strengthening Implementation of Strategic Litigation in South Africa is a new case study co-authored by CESR and the Legal Resources Center (LRC), a leading South African public interest law firm, reflecting on their collaborative efforts to monitor, and hold the government accountable for, the implementation of court orders in the Madzodzo v Department of Basic Education case.  

The project was unique in that it was the first time CESR’s OPERA framework was used in the context of litigation. OPERA’s key innovation is the use of multiple methods for collecting, analyzing and presenting evidence to assess compliance with ESCR standards, which are organized according to Outcomes, Policy Efforts and Resources, to reach an overall Assessment. 

Madzodzo was brought by the LRC on behalf of the Centre for Child Law and several schools in the Eastern Cape seeking to remedy the province’s chronic school furniture shortage. The South African High Court declared that the government’s failure to address protracted delays in providing desperately needed desks and chairs to schools was a violation of the Constitution’s protection of the right to a basic education. However, various rounds of litigation had failed to produce the desired results. 

OPERA provided a cohesive framework for categorizing, systematizing and identifying gaps in data plaguing school management systems on the district, provincial and national levels, which was crucial to support dialogue with the education department.