A mixed legal system with a constitution on top: South African law in the era of democracy

Carole Lewis


In 1994, with the advent of democracy in
South Africa, the legal system then in force was left intact, but
was turned upside down. A new, but interim, constitution was
adopted (and replaced in 1996 with a final constitution) which
made all law subordinate to the constitution, and introduced a
Bill of Rights, entrenching certain fundamental human rights and
the values of freedom, equality and dignity for all. The
constitution is now the supreme law of the land and any law
inconsistent with it has no effect. The author looks at the
significance and effect of the constitution on the legal system
formerly prevailing in South Africa by outlining its origin and
history. Article by Carole Lewis, Judge of the Supreme Court of
Appeal, South Africa (Inns of Court and Institute of Advanced
Legal Studies Fellow 2004) published in Amicus Curiae - Journal
of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies. The Journal is
produced by the Society for Advanced Legal Studies at the
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of

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