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The South African Constitution

The South African Constitution describes the social values of the country, and sets out the structures of government, what powers and authority a government has, and what rights citizens have. The Founding Provisions of the Constitution set out the principles and guarantees of democracy in South Africa.

(See: Founding Provisions)

Because the Constitution is the highest law in the land, it stops each new government from passing its own laws that contradict the Constitution. It is also much more difficult to change the Constitution than any other law, as it needs a two thirds majority vote in parliament. The Constitution therefore protects democracy in South Africa.

A government should never have unlimited power. Even governments which have been democratically elected can abuse the power that they have been given. There are cases of governments who were elected in democratic elections, and who then refused to allow further elections and became permanent rulers. Other governments abuse their power by persecuting people who are against them. The Constitution guards against governments in the future abusing the powers that they will have.

Our Constitution helps to guard against abuse of power by:

  • Having rules about when elections should happen and what happens to parties that lose
  • Making it very difficult to change the constitution
  • Making sure that no person or government body has too much power
  • The separation of powers (splitting power between different branches of government – parliament, cabinet and the judiciary)
  • Setting out the human rights that people have in a bill of rights
  • Creating independent courts and commissions that will protect people’s rights, as well as monitor the government to make sure that it is doing its work properly
  • Making it compulsory for all government bodies to be accountable and transparent to the public