South Africa’s current Constitution was negotiated over a period of several years and formally adopted by the Constitutional Assembly on May 8, 1996. Like the 1994 elections (the first ever in which the country’s black majority was able to vote), the adoption of the Constitution was a milestone in the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. It is a remarkably progressive document; in some ways a lot more progressive than most of the electorate, which has made and will make for some interesting conflicts. It gives us a lot to live up to.

The core of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights set out in Chapter 2; it's too long to node in full (it’s all online at www.polity.org.za/govdocs/bills/sacon96.html for the interested), but I have extracted some of the provisions Everythingians are likely to find most interesting:

Clause 9: Equality

  1. Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
  2. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
  3. The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, onscience, belief, culture, language, and birth.
  4. No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.
  5. Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.

Clause 12: Freedom and security of the person

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right -
    a. not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;
    b. not to be detained without trial;
    c. to be free from all forms of violence from both public and private sources;
    d. not to be tortured in any way; and
    e. not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
  2. Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right -
    a. to make decisions concerning reproduction;
    b. to security in and control over their body; and
    c. not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.

Clause 14: Privacy

Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have -

a. their person or home searched;
b. their property searched;
c. their possessions seized; or
d. the privacy of their communications infringed.

Clause 23: Labour relations

  1. Everyone has the right to fair labour practices.
  2. Every worker has the right -
    a. to form and join a trade union;
    b. to participate in the activities and programmes of a trade union; and
    c. to strike.
  3. Every employer has the right -
    a. to form and join an employers' organisation; and
    b. to participate in the activities and programmes of an employers' organisation.
  4. Every trade union and every employers' organisation has the right -
    a. to determine its own administration, programmes and activities;
    b. to organise;
    c. to bargain collectively; and
    d. to form and join a federation.
  5. The provisions of the Bill of Rights do not prevent legislation recognising union security arrangements contained in collective agreements.

Clause 24: Environment

Everyone has the right -

a. to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
b. to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that -
i. prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
ii. promote conservation; and
iii. secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

Clause 32: Access to information

  1. Everyone has the right of access to -
    a. any information held by the state; and
    b. any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.
  2. National legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right, and may provide for reasonable measures to alleviate the administrative and financial burden on the state.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Act 108 of 1996.

Preamble

We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to-

Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seen Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.

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