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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've identified some articles that may be of interest to readers below.

Constitutional Law


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.

Negotiations

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.

Interim Constitution

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.

Final text

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

ConCourt to rule on Zuma’s poll eligibility today

The Constitutional Court will today rule on former President Jacob Zuma's eligibility to serve in Parliament as an MP for the MKP following his 15-month sentence for contempt of the apex court.


SCA dismisses 1974 sex abuse appeal bid

In what a Cape Times report calls the oldest sex abuse case to go to trial in the country, two sisters who were sexually abused by relatives from 1974 to 1979 have secured another victory in their quest for justice.


Blow for Zuma as ConCourt dismisses recusal bid

Former President Jacob Zuma has been dealt a blow after his bid to have Constitutional Court judges recuse themselves failed. With the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) having already sent the ballot papers to the printers, Zuma’s face will – for now – be on the ballot next to the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP) logo in the upcoming elections.


ConCourt to hear Zuma matter on 10 May

The Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC) dispute over whether former President Jacob Zuma should serve in Parliament will be heard by the Constitutional Court on 10 May – just 19 days before the national and provincial elections.


Judges cannot interfere in settlements

The Constitutional Court has ruled that judges ‘should not interfere’ with settlement agreements between litigants, in what a Business Day report calls a landmark decision that outlines judges’ power when requested to sign off on such agreements.


Hlophe’s lawyers say ConCourt is obligated to hear him

Whatever ‘feelings of discomfort’ the justices of the Constitutional Court may have, these could not supersede their constitutional duties when dealing with the application that would invalidate the impeachment of former Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, his lawyers said in submissions to the apex court this week.


ConCourt gives Zuma/MK Party deadline to respond

The Constitutional Court has directed that should the MK Party (MKP) or former President Jacob Zuma wish to oppose the Electoral Commission’s urgent bid to appeal against the Electoral Court order that allowed him to stand for Parliament, they should file answering affidavits by tomorrow.


Three wives all have equal status

The case of a wealthy man who is now dead, his three wives and one estate from which all three women wanted to benefit was the subject of an application before the Mpumalanga High Court (Mbombela), says a Pretoria News report.


Zuma pardon key to MK Party's case

The uMkhonto weSizwe Party's (MKP) bid to overturn the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IEC’s) decision to bar former President Jacob Zuma from being one of its candidates will be heard in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) today.


Analysts rubbish MK claims about Zuma’s electoral eligibility

Some legal analysts have rubbished uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party's argument that Section 47 of the Constitution does not apply to former President Jacob Zuma who has been barred from contesting the upcoming elections.


Bid to deregister MKP ‘holds no water’

The ANC has lost its case in the Electoral Court seeking the deregistration of the newly-launched uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP).


Zuma under fire for targeting Bill of Rights

Despite former President Jacob Zuma’s call to abolish secret voting raising significant concerns about the democratic principles and practices in SA, political analysts argue it would be impossible to change the Constitution and Bill of Rights.


IEC silent as MK threat looms large

Former President Jacob Zuma’s MK party is making escalating threats of violence if it does not get its way at the polls, but the IEC remains silent.


Ramaphosa confirms Hlophe’s axing

President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially written to Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe informing him of his ‘immediate removal from office’.


SARS rejects moves to release Zuma’s records

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter says he won’t budge in his refusal to release former President Jacob Zuma’s tax records. This is despite a Constitutional Court ruling that blanket tax secrecy is unconstitutional.


Court dismisses attempt to gag Mail & Guardian

The Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) has struck an application for a prior restraint of publication order against the Mail & Guardian off the urgent roll.


Commissioner moots non-custodial sanctions

National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola has proposed non-custodial sanctions for certain crimes to address the country's populous prisons.


Bromwell Street housing case heads to ConCourt

After resisting evictions for 10 years, the case involving a group of Bromwell Street residents in Woodstock, Cape Town will be heard in the Constitutional Court.


ANC faces cadre deployment contempt action

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 group evicted from tennis courts

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.





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