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The South African Constitution
with a Bill of Rights second to none.

The South African constitution was negotiated over a period of several years.

Adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on May 8, 1996 and approved by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, it took effect on 4 February 1997. This was a milestone in the country ’s transition from apartheid to democracy.



The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No other law or government action can supersede the provisions of the Constitution. It is a remarkably progressive document, with a Bill of Rights second to none, enjoying high acclaim internationally.

The constitutional court building on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg - South African constitution
The constitutional court building on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg - South African constitution
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Its preamble reads as follows:

  • “We, the people of South Africa;

  • Recognise the injustices of our past;

  • Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;

  • Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and

  • Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

  • We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to:

      Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;

      Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;

      Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and

      Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

  • May God protect our people.

  • Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.

  • God seën Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.

  • Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.”
The words “constitutional court” in South Africa’s 11 languages - South African constitution
The words “constitutional court” in South Africa’s 11 languages - South African constitution
copyright © mediaclubsouthafrica.com

A statement from former President of South Africa, mr. Nelson Mandela:

"The Constitution of South Africa speaks of both the past and the future. On the one hand, it is a solemn pact in which we, as South Africans, declare to one another that we shall never permit a repetition of our racist, brutal and repressive past. But it is more than that. It is also a charter for the transformation of our country into one which is truly shared by all its people - a country which in the fullest sense belongs to all of us, black and white, women and men."

The houses of parliament in Cape Town South Africa - South African constitution
The houses of parliament in Cape Town South Africa - South African constitution
copyright © mediaclubsouthafrica.com

Some interesting provisions are the following:

  • Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

  • Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.

  • The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone.

  • No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person

  • Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity

  • Everyone has the right to fair labour practices.

  • Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being

  • Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.







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