Bill of Rights
Index of Sections
- Human Dignity
- Freedom and Security of the Person
- Slavery, Servitude and Forced Labour
- Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion
- Freedom of Expression
- Assembly, Demonstration, Picket and Petition
- Freedom of Association
- Political Rights
- Freedom of Movement and Residence
- Freedom of Trade, Occupation and Profession
- Labour Relations
- Health Care, Food Water and Social Security
- Language and Culture
- Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
- Access to Information
- Just Administrative Action
- Access to Courts
- Arrested, Detained and Accused Persons
- Limitation of Rights
- States of Emergency
- Enforcement of Rights
- Interpretation of Bill of Rights
7. (1) This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa.
It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic
values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
(2) The state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in
the Bill of Rights.
(3) The rights in the Bill of Rights are subject to the limitations
contained or referred to in section 36, or elsewhere in the Bill.
8. (1) The Bill of Rights applies to all law, and binds the legislature,
the executive, the judiciary and all organs of state.
(2) A provision of the Bill of Rights binds a natural or a juristic
person if, and to the extent that, it is applicable, taking into account
the nature of the right and the nature of any duty imposed by the right.
(3) When applying a provision of the Bill of Rights to a natural or
juristic person in terms of subsection (2), a court
- in order to give effect to a right in the Bill, must apply, or if necessary
develop, the common law to the extent that legislation does not give effect
to that right; and
- may develop rules of the common law to limit the right, provided that
the limitation is in accordance with section 36(1).
(4) A juristic person is entitled to the rights in the Bill of Rights
to the extent required by the nature of the rights and the nature of that
9. (1) Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection
and benefit of the law.
(2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and
freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other
measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons,
disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against
anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy,
marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age,
disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
(4) No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against
anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation
must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.
(5) Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection
(3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.
10. Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity
respected and protected.
11. Everyone has the right to life.
Freedom and security of the person
12. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person,
which includes the right
- not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;
- not to be detained without trial;
- to be free from all forms of violence from either public or private
- not to be tortured in any way; and
- not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.
(2) Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which
includes the right
- to make decisions concerning reproduction;
- to security in and control over their body; and
- not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their
Slavery, servitude and forced labour
13. No one may be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour.
14. Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not
- their person or home searched;
- their property searched;
- their possessions seized; or
- the privacy of their communications infringed.
Freedom of religion, belief and opinion
15. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought,
belief and opinion.
(2) Religious observances may be conducted at state or state-aided institutions,
- those observances follow rules made by the appropriate public authorities;
- they are conducted on an equitable basis; and
- attendance at them is free and voluntary.
- This section does not prevent legislation recognising
- marriages concluded under any tradition, or a system of religious,
personal or family law; or
- systems of personal and family law under any tradition, or adhered
to by persons professing a particular religion.
- Recognition in terms of paragraph (a) must be consistent with this
section and the other provisions of the Constitution.
Freedom of expression
16. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes
- freedom of the press and other media;
- freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
- freedom of artistic creativity; and
- academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
(2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to
- propaganda for war;
- incitement of imminent violence; or
- advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion,
and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
Assembly, demonstration, picket and petition
17. Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to
demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.
Freedom of association
18. Everyone has the right to freedom of association.
19. (1) Every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes
- to form a political party;
- to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for, a political
- to campaign for a political party or cause.
(2) Every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections
for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution.
(3) Every adult citizen has the right
- to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms
of the Constitution, and to do so in secret; and
- to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office.
20. No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.
Freedom of movement and residence
21. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave the Republic.
(3) Every citizen has the right to enter, to remain in and to reside
anywhere in, the Republic.
(4) Every citizen has the right to a passport.
Freedom of trade, occupation and profession
22. Every citizen has the right to choose their trade, occupation or
profession freely. The practice of a trade, occupation or profession may
be regulated by law.
23. (1) Everyone has the right to fair labour practices.
(2) Every worker has the right
- to form and join a trade union;
- to participate in the activities and programmes of a trade union; and
- to strike.
(3) Every employer has the right
- to form and join an employers' organisation; and
- to participate in the activities and programmes of an employers' organisation.
(4) Every trade union and every employers' organisation has the right
- to determine its own administration, programmes and activities;
- to organise; and
- to form and join a federation.
(5) Every trade union, employers' organisation and employer has the
right to engage in collective bargaining. National legislation may be enacted
to regulate collective bargaining. To the extent that the legislation may
limit a right in this Chapter, the limitation must comply with section
(6) National legislation may recognise union security arrangements contained
in collective agreements. To the extent that the legislation may limit
a right in this Chapter, the limitation must comply with section 36(1).
