The Fourteen Chapters

The Constitution is a document of over 100 pages and has 243 sections. The text was carefully constructed, word by word, phrase by phrase and paragraph by paragraph. While many of us understand the importance of this document, its meaning remains abstract because few of us have sat down and read the entire text. This chapter by chapter overview of the Constitution allows us to understand the architecture of the Constitution at a glance. For those who wish to read more, there is further information provided in each section on each of the 14 chapters of our Constitution.

Select a chapter to learn more

Chapter 1

Founding provisions

Linqalelelo ezisisekelo
Grondliggende bepalings

The most profound values and foundational provisions of the Constitution are set out in chapter 1 of the Constitution. This chapter enshrines key values such as dignity, non-racialism, non-sexism and constitutional supremacy. It defines the country's symbols such as the flag and national anthem, and specifies its official languages and principles that should inform the government’s language policy.

Click here to read the Founding Provisions


Chapter 2

Bill of Rights

Umqulu wamalungelo
Lucwebu lwemalungelo eluntfu

Chapter 2 sets out the Bill of Rights, arguably the part of the Constitution that has had the greatest impact on peoples’ daily lives. The first words of the chapter say it clearly: "This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa".


Chapter 3

Co-operative government

Mmuso wa mohlakanelwa
Regering van samewerking

This chapter lays down the principles of co-operative government. It states that there is one central government that is divided into three spheres: national, provincial and local. Each sphere is autonomous, and all three spheres have to work together.


Chapter 4



This chapter sets out the powers of Parliament, which is the body that directly represents the people and the arm of the government which passes new, and amends existing, national laws. It consists of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).


Chapter 5

The President and National Executive

MoPoresidente le Khuduthamaga ya Bosetshaba
MoPresidente le Lekgotla la naha la Phethahatso

The National Executive consists of the President, the Deputy President and ministers. The President can exercise no power not conferred by law and the exercise of that power must be rational, which has been interpreted by legal experts to mean that the President must act rationally when appointing or dismissing members of Cabinet.


Chapter 6



This chapter sets out the makeup of provincial legislatures and executives and their powers. It also sets out the areas over which both the national government and the provincial government may make laws and states what happens if these laws contradict each other. This chapter also deals with the drafting of provincial constitutions.


Chapter 7

Local government

UHulumeni wendawo
Plaaslike regering

This chapter describes the status, powers, functions and composition of local government/municipalities. It explains the makeup of local government, its powers and functions. Local governments make decisions and laws for their municipal areas. Municipal councils carry out the executive and legislative functions of local government.


Chapter 8

Courts and administration of justice

Amakhotho nokulawulwa kobulungiswa
Tikhoto na mafambiselo ya vululami

Chapter 8 of the Constitution defines the structure and power of the judiciary, with section 165 of the Constitution conferring the judicial authority to the courts. Judicial authority empowers the courts to interpret and apply the law when considering legal cases before them.


Chapter 9

State institutions supporting constitutional democracy

Staatsinstellings ter ondersteuning van
grondwetlike demokrasi
Izikhungo zombuso ezeseka umththosisekelo
wentando yeningi

Chapter 9 of the Constitution establishes a number of state institutions tasked with supporting our constitutional democracy. The task of these institutions is to promote and protect those rights within the Bill of Rights which fall within their particular area. These bodies are autonomous and other state departments are expressly charged with assisting and protecting them to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.


Chapter 10

Public administration

Taolo ya merero ya setshaba
Zokuphatha kurhulumende

This chapter sets out the principles which govern the public administration and people who are employed by the state. It also sets out the principles and framework within which the public administration must operate in order to deliver government services to the people.


Chapter 11

Security services

Iinkonzo zokhuseleko
Ditshebeletso tsa tshireletso

This chapter deals with the police, army and intelligence services and states how they must work in order to secure the state. This chapter also requires security services to operate in a manner that does not violate important constitutional values and principles.


Chapter 12

Traditional leaders

Abarholi bendabuko
Tradisionele leiers

This chapter deals with traditional leaders and their role in our democracy. The role and status of traditional leadership according to customary law are recognised. It allows for traditional authorities to function within the framework of the country's legal system.


Chapter 13



This chapter gives emphasis to the need for transparency, accountability and the effective financial management of the economy.


Chapter 14

General provisions

Timiso jikelele

This chapter contains general provisions on various matters of the Constitution, such as the Constitution’s commencement dates. It also contains specific provisions about international agreements and customary international law and how these apply in South Africa.



Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994