During the decade of the 1990s, South Africa underwent a radical transition from the oppressive apartheid regime (a system founded on parliamentary sovereignty) to a constitutional democracy committed to the creation of a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. As part of that transition, in 1994 South Africa held its first democratic elections and adopted an interim constitution. A permanent Constitution was put into place two years later.
A Constitution is a body of fundamental principles according to which a State is to be governed. It sets out how all the elements of government are organised and contains rules about what power is wielded, who wields it and over whom it is wielded in the governing of a country. It can be seen as a kind of contract between those in power and those who are subjected to this power. It defines the rights and duties of citizens, and the mechanisms that keep those in power in check.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is the supreme law of our country. It provides the legal foundation for the existence of the Republic, sets out the rights and duties of its citizens, and defines the structure of the Government. It has been called the “birth certificate” of a free and democratic South Africa.