24. Everyone has the right
- to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being;
- to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future
generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that
- prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
- promote conservation; and
- secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources
while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
25. (1) No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of
general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.
(2) Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application
- for a public purpose or in the public interest; and
- subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner
of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided
or approved by a court.
(3) The amount of the compensation and the time and manner of payment
must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the
public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all
relevant circumstances, including
- the current use of the property;
- the history of the acquisition and use of the property;
- the market value of the property;
- the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition
and beneficial capital improvement of the property; and
- the purpose of the expropriation.
(4) For the purposes of this section
- the public interest includes the nation's commitment to land reform,
and to reforms to bring about equitable access to all South Africa's natural
- property is not limited to land.
(5) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within
its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to
gain access to land on an equitable basis.
(6) A person or community whose tenure of land is legally insecure as
a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled,
to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to tenure which
is legally secure or to comparable redress.
(7) A person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913
as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled,
to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of
that property or to equitable redress.
(8) No provision of this section may impede the state from taking legislative
and other measures to achieve land, water and related reform, in order
to redress the results of past racial discrimination, provided that any
departure from the provisions of this section is in accordance with the
provisions of section 36(1).
(9) Parliament must enact the legislation referred to in subsection
26. (1) Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing.
(2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within
its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this
(3) No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished,
without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.
No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.
Health care, food, water and social security
27. (1) Everyone has the right to have access to
- health care services, including reproductive health care;
- sufficient food and water; and
- social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves
and their dependants, appropriate social assistance.
(2) The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within
its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each
of these rights.
(3) No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.
28. (1) Every child has the right
- to a name and a nationality from birth;
- to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care
when removed from the family environment;
- to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social
- to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;
- to be protected from exploitative labour practices;
- not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services
- are inappropriate for a person of that child's age; or
- place at risk the child's well-being, education, physical or mental
health or spiritual, moral or social development;
- not to be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which case,
in addition to the rights a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35, the
child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time,
and has the right to be
- kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and
- treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the
- to have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and
at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial
injustice would otherwise result; and
- not to be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times
of armed conflict.
(2) A child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter
concerning the child.
(3) In this section "child" means a person under the age of
29. (1) Everyone has the right
- to a basic education, including adult basic education; and
- to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures,
must make progressively available and accessible.
(2) Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language
or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that
education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure the effective access
to, and implementation of, this right, the state must consider all reasonable
educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking
- practicability; and
- the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws
(3) Everyone has the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense,
independent educational institutions that
- do not discriminate on the basis of race;
- are registered with the state; and
- maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable
public educational institutions.
(4) Subsection (3) does not preclude state subsidies for independent
Language and culture
30. Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in
the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may
do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.
Cultural, religious and linguistic communities
31. (1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious or linguistic community
may not be denied the right, with other members of that community
- to enjoy their culture, practise their religion and use their language;
- to form, join and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic associations
and other organs of civil society.
(2) The rights in subsection (1) may not be exercised in a manner inconsistent
with any provision of the Bill of Rights.
Access to information
32. (1) Everyone has the right of access to
- any information held by the state; and
- any information that is held by another person and that is required
for the exercise or protection of any rights.
(2) National legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right,
and may provide for reasonable measures to alleviate the administrative
and financial burden on the state.
Just administrative action
33. (1) Everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful,
reasonable and procedurally fair.
(2) Everyone whose rights have been adversely affected by administrative
action has the right to be given written reasons.
(3) National legislation must be enacted to give effect to these rights,
- provide for the review of administrative action by a court or, where
appropriate, an independent and impartial tribunal;
- impose a duty on the state to give effect to the rights in subsections
(1) and (2); and
- promote an efficient administration.
Access to courts
34. Everyone has the right to have any dispute that can be resolved
by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court
or, where appropriate, another independent and impartial tribunal or forum.
Arrested, detained and accused persons
35. (1) Everyone who is arrested for allegedly committing an offence
has the right
- to remain silent;
- to be informed promptly
- of the right to remain silent; and
- of the consequences of not remaining silent;
- not to be compelled to make any confession or admission that could
be used in evidence against that person;
- to be brought before a court as soon as reasonably possible, but not
- 48 hours after the arrest; or
- the end of the first court day after the expiry of the 48 hours, if
the 48 hours expire outside ordinary court hours or on a day which is not
an ordinary court day;
- at the first court appearance after being arrested, to be charged or
to be informed of the reason for the detention to continue, or to be released;
- to be released from detention if the interests of justice permit, subject
to reasonable conditions.
