South African Constitution

Rights and Humanity played a key role in ensuring the inclusion of economic and social rights in the post-Apartheid South African Constitution. We were invited to provide a series of briefings to the Constitutional Assembly, following which our President was invited to address a Special Hearing of the Constitutional Assembly. In her keynote speech to the Constitutional Assembly on 1st August 1995, our President explained the legal implications of economic and social rights and urged the Government to include them. Her speech marked a turning point in the Constitutional debates, and soon afterwards the Government agreed to include provisions modelled on the international law provisions

As a result, people in South Africa can now take cases to the Constitutional Court to defend their rights, for example if they are denied healthcare or have their water disconnected. Since the adoption of the Constitution in 1996, there have been a number of cases in the Constitutional Court that have helped people realise their rights and further refined the obligations of the state.

The process of drafting the Constitution was the largest public participation programme ever carried out in South Africa, involving nearly two years of intensive consultations. The Constitution adopted by the Constitutional Assembly in 1996, integrated ideas from ordinary citizens, civil society and political parties represented in and outside of the Constitutional Assembly.

Rights and Humanity is proud to have been associated with this process. The inclusion of economic and social rights in the Constitution has greatly benefited the people of South Africa, particularly poor people. It has also provided a model for the constitutions of other countries, widening its influence beyond the borders of South Africa.

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