14 February 2013

February 14 marks 18 years since the official opening of the SA Constitutional Court

AL2446_The_SAHA_Poster_CollectionEstablished as the highest legal authority in the land in all constitutional matters, this court is a key institution in ensuring that the country's democratic principles are upheld and function properly. The court was officially opened by former president Nelson Mandela on 14 February 1995.

A champion of social justice, the late Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson was appointed first president of the court. All the judges took their oath on 14 February wearing their specially designed green robes.

The 11-person bench sat for its very first case the next day, 15 February 1995 to address arguments regarding the constitutionality of the death sentence.

The Interim Constitution of 1993, which culminated into the final Constitution of 1996, is the "rule book" under which the court functions. This document is acknowledged as the best written and progressive constitution in the world. It lays the legal foundation for the existence of the republic and its citizens.

Since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the Constitutional Court therefore became necessary to establish in order to ensure a sustained defence of rights of all citizens. The court has the power to rule any act of parliament, decisions from lower courts null and void if it is in direct conflict with any constitutional provision. 

SAHA and the SA Constitution

SAHA runs a Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) dedicated to the promotion and implementation of one of the most fundamental  rights enshrined in the constitution - the right to information. Through this programme, SAHA assists individuals, activists and researchers with requests for information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). Training and capacity building of organisations and individuals is also offered to this effect. For more information, please contact the FOIP team: foip@saha.org.za / 011 718 2563. Visit the FOIP website: www.foip.saha.org.za

SAHA is in possession of material relating to the SA constitution in the following SAHA collections:

AL2992 The Jonathan Klaaren Collection
AL3078 The Multi-party Negotiation Collection
AL3065 The Brian Currin Collection


SAHA also produced educational material which talks about the 1983 constitution. This constitution was designed to preserve and intesify the white supremacy rule of the apartheid government. It introduced the tricameral parliament which provided separate chambers of parliament with limited powers for Coloured and Indian minorities. It completely excluded the 24 million black majority at the time.

View the educational material on the 1983 Constitution


SAHA also developed an exhibition kit on the Bill of Rights which is part of the South African constitution and it enshrines all rights afforded to everyone within the country's borders.

Read more about the Bill of Rights exhibition kit

Visit the SAHA Bill of Rights virtual exhibition