(Editor's Note: These are the rights in order of their appearance. Most of their provisions have been summarized. The basic right appears in boldface, as in the Constitution itself. Rights shown entirely in boldface are non-derogable, which means they cannot be rescinded in case of an emergency, except as allowed by the Bill of Rights.)
Equality. Neither the state nor a person can discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language, or birth.
Human dignity. Everyone has the right to have their inherent dignity protected.
Life. Everyone has the right to life.
Freedom and security of the person. No one shall be deprived of freedom without just cause or trial, and everyone is free from public or private violence, torture, and inhuman punishment; everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including freedom of reproductive choice and from medical or scientific experiments conducted without informed consent.
Slavery, servitude, forced labor. No one may be subjected to these practices.
Privacy. Everyone has the right to privacy against personal or home searches, search of property, seizure of possessions, and infringement on the privacy of communications.
Freedom of religion, belief, opinion. Everyone has these rights; but religious observances may be conducted in state institutions provided they follow rules, are conducted equitably, and are free and voluntary.
Freedom of expression. Everyone has the right to a free press and media, to the exchange of ideas, to artistic creativity, and to academic freedom; but these rights do not extend to propaganda in war, incitement to imminent violence, or advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender, or religion.
Assembly, demonstration, picket, and petition. Everyone has the right to do these things if peaceful and unarmed.
Freedom of association. Everyone has this right.
Political rights. Every citizen has the right to form and campaign for a party and to fair elections; every adult citizen has the right to vote secretly and to run for office.
Citizenship. No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.
Freedom of movement and residence. Everyone has the right to leave, enter, remain in, or reside anywhere in, the country, and to hold a passport.
Freedom of trade, occupation and profession. Everyone has these rights but their practice may be subject to regulation by law.
Labour relations. Everyone has the right to fair labour practices, including workers' rights to form or join trade unions and strike, and employers' rights to form and join an association.
Environment. Everyone has the right to a healthy environment, protected by law from environmental degradation and promoting sustainable economic development.
Property. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of personal property, except by expropriation for public purposes and with fair compensation; persons deprived of land tenure by past discrimination have the right of legal tenure or comparable redress as determined by law.
Housing. Everyone has the right to adequate housing as provided by law and with regard to available resources; no one may be evicted or have their home demolished without court order.
Health care, food, water, and social security. Everyone has these rights as provided by law and with regard to available resources; no one can be denied emergency medical care.
Children. Every child (person under 18) has the right to a name and a nationality; to family or parental care; to basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services; to protection from maltreatment; to protection from inappropriate work or exploitive labour practices; to not be detained except as a last resort, and to be treated according to age and kept apart from adult detainees; to protection from harm or use in armed conflict.
Education. Everyone has the right to basic, adult, and further public education, in the official language(s) of their choice, as available resources make possible; everyone has the right to establish independent schools that meet public standards and do not discriminate by race.
Language and culture. Everyone has the right to choose their own language and cultural life, if this is done in accordance with the rest of the Bill of Rights.
Cultural, religious, and linguistic communities. Persons in such communities can join with others to practice their culture and form related civil associations, if this is done in accordance with the rest of the Bill of Rights.
Access to information. Everyone has the right to information held by the state or by another person and required for protection of individual rights.
Just administrative action.
Access to courts.
Arrested, detained, and accused persons. These rights, which are spelled out in detail, ensure due process and what are termed "Miranda rights" in the United States.
Limitation of rights. No law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights, except as "reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society" and in consideration of "all relevant factors."
States of emergency. This may be initiated only by Act of Parliament if "the life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster, or other public emergency." Non-derogable rights are protected, except as specified by the Bill of Rights.
We, the people of South Africa,
Recognize the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to-
Heal the divisions of the past and
establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the
people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelei' iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seën Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu thatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.
Topics for Discussion, Writing, and Research
1 Read the Preambles to (a) the Constitution of the Republic of SouthAfrica, 1996, and (b) the United States Constitution. What are the declared purposes of each preamble? How do they reflect the historical experiences of the people they represent?
2 According to the cartoon above, why do the people of South Africa need a new Constitution? Find out more about SouthAfrica's first three constitutions and the historical circumstances in which they were written.
3 Compare and contrast the Bill of Rights of SouthAfrica, 1996, with the U.S. Bill of Rights. What rights are the same, or similar, in both documents? What rights are distinct to each document? How do you account for the differences between them?
4 The Bill of Rights of South Africa names as rights many things that relate to the quality of human life, including the lives of children. How do these rights compare with the Four Freedoms declared by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt in a speech in 1941? Do you think it is a good idea to guarantee these rights? Why or why not?