F or anyone (whether a South African or a visitor, lawyer or not) who wants to understand the foundation of South Africa’s constitutional project, a reading and understanding of the Certification Judgments is an indispensable pursuit. In these two cases, the Constitutional Court convened to consider whether each of the provisions the Constitution complied with all 34 constitutional principles that had been debated and finally agreed at the Constitutional Assembly comprising all political formations in the country. The task was an onerous one. It entailed the court measuring each and every provision of the new Constitution, viewed both singly and in conjunction with one another, against the stated Constitutional Principles, irrespective of the attitude of any interested party, and then not only recording its conclusions regarding that exercise, but also making plain its reasons for each such conclusion.
In the first judgment, the Constitutional Court declined to certify the Constitution as complying with all 34 constitutional principles. It was in the second judgment that it did.
Dubbed “the solemn pact”, the 34 Constitutional Principles, which are still relevant today in the interpretation of the Constitution and development of SA’s relatively nascent constitutional jurisprudence, are listed in this document.
Of significance is the fact that everyone was invited to provide any objection s/he may have to the certification of the new Constitution and the basis for that objection. In the result, the court heard oral argument over a period of 12 days in July and November 1996. This was a particularly thorough process.
Read Certification here:
34 Constitutional Principles