Constitution of South Africa

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The Constitution of South Africa is the principal governing document of the Republic of South Africa. The current South African constitution was approved on December 4, 1996 and has been in effect since February 4, 1997, when it superseded the interim constitution that had been put in place to ease the mid-1990s transition from apartheid to multiracial democracy.


The current constitution is the fifth since South Africa's 1910 founding and the second since its democratization during the 1990s.

Union constitution

The constitution of the Union of South Africa was in force from 1910 until 1961. It introduced a Westminster-inspired system of government, including the characteristic separation of head-of-state and head-of-government functions and a bicameral legislature with lower-house representatives elected on a single-member district basis.

First republican constitution

A 1960 referendum resulted in South Africa's transition from a dominion of the British Empire to an independent republic, which brought with it the ratification of a new constitution that took effect on May 31, 1961.

Second republican constitution

The constitution of 1961 was superseded by the constitution of 1983, which sought to reform the South African political system through the creation of a tricameral parliament and a powerful State Presidency.

Interim constitution

An interim constitution was in effect from 1994 until 1996.

Drafting and ratification


In its original form, the South African constitution included a preamble, fourteen chapters, and seven schedules. Since 1996, it has been amended thirteen times.