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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Chapter 3 - Fundamental Rights

7 Application

(1) This Chapter shall bind all legislative and executive organs of state at all levels of government.

(2) This Chapter shall apply to all law in force and all administrative decisions taken and acts performed during the period of operation of this Constitution.

(3) Juristic persons shall be entitled to the rights contained in this Chapter where, and to the extent that, the nature of the rights permits.

(4)

i     a person acting in his or her own interest;

ii     an association acting in the interest of its members;

iii     a person acting on behalf of another person who is not in a position to seek such relief in his or her own name;

iv     a person acting as a member of or in the interest of a group or class of persons; or

v     a person acting in the public interest.

8 Equality

(1) Every person shall have the right to equality before the law and to equal protection of the law.

(2) No person shall be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly, and, without derogating from the generality of this provision, on one or more of the following grounds in particular: race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture or language.

(3)

(4) Prima facie proof of discrimination on any of the grounds specified in subsection (2) shall be presumed to be sufficient proof of unfair discrimination as contemplated in that subsection, until the contrary is established.

9 Life

Every person shall have the right to life.

10 Human dignity

Every person shall have the right to respect for and protection of his or her dignity.

11 Freedom and security of the person

(1) Every person shall have the right to freedom and security of the person, which shall include the right not to be detained without trial.

(2) No person shall be subject to torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, nor shall any person be subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

12 Servitude and forced labour

No person shall be subject to servitude or forced labour.

13 Privacy

Every person shall have the right to his or her personal privacy, which shall include the right not to be subject to searches of his or her person, home or property, the seizure of private possessions or the violation of private communications.

14 Religion, belief and opinion

(1) Every person shall have the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion, which shall include academic freedom in institutions of higher learning.

(2) Without derogating from the generality of subsection (1), religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions under rules established by an appropriate authority for that purpose, provided that such religious observances are conducted on an equitable basis and attendance at them is free and voluntary.

(3) Nothing in this Chapter shall preclude legislation recognising-

15 Freedom of expression

(1) Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media, and the freedom of artistic creativity and scientific research.

(2) All media financed by or under the control of the state shall be regulated in a manner which ensures impartiality and the expression of a diversity of opinion.

16 Assembly, demonstration and petition

Every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed, and to present petitions.

17 Freedom of association

Every person shall have the right to freedom of association.

18 Freedom of movement

Every person shall have the right to freedom of movement anywhere within the national territory.

19 Residence

Every person shall have the right freely to choose his or her place of residence anywhere in the national territory.

20 Citizens' rights

Every citizen shall have the right to enter, remain in and leave the Republic, and no citizen shall without justification be deprived of his or her citizenship.

21 Political rights

(1) Every citizen shall have the right-

(2) Every citizen shall have the right to vote, to do so in secret and to stand for election to public office.

22 Access to court Every person shall have the right to have justiciable disputes settled by a court of law or, where appropriate, another independent and impartial forum.

23 Access to information Every person shall have the right of access to all information held by the state or any of its organs at any level of government in so far as such information is required for the exercise or protection of any of his or her rights.

24 Administrative justice Every person shall have the right to-

25 Detained, arrested and accused persons

(1) Every person who is detained, including every sentenced prisoner, shall have the right-

(2) Every person arrested for the alleged commission of an offence shall, in addition to the rights which he or she has as a detained person, have the right-

(3) Every accused person shall have the right to a fair trial, which shall include the right-

26 Economic activity

(1) Every person shall have the right freely to engage in economic activity and to pursue a livelihood anywhere in the national territory.

(2) Subsection (1) shall not preclude measures designed to promote the protection or the improvement of the quality of life, economic growth, human development, social justice, basic conditions of employment, fair labour practices or equal opportunity for all, provided such measures are justifiable in an open and democratic society based on freedom and equality.

27 Labour relations

(1) Every person shall have the right to fair labour practices.

(2) Workers shall have the right to form and join trade unions, and employers shall have the right to form and join employers' organisations.

(3) Workers and employers shall have the right to organise and bargain collectively.

(4) Workers shall have the right to strike for the purpose of collective bargaining.

(5) Employers' recourse to the lock-out for the purpose of collective bargaining shall not be impaired, subject to section 33 (1).

28 Property

(1) Every person shall have the right to acquire and hold rights in property and, to the extent that the nature of the rights permits, to dispose of such rights.

(2) No deprivation of any rights in property shall be permitted otherwise than in accordance with a law.

(3) Where any rights in property are expropriated pursuant to a law referred to in subsection (2), such expropriation shall be permissible for public purposes only and shall be subject to the payment of agreed compensation or, failing agreement, to the payment of such compensation and within such period as may be determined by a court of law as just and equitable, taking into account all relevant factors, including, in the case of the determination of compensation, the use to which the property is being put, the history of its acquisition, its market value, the value of the investments in it by those affected and the interests of those affected.

