Areas of Law and Guides
Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. We'veÂ identified some articles that may be of interest to readers below.
The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme law of the country of South Africa. It provides the legal foundation for the existence of the republic, sets out the rights and duties of its citizens, and defines the structure of the government. The current constitution, the country's fifth, was drawn up by the Parliament elected in 1994 in the first non-racial elections. It was promulgated by President Nelson Mandela on 18th December 1996 and came into effect on 4 February 1997, replacing the Interim Constitution of 1993.
Since 1996, the Constitution has been amended by seventeen amendment acts. The Constitution is formally entitled the "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996." It was previously also numbered as if it were an Act of Parliament—Act No. 108 of 1996—but, since the passage of the Citation of Constitutional Laws Act,neither it nor the acts amending it are allocated act numbers.
An integral part of the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa was the creation of a new, non-discriminatory constitution (Tswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho: molaotheo; Afrikaans: grondwet; Zulu, Southern Ndebele: umthethosisekelo; Xhosa: umgaqo-siseko; Swazi: umtsetfosisekelo; Venda: vumbiwa; Tsonga: ndayotewa) for the country. One of the major disputed issues was the process by which such a constitution would be adopted. The African National Congress (ANC) insisted that it should be drawn up by a democratically-elected constituent assembly, while the governing National Party (NP) feared that the rights of minorities would not be protected in such a process, and proposed instead that the constitution be negotiated by consensus between the parties and then put to a referendum.
Formal negotiations began in December 1991 at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). The parties agreed on a process whereby a negotiated transitional constitution would provide for an elected constitutional assembly to draw up a permanent constitution. The CODESA negotiations broke down, however, after the second plenary session in May 1992. One of the major points of dispute was the size of the supermajority that would be required for the assembly to adopt the constitution: The NP wanted a 75 per cent requirement, which would effectively have given it a veto.
In April 1993, the parties returned to negotiations, in what was known as the Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP). A committee of the MPNP proposed the development of a collection of "constitutional principles" with which the final constitution would have to comply, so that basic freedoms would be ensured and minority rights protected, without overly limiting the role of the elected constitutional assembly. The parties to the MPNP adopted this idea and proceeded to draft the Interim Constitution of 1993, which was formally enacted by Parliament and came into force on 27 April 1994.
The Interim Constitution provided for a Parliament made up of two houses: a 400-member National Assembly, directly elected by party-list proportional representation, and a ninety-member senate, in which each of the nine provinces was represented by ten senators, elected by the provincial legislature. The Constitutional Assembly consisted of both houses sitting together, and was responsible for drawing up a final constitution within two years. The adoption of a new constitutional text required a two-thirds supermajority in the Constitutional Assembly, as well as the support of two-thirds of senators on matters relating to provincial government. If a two-thirds majority could not be obtained, a constitutional text could be adopted by a simple majority and then put to a national referendum in which sixty per cent support would be required for it to pass.
The Interim Constitution contained 34 constitutional principles with which the new constitution was required to comply. These included multi-party democracy with regular elections and universal adult suffrage, supremacy of the constitution over all other law, a quasi-federal system in place of centralised government, non-racism and non-sexism, the protection of "all universally accepted fundamental rights, freedoms and civil liberties," equality before the law, the separation of powers with an impartial judiciary, provincial and local levels of government with democratic representation, and protection of the diversity of languages and cultures. The Bill of Rights, now in Chapter Two of the Constitution of South Africa, was largely written by Kader Asmal and Albie Sachs. The new constitutional text was to be tested against these principles by the newly established Constitutional Court. If the text complied with the principles, it would become the new constitution; if it did not, it would be referred back to the Constitutional Assembly.
The Constitutional Assembly engaged in a massive public participation programme to solicit views and suggestions from the public. As the deadline for the adoption of a constitutional text approached, however, many issues were hashed out in private meetings between the parties' representatives. On 8 May 1996, a new text was adopted with the support of 86 per cent of the members of the assembly, but in the First Certification judgment, delivered on 6 September 1996, the Constitutional Court refused to certify this text. The Constitutional Court identified a number of provisions that did not comply with the constitutional principles. Areas of non-compliance included failures to protect the right of employees to engage in collective bargaining; to provide for the constitutional review of ordinary statutes; to entrench fundamental rights, freedoms and civil liberties and to sufficiently safeguard the independence of the Public Protector and Auditor-General as well as other areas of non-compliance in relation to local government responsibilities and powers.
