Chapter 8

Courts and administration of justice

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.

The head of the judiciary is the Chief Justice. There are various courts, each with a different status such as the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, High Courts and Magistrates’ Courts. 

The courts are subject only to the Constitution and must be independent and impartial. This means that when deciding cases, judges must act without fear or favour or prejudice. Organs of state must, through legislative and other measures, assist and protect the courts in order to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness.

The Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Courts can make a finding on the unconstitutionality of a law. However, only the Constitutional Court can confirm that it is indeed unconstitutional and therefore invalid.

This chapter also provides for a Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which is responsible for preparing a list of nominees to various judicial positions for the President to choose from when filling a judicial vacancy. The President must appoint the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court after consulting with the JSC.

The JSC is made up of the Chief Justice, one Judge President, the Minister of Justice, two practising advocates, two practising attorneys, one legal academic, six National Assembly members, four members of the National Council of the Provinces, and four people designated by the President. If the matter concerns a province, its Premier may also sit on the JSC.


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