29 Environment

Every person shall have the right to an environment which is not detrimental to his or her health or well-being.

30 Children

(1) Every child shall have the right-

(2) Every child who is in detention shall, in addition to the rights which he or she has in terms of section 25, have the right to be detained under conditions and to be treated in a manner that takes account of his or her age.

(3) For the purpose of this section a child shall mean a person under the age of 18 years and in all matters concerning such child his or her best interest shall be paramount.

31 Language and culture Every person shall have the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of his or her choice.

32 Education Every person shall have the right-

33 Limitation

(1) The rights entrenched in this Chapter may be limited by law of general application, provided that such limitation-

i     reasonable; and

ii     justifiable in an open and democratic society based on freedom and equality; and

(aa)     a right entrenched in section 10, 11, 12, 14 (1), 21, 25 or 30 (1) (d) or (e) or (2); or

(bb)     a right entrenched in section 15, 16, 17, 18, 23 or 24, in so far as such right relates to free and fair political activity, shall, in addition to being reasonable as required in paragraph (a) (i), also be necessary.

(2) Save as provided for in subsection (1) or any other provision of this Constitution, no law, whether a rule of the common law, customary law or legislation, shall limit any right entrenched in this Chapter.

(3) The entrenchment of the rights in terms of this Chapter shall not be construed as denying the existence of any other rights or freedoms recognised or conferred by common law, customary law or legislation to the extent that they are not inconsistent with this Chapter.

(4) This Chapter shall not preclude measures designed to prohibit unfair discrimination by bodies and persons other than those bound in terms of section 7 (1).

(5) (a) The provisions of a law in force at the commencement of this Constitution promoting fair employment practices, orderly and equitable collective bargaining and the regulation of industrial action shall remain of full force and effect until repealed or amended by the legislature.

(b) If a proposed enactment amending or repealing a law referred to in paragraph (a) deals with a matter in respect of which the National Manpower Commission, referred to in section 2A of the Labour Relations Act, 1956 (Act 28 of 1956), or any other similar body which may replace the Commission, is competent in terms of a law then in force to consider and make recommendations, such proposed enactment shall not be introduced in Parliament unless the said Commission or such other body has been given an opportunity to consider the proposed enactment and to make recommendations with regard thereto.

34 State of emergency and suspension

(1) A state of emergency shall be proclaimed prospectively under an Act of Parliament, and shall be declared only where the security of the Republic is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection or disorder or at a time of national disaster, and if the declaration of a state of emergency is necessary to restore peace or order.

(2) The declaration of a state of emergency and any action taken, including any regulation enacted, in consequence thereof, shall be of force for a period of not more than 21 days, unless it is extended for a period of not longer than three months, or consecutive periods of not longer than three months at a time, by resolution of the National Assembly adopted by a majority of at least two-thirds of all its members.

(3) Any superior court shall be competent to enquire into the validity of a declaration of a state of emergency, any extension thereof, and any action taken, including any regulation enacted, under such declaration.

(4) The rights entrenched in this Chapter may be suspended only in consequence of the declaration of a state of emergency, and only to the extent necessary to restore peace or order.

(5) Neither any law which provides for the declaration of a state of emergency, nor any action taken, including any regulation enacted, in consequence thereof, shall permit or authorise-

(6) Where a person is detained under a state of emergency the detention shall be subject to the following conditions:

i     the detention of a detainee shall, as soon as it is reasonably possible but not later than 10 days after his or her detention, be reviewed by a court of law, and the court shall order the release of the detainee if it is satisfied that the detention is not necessary to restore peace or order;

ii     a detainee shall at any stage after the expiry of a period of 10 days after a review in terms of subparagraph (i) be entitled to apply to a court of law for a further review of his or her detention, and the court shall order the release of the detainee if it is satisfied that the detention is no longer necessary to restore peace or order;

(7) If a court of law, having found the grounds for a detainee's detention unjustified, orders his or her release, such a person shall not be detained again on the same grounds unless the state shows good cause to a court of law prior to such re-detention.

35 Interpretation

(1) In interpreting the provisions of this Chapter a court of law shall promote the values which underlie an open and democratic society based on freedom and equality and shall, where applicable, have regard to public international law applicable to the protection of the rights entrenched in this Chapter, and may have regard to comparable foreign case law.

(2) No law which limits any of the rights entrenched in this Chapter, shall be constitutionally invalid solely by reason of the fact that the wording used prima facie exceeds the limits imposed in this Chapter, provided such a law is reasonably capable of a more restricted interpretation which does not exceed such limits, in which event such law shall be construed as having a meaning in accordance with the said more restricted interpretation.

(3) In the interpretation of any law and the application and development of the common law and customary law, a court shall have due regard to the spirit, purport and objects of this Chapter.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.