Interim Constitution (South Africa)

The Interim Constitution was the fundamental law of South Africa from the first non-racial general election on 27 April 1994 until it was superseded by the final constitution on 4 February 1997. As a transitional constitution it required the newly elected Parliament to also serve as a constituent assembly to adopt a final constitution. It made provision for a major restructuring of government as a consequence of the abolition of apartheid. It also introduced an entrenched bill of rights against which legislation and government action could be tested, and created the Constitutional Court with broad powers of judicial review.

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1993
Parliament of South Africa
CitationAct No. 200 of 1993
Enacted byParliament of South Africa
Assented to25 January 1994
Commenced27 April 1994
Repealed4 February 1997
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Status: Repealed


An integral part of the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa was the creation of a new, non-discriminatory constitution for the country. One of the major disputed issues was the process by which such a constitution would be adopted. The African National Congress (ANC) insisted that it should be drawn up by a democratically elected constituent assembly, while the governing National Party (NP) feared that the rights of minorities would not be protected in such a process, and proposed instead that the constitution be negotiated by consensus between the parties and then put to a referendum.[1][2]

Formal negotiations began in December 1991 at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). The parties agreed on a process whereby a negotiated transitional constitution would provide for an elected constitutional assembly to draw up a permanent constitution.[1] The CODESA negotiations broke down, however, after the second plenary session in May 1992. One of the major points of dispute was the size of the supermajority that would be required for the assembly to adopt the constitution: the NP wanted a 75 per cent requirement,[2] which would effectively have given it a veto.[1]

In April 1993, the parties returned to negotiations, in what was known as the Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP). A committee of the MPNP proposed the development of a collection of "constitutional principles" with which the final constitution would have to comply, so that basic freedoms would be ensured and minority rights protected, without overly limiting the role of the elected constitutional assembly.[2] Adopting this idea, the parties to the MPNP drew up the Interim Constitution, which was formally enacted by Parliament and came into force on 27 April 1994.


  1. Barnes, Catherine; de Klerk, Eldred (2002). "South Africa's multi-party constitutional negotiation process". Owning the process: Public participation in peacemaking. Conciliation Resources. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  2. Goldstone, Richard (1997). "The South African Bill of Rights". Texas International Law Journal. 32: 451–470.
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