2 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa
The preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa reads:
We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to –
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seën Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.
In this section, you will be introduced to elements of the Constitution, see how they shape political and legal institutions in South Africa, and explore how its tumultuous history has indelibly shaped the Constitution and country.
Activity 2 Apartheid
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is a result of the country’s history; principally, the apartheid ideology and regime that operated in the country for most of the latter half of the twentieth century. This activity offers you a chance to demonstrate your own understanding of what is meant by apartheid. Write a few sentences in the box below summarising what you know of the apartheid regime and consider why you think the Constitution is a significant example worth studying in constitutional law.
The following video (The Open University, 1998) will give you some insight into the horror of the apartheid regime and impetus for change in South Africa.
The Constitution formed and enacted in the 1990s had to take impetus from the legitimised violence of apartheid that plagued the country for nearly half a century. For this reason, it is a significant and exemplary constitution to study as its object was to oversee transition from violence and segregation to non-violence and integration; it is a constitution that marks the origins of a completely new political and legal regime.
Chapter 1 of the Constitution contains the founding provisions of the nation and the Constitution. Section 1 of the Constitution states that:
The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on the following values:
- a.Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.
- b.Non-racialism and non-sexism.
- c.Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
- d.Universal adult suffrage, a national common voter’s roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.
These four values may be taken as self-evident but they highlight a shift in the supreme law of South Africa towards democracy and egalitarianism (a political ideology that demands equality of social, economic and political rights for all people).