Turnbull-Jackson v Hibiscus Court Municipality (CCT 104/13) [2014] ZACC 24; 2014 (6) SA 592 (CC); 2014 (11) BCLR 1310 (CC) (11 September 2014) per Madlanga J.

“[54] The Walele – True Motives controversy brings to the fore the important doctrine of precedent, a core component of the rule of law,[footnote omitted] without which deciding legal issues would be directionless and hazardous.  Deviation from it is to invite legal chaos. [footnote omitted]  The doctrine is a means to an end.  This Court has previously endorsed the important purpose it serves:

“[The doctrine of precedent] is widely recognized in developed legal systems.  Hahlo and Kahn describe this deference of law for precedent as a manifestation of the general human tendency to have respect for experience.  They explain why the doctrine of stare decisis is so important, saying:

‘In the legal system the calls of justice are paramount.  The maintenance of certainty of the law and of equality before it, the satisfaction of legitimate expectations, entail a general duty of judges to follow the legal rules in previous judicial decisions.  The individual litigant would feel himself unjustly treated if a past ruling applicable to his case were not followed where the material facts were the same.  This authority given to past judgments is called the doctrine of precedent.

. . .

It enables the citizen, if necessary with the aid of practising lawyers, to plan his private and professional activities with some degree of assurance as to their legal effects; it prevents the dislocation of rights, particularly contractual and proprietary ones, created in the belief of an existing rule of law; it cuts down the prospect of litigation; it keeps the weaker judge along right and rational paths, drastically limiting the play allowed to partiality, caprice or prejudice, thereby not only securing justice in the instance but also retaining public confidence in the judicial machine through like being dealt with alike. . . .  Certainty, predictability, reliability, equality, uniformity, convenience: these are the principal advantages to be gained by a legal system from the principle of stare decisis.’” [Footnotes omitted].

[55] I cannot but also borrow from the eloquence of Cameron JA:

“The doctrine of precedent, which requires courts to follow the decisions of coordinate and higher courts in the judicial hierarchy, is an intrinsic feature of the rule of law, which is in turn foundational to our Constitution.  Without precedent there would be no certainty, no predictability and no coherence.  The courts would operate in a tangle of unknowable considerations, which all too soon would become vulnerable to whim and fancy.  Law would not rule.  The operation of precedent, and its proper implementation, are therefore vital constitutional questions.” [Footnote omitted].

[56] The doctrine of precedent decrees that only the ratio decidendi of a judgment, and not obiter dicta, have binding effect.  The fact that obiter dicta are not binding does not make it open to courts to free themselves from the shackles of what they consider to be unwelcome authority by artificially characterising as obiter what is otherwise binding precedent.  Only that which is truly obiter may not be followed.

But, depending on the source, even obiter dicta may be of potent persuasive force and only departed from after due and careful consideration.[footnotes omitted].”