The Constitution

South Africa’s Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and enjoys high acclaim internationally. Human rights are given clear prominence in the Constitution.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 was approved by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No other law or government action can supersede the provisions of the Constitution.

The Preamble

The Preamble states that the Constitution aims to:

  • heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights
  • improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person
  • lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people, and in which every citizen is equally protected by law
  • build a united and democratic South Africa that is able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

Founding provisions

South Africa is a sovereign and democratic state founded on the following values:

  • human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedom
  • non-racialism and non-sexism
  • supremacy of the Constitution
  • universal adult suffrage, a national common voters’ roll, regular elections and a multiparty system of democratic government to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.

Fundamental rights

The fundamental rights contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution seek to protect the rights and freedom of individuals. The Constitutional Court guards these rights and determines whether actions by the state are in accordance with constitutional provisions.

Read the full text of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

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