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South Africa: The Legal System

Primary Source : The Constitution

On May 8th 1996, after the election of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994, South Africa adopted a first version of the new Constitution. Then, on 6th September 1996, the Constitutional Court decided that this version might not comply with the constitutional principles contained in schedule 4 to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 200 of 1993. A second version was drafted, adopted on 11th October 1996 and signed into law in December 1996. Further amendments have since been made. The objective in drafting this was to ensure that it was legitimate, credible and accepted by all South Africans. The process of drafting the Constitution involved many South Africans in the largest public participation programme ever undertaken in the country. The Bill of Rights, which is incorporated into the Constitution, not only protects the individual against the State but can also be applied to relationships between individuals. The Constitution incorporates customary law alongside Common Law. See the Acts Online website which is the source of this information about the development of the constitution.

The South African Government Information web site offers the most up-to-date full text of the current Constitution, including amendments made since 1996.

Justice in South Africa

According to The Economist, as of 2012 South Africa "has made progress since becoming a full democracy in 1994. But a failure of leadership means that in many ways, South Africa is now going backwards...

Persistent inequality is in part down to the government’s failure to educate young South Africans, particularly black ones...In the Department of Basic Education’s national literacy and numeracy tests last year, only 15% of 12-year-olds (sixth graders) scored at or above the minimum proficiency on the language test. In maths just 12% did."

From "South Africa: Over the Rainbow," October 20, 2012.

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