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Sources of South African Legislation



The sources of written South African legislation are law-making structures that have existed over time.  A useful site listing these sources is http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/hll/country/sthafrca.htm.  Below is a brief history of sources of South African legislation. 


Sources: 27 April 1994 to date


n The National Assembly which produces national legislation, applicable within the jurisdiction of South African

n The nine Provincial Legislatures which produce provincial legislation, applicable within the jurisdiction of the relevant province

n The hundreds of Local Government Councils who produce legislation, applicable within the jurisdiction of the relevant local government municipality


Since South Africa’s 27 April 1994 independence from its apartheid regime, and the coming into being of the interim and final Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act of 1994 and 1996 respectively, international law has more and more informed the development and application of South African law.


Sources:  31 May 1961 until 27 April 1994


The South African Parliament, provincial entities and local government municipalities were the primary source of written legislation during this period. However, there were ongoing and continuous attempts throughout this period to segregate South Africans into race-based territorial areas, and to this end, a number of race-based territorially defined entities, each more or less able to legislate their own fate, were carved out of the existing four South African provinces of Natal, Cape, Transvaal and Orange Free State provinces.  These race-based territorially defined entities were:


 Bophuthatswana Ciskei Gazankulu KaNgwane KwaNdebele KwaZulu Lebowa QwaQwa Transkei Venda


Note that South Africa for some time “managed” Namibia (which was then called “South West Africa”) and during that period South African legislation devoted to increasing its control over that territory was passed, and the territory was largely treated as if it was a fifth province. The political regime for non-black people, that was put into place towards the end of this whole period, was called the “Tri-cameral Parliament” and consisted of the House of Assembly (for Whites), House of Representatives (for Coloureds) and the House of Delegates (for Indians), and these entities also passed written legislation. 


Sources: Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910 until 1961

From the time of the “union” of the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State in 31 May 1910 into a self-governing parliamentary dominion within the British Empire called the Union of South Africa, and prior to the formation from the same territory of the Republic of South Africa on 31 May 1961, much of English law was incorporated into or formed the basis of South African law.  It and the Roman Dutch Law which held sway prior to this period forms the bedrock to which South Africa even now turns in its search for clarity in its law, and where there is a vacuum in its law.


Sources: 6 April 1652 until Union

From the 6 April 1652 landing of the Dutch in the Cape of Good Hope, the spread of the Roman-Dutch legal system and its legislation and laws took increasing hold, holding sway until the Union of South Africa as a dominion of the British Empire was formed on 31 May 1910.  Even after this and to date, wherever British law does not stand, Roman-Dutch law forms the bedrock to which South Africa turns in its search for clarity in its law.


Sources: Prior to 6 April 1652

With no written history, and the failure of the successive Dutch, British and Apartheid regimes to record the unwritten laws of pre-colonial southern Africa, there is a dearth of information about these laws.  However, the current South African legal regime recognises the importance of traditional indigenous law and no doubt over time it will more and more flavour South African written legislation, and other law, as it emerges, and in doing so will perhaps reveal its colours to researchers such as historians and anthropologists.


Sources of South African Provincial Legislation

There are nine provinces in South Africa. They came into being on 27 April 1994, in terms of s124 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act, No. 108 of 1993. They are:


n Eastern Cape Province

n Free State Province

n Gauteng Province (formerly named “Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging Province” and referred to as the PWV)

n KwaZulu-Natal Province

n Limpopo Province (formerly named the “Northern Province”)

n Mpumalanga Province (formerly named the “Eastern Transvaal Province”)

n North West Province

n Northern Cape Province

n Western Cape Province


These nine Provinces are competent to make legislation on various matters, and have the responsibility to implement and administer that law. Several areas of provincial competency are shared by national government, whose legislation may override a particular province’s legislation.  For example, “environment” is such an area of shared legislative competency.


In addition, the nine Provinces have been assigned or delegated much of the legislation of old-order provincial, ethnic and racial legislative entities that fell within a particular province’s geographical area of jurisdiction, where these fell within competencies of the current Provinces, and where the capacity of a particular province has allowed.


The National Legislature has also assigned or delegated various new and old-order national legislation to Provinces, and Provinces also from time to time implement and administer particular local government legislation where a local government within their geographical area of jurisdiction lacks the capacity to do so. LegalB’s Provincial Legislation database consists of a sub-database for each of the nine provinces listed above, and each of these contains a sub-database of original legislation made by the relevant province, and another which contains legislation assigned and delegated to that province.  Please contact us if you wish to obtain information on South African Provincial Legislation which is not yet on this site, or if you wish to contribute to, or comment on, our database of provincial legislation.



Sources of South African Local government legislation


Local Government legislation in the form of By-laws is promulgated by the various numerous local authorities in South Africa.  Please contact us if you would like access information about the by-laws of a specific municipality.


Sources of other written South African legislation