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Features of South African Constitution: 10 Significant Characteristics

features of the South African Constitution

Features of the South African Constitution: A Constitution may be defined as a Body of Fundamental Laws and Principles by which a State is Governed. This Article examines the South Africa Constitution and the features of the South African Constitution.

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The South African Constitution

The South Africa Constitution came as a result of the negotiations carried out to remedy the injustice of the Country’s non-democratic past. The South Africa Constitution, thus was aimed at promoting Justice, providing the Legal existence of South Africa, and defining the rights and duties of Citizens in South Africa. The  preamble to the South Africa Constitution echoes these aims of the Constitution.

It is instructive to note that the South African Constitution is  founded on

Human dignity, equality of every human and the advancement of Human Rights

Non-racialism and non-sexism

Universal adult suffrage, regular election, multiparty system, and the Supremacy of the Constitution above every law in South Africa.

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History of the Constitution of South Africa

The History of South Africa’s constitution can be divided into three phases: The period between 1909 and 1910, the period between 1961 and 1990, and the period of 1990 till date.

The period between 1909 and 1910, the South Africa Act of 1909 was enacted by the British parliament. Thus establishing an independent union of South Africa.

features of the South African Constitution

features of the South African Constitution

In the period between 1961 and 1990,  The Republic of South Africa Constitution Act of 1961 transferred the union into a republic. However, a series of legislative reforms resulted in the enactment of a new constitution and  reconfiguration of state institutions, hence leading to the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act 1983 which created a Tri-cameral parliament with a separate house representing the White coloured and Indian people, but none for the black people.

The mounting pressure in 1990 and the realization that the Apartheid system was unsustainable led to the adoption of an Interim Constitution promulgated by the Constitution of South Africa Act of 1993 to govern the transition into a new South Africa. This constitution remained in force until 1996 when the current Constitution of South Africa was adopted.

The constitution of 1996 was drawn up by the parliament elected in 1994 and promulgated by Nelson Mandela on the 18th of December 1996, coming into effect on 4th February, 1997, replacing the Interim constitution of 1993.

Before we start discussing the various features of the South African Constitution, I highly recommend that you watch the YouTube video below. 

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Features of the constitution of the republic of South Africa 1996

1. It is democratic: Section 1 of the Constitution provides that the Republic of South Africa is one sovereign, democratic state founded on: Human dignity, equality and advancement of Human rights, Non-racialism, Non-sexism, Supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law, Multi party system, Periodic free and fair elections, National common voters, and Universal adult suffrage. All these are elements of a democratic state.

History and significant Features of the constitution of South Africa

History and significant Features of the constitution of South Africa

2. It is Supreme: The South Africa Constitution is Supreme. This is affirmed by Section 2 of the Constitution which provides for the Supremacy of this Constitution over every other Law in the Republic of South Africa.

Characteristics of the constitution of South Africa

Characteristics of the constitution of South Africa

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3. Languages: Section 6 of the Constitution provides for the official languages of the republic of South Africa which are: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, and isiZulu.

4. Bill of Rights: Bill of rights is a very important feature of the South Africa Constitution. Chapter 2 of the South Africa Constitution of 1996 provides for the Bills of Rights which are the Fundamental Rights of Citizens of South Africa.

The court is mandated to safeguard these rights and determine whether actions by the state or an individual are contrary to the Fundamental Rights of a citizen.

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5. Universal suffrage: Universal suffrage is the right of almost every citizen in a country to vote. Section 19 of the Constitution gives all adults in South Africa irrespective of Social Status, gender, race, ethnicity, Political stance, and wealth the right to Vote and be voted for in Elections.

6. It is Written: The Constitution of South Africa is written, as the Laws and Legal principles are contained in a single document which we refer to as The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

Characteristics or features of the South African constitution

Characteristics or features of the South African constitution

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In Conclusion, while there may be other features of the South Africa Constitution, the aforementioned are the major features especially the bill of Rights and protection of fundamental human rights which has given the South Africa Constitution an international acclaim and progressiveness. Trust this Article was insightful? If yes kindly share and comment below.

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