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16 October 2014
South Africa

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constitutional court

The Constitutional Court was set up in 1994 and began its work in February 1995. The court is completely independent of the Government and is made up of 11 judges; in 2004 there were nine men and two women. Each judge serves for one term of 12 years but must retire at 70.


The job of the Constitutional Court is to protect the constitution and to uphold the law of the land. Any case must be held in front of at least 8 judges. During its existence it has adjudicated on cases involving health, HIV/Aids, workers rights, gay and lesbian rights, disability, land claims and the death penalty.





The judgements of the Court are based on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and are binding, without exception, on every department of the Government. This means that the court can declare an Act of Parliament illegal or order the President and Cabinet to cancel a decision. A number of controversial decisions have highlighted the power and importance of the Court.



Racial Discrimination

3,000 Nama people from Northern Cape were the victims of racial discrimination...
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floor crossing

In a controversial ruling in October 2004, the Court ruled that floor crossing was not unconstitutional...

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the death penaty

The last execution in South Africa took place in 1989, before the end of apartheid...
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gay and lesbian relationships

In December 1999 the Constitutional Court ordered that gay and lesbian couples should be free to live together...
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health care and childrens rights

In July 2002, the Court judged in favour of Aids campaigning pressure group...
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