South African Constitution > Development of Constitutions in South Africa
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Development of Constitutions in South Africa

Between 1910 and 1994 there have been four Constitutions in South Africa:

  • In 1910 Britain decided to withdraw from the government of South Africa and handed the country over to the white residents of the country who were the British settlers and Boers. The first Constitution for the Union of South Africa was adopted in 1910. This gave rights to the white minority but took away the right to vote of the majority of South Africans.
  • In 1960 the white government held a referendum to decide whether South Africa would become a Republic. On 31 May 1961 South Africa was declared a Republic and the government adopted the second Constitution. This also took away the rights of black people.
  • In 1983 the government passed the third Constitution. This Constitution created the tricameral parliament, which meant there was a separate parliament for the White, Coloured and Indian groups. This Constitution excluded black people and automatically made them citizens of the homeland where they were born. They had no rights outside these homelands.
  • In 1994, twenty-six parties negotiated and adopted an interim Constitution that gave the vote to everyone. This Constitution lasted for two years. During that time the elected government worked as the Constitutional Assembly and had to draw up a final Constitution. This finally became law on 18 December 1996.