Courts and Police > Introduction to the Law in South Africa
Back to top

Introduction to the Law in South Africa

The law is a set of rules used to control the behaviour of people in society which:

  • Tells you what you are entitled to
  • Tells you what you must do
  • Tells you what you must not do
  • Tells you what others may not do to you
  • Tells you what your rights are against the state and others
  • Tells you what your responsibilities are as a member of society

In other words the law tells you about your legal ‘rights’ and ‘duties’.

South Africa is now a constitutional democracy, which means the Constitution and Bill of Rights are the supreme law. Our Constitution guarantees certain human

rights, and is one of the most progressive in the world. In line with a constitutional democracy everyone has responsibilities. In addition to this there is criminal law for violations against the state. Punishment is part of the set of rules. If you do not follow the rules, then you can be punished.

Without laws there would be confusion, fear and disorder in society. But this does not mean that all laws are fair. So a law can be unfair and still be the law. Every society agrees that some laws are necessary. But the laws should be made in a democratic way, so that they will be just and fair. In our society, a law must be tested against the Constitution to see if it is fair.

Get assistance with: