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Archive of the Constitutional Assembly

  • Fonds
  • 1994 - 1996

The Constitutional Assembly was the government entity created for the purpose of writing the fifth Constitution for the Republic of South Africa. The Constitutional Assembly formed on 9 May 1994. The Constitution was signed into law on 10 December 1996 and came into effect on 4 February 1997.

The Constitutional Assembly was composed of democratically elected representatives from South Africa’s first non-racial election on 27 April 1994. The formation and limitations of the Constitutional Assembly were provisioned in Act 200 of 1993: Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, commonly referred to as the Interim Constitution. In terms of Section 68(1) a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate formed the Constitutional Assembly. The election produced 400 leaders in the National Assembly and 90 in the Senate.

The Interim Constitution was written by the Multi-Party Negotiation Process (MPNP) during the negotiations to end apartheid and was formally enacted by the apartheid-era Tricameral Parliament on 27 April 1994. All the parties in the MPNP agreed on the 34 Constitutional Principles for the Interim Constitution. The final constitution was required to encapsulate the Constitutional Principles to be certified by the Constitutional Court and passed into law.

By October 1995 the first consolidated and refined working draft was published, however a number of issues remained unresolved. During April, the Arniston Multilateral was held to resolve outstanding differences. While many issues were resolved, on 23 April 1996 the draft tabled before the Constitutional Assembly retained some key outstanding areas. Nonetheless the draft was accepted on 8 May 1996 and sent to the Constitutional Court for certification.

The Constitutional Court certification process (1 July to 6 September 1996) found that the text did not comply with the Constitutional Principles and consequently the Court did not certify the constitution. The Court delivered a judgement identifying areas requiring attention.The text was amended and by October 1996 it was adopted by the Constitutional Assembly. It was sent again to the Constitutional Court on 18 October. The Constitutional Court certified the final Constitution on 4 December 1996.

The fonds Archive of the Constitutional Assembly contains paper records, audio recordings and ephemera from the Constitutional Assembly and its various bodies from May 1994 to December 1996. It comprises eight series.

The series Constitutional Assembly, contains records of work programmes, debates and decision making of the Constitutional Assembly. The Constitutional Assembly was the final deciding body of the contents of the new constitutional text.

The series Constitutional Committee, contains documents produced by the Constitutional Committee, and reports from committees and sub-committees. The Constitutional Committee functioned as the primary negotiating body of the Constitutional Assembly and prepared draft constitutions.

The series Constitutional Committee Sub-committee contains material produced by the Constitutional Committee Sub-committee and documents from sub-committees reporting to it. The Constitutional Committee Sub-committee was created by the Constitutional Committee to deal with substantive issues that the Constitutional Committee was unable to process because of time constraints. Its tasks included drafting, negotiating and the formation of further sub-committees.

Sub-committees contains working documents and meeting recordings of all sub-committees and ad hoc committees created by the Constitutional Committee Sub-committee.

Theme Committees contains submissions made to theme committees, the documents of core groups and reports from technical teams assigned to each theme committee. Theme committee members were drawn from the Constitutional Assembly and were responsible for the integration of ideas from political parties, civil society and the general public into the constitution-making process.

Management Committee contains the working documents of the Management Committee. The Management Committee reported to the Constitutional Committee and attended to issues of process such as procedure for drafting and task implementation.

Steering Committee contains audio recordings of Steering Committee meetings. This committee was created by and reported to the Constitutional Assembly. It was primarily concerned with budgeting, planning and the creation of rules between May and August 1994.

The final series, Media, contains ephemera produced for public outreach such as posters, and Constitutional Talk Radio. Materials produced by advertising agencies as pitches for selection and their subsequent programming can also be found here.

Constitutional Assembly