The Constitutional Assembly reconvened and, on 11 October, adopted an amended constitutional text containing many changes relative to the previous text. Some dealt with the court's reasons for non-certification, while others tightened up the text. The amended text was returned to the Constitutional Court to be certified, which the court duly did in its Second Certification judgment, delivered on 4 December. The Constitution was signed by President Mandela on 10 December and officially published in the Government Gazette on 18 December. It did not come into force immediately; it was brought into operation on 4 February 1997, by a presidential proclamation, except for some financial provisions which were delayed until 1 January 1998.
Since its adoption, the Constitution has been amended seventeen times.
Most recent Articles posted
The DA will launch a contempt of court application against the ANC after its failure to submit full and unredacted records of its cadre deployment documents.
Homeless people who have been living on tennis courts in Green Point, Cape Town, have been removed by the sheriff of the court, reports News24.
In what The Star calls an undertaking that ‘popped out of the woodwork at 4pm’ in the Western Cape High Court yesterday, lawyers for Standard Bank said the bank accounts of the Sekunjalo Group of companies would remain open even if an interim interdict against the bank was not upheld.
Impeached former Public Protector (PP) Busisiwe Mkhwebane is expected to be at loggerheads with her former employer over a R10m payout.
A Wesbank client who is battling with the financial provider at the Constitutional Court after allegedly being defrauded, says his family has suffered depression after losing their belongings.
Freedom Under Law (FUL) has asked Parliament to schedule the votes for the removal of disgraced Judges John Hlophe and Nkola Motata.
All of the issues around identifying who should be the king of the Zulu nation and the processes followed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to recognise Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini are set to be ventilated before the SCA, says a report in The Star.
The wish by uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party supporters that former President Jacob Zuma return to the Union Buildings to lead the country again, will not be realised since the Constitution may not allow him.
As expected, reaction to the NCOP’s approval of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill has been swift, with most saying they would petition President Cyril Ramaphosa to send it back to Parliament for amendments on the grounds of unconstitutionality.
The Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that the Immigration Act was inconsistent with the Constitution and that it infringed on a foreign national's right to human dignity.
The EFF has withdrawn a court application it lodged to challenge the recommended suspension of six members for storming onto the stage during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) earlier this year, reports News24.
The ANC-led government has framed NHI as its effort to deliver ‘nationalised health care’, writes Financial Mail editor Rob Rose.
SA will allow wealthy corporations to silence those who can’t afford to litigate and defend themselves if it doesn’t bring an end to Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits, environmental attorney Cormac Cullinan reportedly told the Mail & Guardian.
Bianca Groves this week failed in her Constitutional Court application to appeal her deceased husband's ‘unlawful and malicious detention’.
The NPA should continue to pursue charges against former President Jacob Zuma if it feels he has a case to answer, though there is a public perception that the authorities are reluctant to let him serve time in prison, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said yesterday.
The Minister of Justice & Correctional Services and National Commissioner for Correctional Services have a year to rectify a policy which allows prisons to bar inmates from using personal computers in their cells.
Despite the best efforts of Jacob Zuma and his counsel, Advocate Dali Mpofu SC, neither the former President's nemesis and prosecutor, Billy Downer SC, nor legal journalist Karyn Maughan were forced to suffer the indignity of sitting in the dock as common criminals during yesterday’s hearing on Zuma’s private prosecution of the pair.
In what a Pretoria News report calls a groundbreaking judgment for new parents – especially fathers – a court has ruled that both parents are entitled to maternity leave.
Jacob Zuma’s legal team yesterday argued that had the state pulled prosecutor Advocate Billy Downer SC from the arms deal corruption case after the former President requested it to, the trial would be over by now.
President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday said ‘influential countries’ have a duty to support processes that will bring peace to Israel and Palestine.