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Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996
|Date:||4 February 1997|
|Location:||Republic of South Africa|
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|The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa ('the Constitution') received assent on 16 December 1996 by the Parliament of South Africa, and commenced on 4 February 1997. The Constitution has a recognised version in each of the 11 official languages of South Africa: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sependi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. |
The development of the Constitution was overseen by the Constitutional Assembly, a body made up of members of parliament elected in South Africa's first non-racial election on 27 April 1994. Members of the general public were encouraged to make submissions on the proposed Constitution, which was also required to go through a process of certification by the new Constitutional Court in order to ensure its adherence to agreed constitutional principles (Constitutional Court). It replaced the country's interim Constitution which had received assent on 18 November 1993, and came into effect in 1994.
The Constitution is the supreme legal document in South Africa. It can only be amended with the support of a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, as well as at least six provinces of the National Council of Provinces (s 74 Constitution).
|The Constitution contains within it a Bill of Rights (Chapter 2), which includes the following citizenship rights that the state 'must respect, protect, promote and fulfil': |
The Constitution sets out the prescribed method for government and the role of the courts, as well as establishing several institutions to 'strengthen constitutional democracy'. These include the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC); the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; and the Commission for Gender Equality (Chapter 9). When appointing members of the judiciary, one factor that must be taken into account is the 'need for the judiciary to reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa' (s 174(2)).
The Constitution recognises the status and role of traditional leadership, stating that 'a traditional authority that observes a system of customary law may function subject to any applicable legislation and customs [and that] the courts must apply customary law when that law is applicable, subject to the Constitution and any legislation that specifically deals with customary law' (s 211).
The Constitution also contains provisions relating to restitution of land rights, stating that 'a person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 [the date of the enactment of the Natives Land Act 1913] as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.' (s 25(7)).
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