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The Spheres of Government in the South African Constitution

The government in South Africa is divided into three spheres: national, provincial and local. The three spheres are autonomous, but in terms of Chapter 3 of the Constitution they have to work together and coordinate things such as budgets, policies and activities, particularly those that cut across all the spheres.

National parliament makes and carries out laws about issues which affect the whole country. These are issues like economic policy, defence and relationships with other countries. National parliament makes laws called Acts of Parliament which the whole country has to follow. (See: Chapter 4: Parliament)

Provincial governments deal with things that affect their own provinces. Schedule 5 of the Constitution lists the issues that provincial government is responsible for. Each provincial legislature makes their own laws called ordinances and these apply to people living in the province. The provinces can draw up their own constitutions, but these constitutions cannot go against the national Constitution.

(See: Chapter 6: Provinces and: Schedule 5)

There are some issues that both national and provincial government can make laws about. These are listed in Schedule 4 of the Constitution. However, national government is responsible for setting national standards on these issues, so laws written by provinces must follow national standard-setting legislation.

(See: Schedule 4)

Local government is the third sphere of government. Local governments deal with things that affect the local area that they control. Part B of Schedules 4 and 5 of the Constitution says what things local government is responsible for. This includes collecting rubbish, providing water, parking, electricity and parks. Laws written by local governments are called by-laws and they apply to the areas falling under the control of the local government.