Lecture: Theorising South Africa’s Fourth Branch of State

Lauren Kohn, B.Bus.Sci LLB LLM, University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Senior Lecturer & Young Research Fellow (University of Cape Town, SA)
PhD Candidate & Visiting Research Fellow (Leiden, the Netherlands)


Date: 18.09.2023, 6:00 p.m.
Venue: Room 101-02, 1st floor | Sigmund Freud University | Freudplatz 3, 1020 Vienna


Theorising South Africa’s Fourth Branch of State –
the Integrity and Accountability Branch – and Anti-Corruption Redress

There is growing global acknowledgement of the fact that the traditional tripartite conception of the separation of powers is dated and inapt. The world over, public power is proliferating and corruption is on the rise. Separation-of-powers theory, (institutional) design, and practice are evolving given such contemporary shifts in the exercise, abuse, and thus the ‘checking and balancing’ of public power. In particular, the rise and of the so-called fourth-branch of state represents a significant evolution in the doctrine of the separation of powers. As the fourth-branch movement garners global momentum, it is timely to reflect on these developments. In this regard, global-south constitutionalism may provide food for thought for constitutional scholars of the global north.

In her presentation, Lauren Kohn will be sharing insights on the fourth branch of state from a South African constitutional perspective. Against the backdrop of the staggering state capture that has gripped the country – detailed in the momentous Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in SA – Kohn advocates for the recognition of the ‘Integrity and Accountability’ (I&A) Branch of State. She seeks to give meaning to these animating concepts of ‘integrity’ and ‘accountability’ in theorising which kinds of constitutional bodies fall under this fourth-branch rubric and why their recognition as such is important as a matter of principle and pragmatism. Kohn identifies five features of the South African I&A bodies which illustrate both their distinctiveness from the traditional branches of state, and their unifying similarities pursuant to which they should sensibly be grouped as a fourth branch. This theorisation, and context-responsive recalibration, of the (Montesquian) separation of powers enhances the doctrine’s normative appropriateness and instrumental efficiency as a scheme of constitutional organisation and interaction for modern times.

Kohn’s presentation flows from her recent article, ‘The National Prosecuting Authority as Part of South Africa’s Integrity & Accountability Branch and the Related Case for an Anti-Corruption Redress System’ (2022) 12 Constitutional Court Review 1. It is available at https://journals.co.za/doi/pdf/10.2989/CCR.2022.0001.


Please register until 17.09.23: konrad.lachmayer@jus.sfu.ac.at


Lauren Kohn is a South African administrative- and constitutional-law scholar and legal specialist. She attained her B.Bus.Sci (Distinction, Law); LLB (Magna Cum Laude, Top Student); and LLM (Distinction, Top Student)(UCT), all with several class medals, special awards and scholarships. She is currently completing her PhD (on the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Scholarship) as an external candidate at Leiden University in the Netherlands where she is also a Visiting Research Fellow.

As an academic at UCT Law, Kohn has won a record-breaking four Law Faculty Research Prizes for producing the most ‘outstanding article published in a peer-reviewed journal in the preceding two years by a (senior/)lecturer’ as determined by the anonymous judge. Much of Kohn’s scholarship has fed into law reform and been judicially endorsed – including by South Africa’s apex court, the Constitutional Court. She has also been a Dean’s Nominee for a UCT Distinguished Teacher’s Award given her teaching excellence.

Kohn is an admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa with over a decade of public-law advisory and legislative-drafting contributions to her name. She practiced at Webber Wentzel for several years before transitioning into academia in 2013. During her time in formal practice, Kohn fast became an expert in niche public-law fields. She attained Distinctions for all of her Bar Exams and the Top Result overall (Northern, Eastern & Western Cape) for Court Practice.

Kohn is a passionate educationalist and a dedicated social justice advocate who loves weaving her practical knowledge of the workings of the law into her research, teaching and advisory work. In an effort to enhance access to justice, she co-founded www.SALegalAdvice.co.za. As a mother to four small children of her own, Kohn is also deeply committed to early childhood development and has served on the Board of a Pre-Primary school and provided pro bono legal, regulatory and teaching-and-learning advice.

Kohn is a regular media commentator and has provided technical legal input for various governance and rights projects in South Africa. She has been Keynote speaker (and presenter) at various local and international conferences and colloquia. Kohn was an inaugural recipient of the ‘Women in Law (WOZA) Award’ (2019, 1st Runner-Up) for being an academic ‘thought leader and innovator’; a ‘M&G Top 200 Young South African – Law & Justice’ (2018) Winner; and a Winner of the ‘Most Inspiring50-SA Women’ (2020). Kohn was also selected as one of twenty ‘Influential Women Leaders’ from across Africa for the ‘Leading in Public Life: Women, Influence, Power Programme’ (hosted by Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance & the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2019).

In 2021, Kohn became one of four Young Research Fellows of UCT. She was the only woman in the cohort and the only awardee from the Faculty of Law – a testament to her exceptional contribution to legal scholarship and law reform in the country. Flowing from this achievement, she now joins the ranks of the Vice-Chancellor’s ‘UCT Future Leaders Programme’.