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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 of South Africa, sets out the rights and duties of the citizens of South Africa, and defines the structure of the Government of South Africa. The current Constitution of South Africa was adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on 11 October 1996, certified by the Constitutional Courtmarker on 4 December, signed by President Nelson Mandela on 10 December, and came into effect on 4 February 1997, replacing and repealing the Interim Constitution of 1993. Since its adoption, the Constitution has been amended sixteen times.

The Constitution is formally an Act of the Parliament of South Africamarker; its short title is Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and its long title is "An Act to introduce a new Constitution for the Republic of South Africa and to provide for matters incidental thereto". It was formerly also numbered as Act No. 108 of 1996, but since the passage of the Citation of Constitutional Laws Act, 2005 it has had no associated Act number.


The South African Constitutional Courtmarker played an important role in the adoption of the 1996 Constitution. In terms of the interim constitution, the Parliamentmarker sitting as the Constitutional Assembly was required to produce a new constitution. In turn, the court was required to certify that the new constitution complied with the 34 constitutional principles agreed upon in advance by the negotiators of the Interim Constitution. The court ruled that the constitutional text adopted by the Constitutional Assembly in May 1996 could not be certified. The court identified the features of the new text that did not in its view comply with the Constitutional Principles and gave its reasons for that view. The Constitutional Assembly then had to reconsider the text, taking the court’s reasons for non-certification into account.

The Constitutional Assembly reconvened and on 11 October 1996, it adopted an amended constitutional text, containing many changes from the previous text, some dealing with the court’s reasons for non-certification and others tightening up the text. The amended text was then sent to the Constitutional Court for certification. In its judgement in the Certification of the Amended Text of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (4 December 1996) the court held that all of the grounds for non-certification of the earlier text had been eliminated in the new draft and accordingly certified that the text complied with the requirements of the Constitutional Principles. The text duly became the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in 1996 and came into effect in February 1997. It has been amended sixteen times since its adoption. On 8 May 2006 the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the constitution was celebrated in Parliament.


The constitution consists of a preamble, fourteen chapters followed by seven schedules. Each chapter and schedule focus on a specific topic. The following is a list of chapters and schedules and the focus of each.


Chapter 1 of the Constitution is entitled "Founding Provisions." It enshrines in the constitution key national principles, identifies the flag of South Africa and lists the official languages. By virtue of section 2 of chapter 1, all statutes that conflict with the Constitution are of no force or effect.

South Africa is defined in this chapter as being a democratic, independent republic based upon the principles of protecting dignity, human rights and the rule of law. Values of dignity and human rights are repeated in Chapter 2.

The official languages are identified by section 6 as being Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu. The government of South Africa is also required to promote usage of native languages. Choice of language by national or municipal government should take into consideration the most relevant language to the area affected. Section 6 also requires that a Pan South African Language Board must ­advance the use of all official languages, and to respect the citizens' use of other languages such as German or Urdu.

Other chapters are,


  • Schedule 1 - National Flag
  • Schedule 2 - Oaths and Solemn Affirmations
  • Schedule 3 - Election Procedures
  • Schedule 4 - Functional Areas of Concurrent National and Provincial Legislative Competence
  • Schedule 5 - Functional Areas of Exclusive Provincial Legislative Competence
  • Schedule 6 - Transitional Arrangements
  • Schedule 7 - Laws Repealed

Amendments to the current constitution

There have been sixteen amendments since 1996.
Amendment Act Date assented Brief description of issues dealt with
1 Constitution First Amendment Act of 1997 (previously referred to as Act 35 of 1997) 1997-08-28 Oath for acting presidents. Extended amnesty.
2 Constitution Second Amendment Act of 1998 (previously referred to as Act 65 of 1998) 1998-09-28 Extend terms of municipal councils. Commissions. Transition arrangement for local government.
3 Constitution Third Amendment Act of 1998 (previously referred to as Act 87 of 1998) 1998-10-20 Cross border municipalities.
4 Constitution Fourth Amendment Act of 1999 (previously referred to as Act 3 of 1999) 1999-03-17 Provincial election dates. NCOP seat allocation.
5 Constitution Fifth Amendment Act of 1999 (previously referred to as Act 2 of 1999) 1999-03-17 Election dates. Financial and fiscal commission chairperson.
6 Constitution Sixth Amendment Act of 2001 (previously referred to as Act 34 of 2001) 2001-11-20 Title of Chief Justice. Appointment of deputy ministers. Municipal borrowing.
7 Constitution Seventh Amendment Act of 2001 (previously referred to as Act 61 of 2001) 2001-12-07 Cabinet member responsible for financial matters.
8 Constitution Eighth Amendment Act of 2002 (previously referred to as Act 18 of 2002) 2002-06-19 Municipal floor-crossing
9 Constitution Ninth Amendment Act of 2002 (previously referred to as Act 21 of 2002) 2002-06-19 NCOP delegates (floor-crossing)
10 Constitution Tenth Amendment Act of 2003 (previously referred to as Act 2 of 2003) 2003-03-19 National assembly and provincial legislature floor-crossing
11 Constitution Eleventh Amendment Act of 2003 (previously referred to as Act 3 of 2003) 2003-04-09 Financial matters. Name of Limpopo provincemarker. National/provincial intervention in provincial/local affairs.
12 Constitution Twelfth Amendment Act of 2005 2005-12-22 Provincial borders
13 Constitution Thirteenth Amendment Act of 2007 2007-12-13 Reconfirming the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal borders altered by the 12th amendment after the Constitutional Courtmarker found that aspect of that amendment procedurally invalid (after a successful application by Matatielemarker).
14 Constitution Fourteenth Amendment Act of 2008 2009-01-06 Repeal of floor crossing in the National Assembly, National Council of Provinces, and provincial legislatures.
15 Constitution Fifteenth Amendment Act of 2008 2009-01-06 Repeal of floor crossing in municipal councils.
16 Constitution Sixteenth Amendment Act of 2009 2009-03-25 Transfer of Merafong from North West to Gautengmarker.

* The Citation of Constitutional Laws Act, No. 5 of 1999 provides that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and Acts which amend it, are not to be associated with Act numbers. It is possible that Act 5 of 1999 itself can be considered an amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, but it makes no provision for itself to be referred to without reference to it Act number.

Previous and current constitution of South Africa

See also


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