(2) Everyone who is detained, including every sentenced prisoner, has
- to be informed promptly of the reason for being detained;
- to choose, and to consult with, a legal practitioner, and to be informed
of this right promptly;
- to have a legal practitioner assigned to the detained person by the
state and at state expense, if substantial injustice would otherwise result,
and to be informed of this right promptly;
- to challenge the lawfulness of the detention in person before a court
and, if the detention is unlawful, to be released;
- to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity,
including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate
accommodation, nutrition, reading material and medical treatment; and
- to communicate with, and be visited by, that person's
- spouse or partner;
- next of kin;
- chosen religious counsellor; and
- chosen medical practitioner.
(3) Every accused person has a right to a fair trial, which includes
- to be informed of the charge with sufficient detail to answer it;
- to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence;
- to a public trial before an ordinary court;
- to have their trial begin and conclude without unreasonable delay;
- to be present when being tried;
- to choose, and be represented by, a legal practitioner, and to be informed
of this right promptly;
- to have a legal practitioner assigned to the accused person by the
state and at state expense, if substantial injustice would otherwise result,
and to be informed of this right promptly;
- to be presumed innocent, to remain silent, and not to testify during
- to adduce and challenge evidence;
- not to be compelled to give self-incriminating evidence;
- to be tried in a language that the accused person understands or, if
that is not practicable, to have the proceedings interpreted in that language;
- not to be convicted for an act or omission that was not an offence
under either national or international law at the time it was committed
- not to be tried for an offence in respect of an act or omission for
which that person has previously been either acquitted or convicted;
- to the benefit of the least severe of the prescribed punishments if
the prescribed punishment for the offence has been changed between the
time that the offence was committed and the time of sentencing; and
- of appeal to, or review by, a higher court.
(4) Whenever this section requires information to be given to a person,
that information must be given in a language that the person understands.
(5) Evidence obtained in a manner that violates any right in the Bill
of Rights must be excluded if the admission of that evidence would render
the trial unfair or otherwise be detrimental to the administration of justice.
Limitation of rights
36. (1) The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms
of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable
and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity,
equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including
- the nature of the right;
- the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
- the nature and extent of the limitation;
- the relation between the limitation and its purpose; and
- less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (1) or in any other provision of
the Constitution, no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of
States of emergency
37. (1) A state of emergency may be declared only in terms of an Act
of Parliament, and only when
- the life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection,
disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency; and
- the declaration is necessary to restore peace and order.
(2) A declaration of a state of emergency, and any legislation enacted
or other action taken in consequence of that declaration, may be effective
- prospectively; and
- for no more than 21 days from the date of the declaration, unless the
National Assembly resolves to extend the declaration. The Assembly may
extend a declaration of a state of emergency for no more than three months
at a time. The first extension of the state of emergency must be by a resolution
adopted with a supporting vote of a majority of the members of the Assembly.
Any subsequent extension must be by a resolution adopted with a supporting
vote of at least 60 per cent of the members of the Assembly. A resolution
in terms of this paragraph may be adopted only following a public debate
in the Assembly.
(3) Any competent court may decide on the validity of
- a declaration of a state of emergency;
- any extension of a declaration of a state of emergency; or
- any legislation enacted, or other action taken, in consequence of a
declaration of a state of emergency.
(4) Any legislation enacted in consequence of a declaration of a state
of emergency may derogate from the Bill of Rights only to the extent that
- the derogation is strictly required by the emergency; and
- the legislation
- is consistent with the Republic's obligations under international law
applicable to states of emergency;
- conforms to subsection (5); and
- is published in the national Government Gazette as soon as reasonably
possible after being enacted.
(5) No Act of Parliament that authorises a declaration of a state of
emergency, and no legislation enacted or other action taken in consequence
of a declaration, may permit or authorise
- indemnifying the state, or any person, in respect of any unlawful act;
- any derogation from this section; or
- any derogation from a section mentioned in column 1 of the Table of
Non-Derogable Rights, to the extent indicated opposite that section in
column 3 of the Table.
(6) Whenever anyone is detained without trial in consequence of a derogation
of rights resulting from a declaration of a state of emergency, the following
conditions must be observed:
(7) If a court releases a detainee, that person may not be detained
again on the same grounds unless the state first shows a court good cause
for re-detaining that person.
(8) Subsections (6) and (7) do not apply to persons who are not South
African citizens and who are detained in consequence of an international
armed conflict. Instead, the state must comply with the standards binding
on the Republic under international humanitarian law in respect of the
detention of such persons.
38. Anyone listed in this section has the right to approach a competent
court, alleging that a right in the Bill of Rights has been infringed or
threatened, and the court may grant appropriate relief, including a declaration
of rights. The persons who may approach a court are -
39. (1) When interpreting the Bill of Rights, a court, tribunal or forum
(2) When interpreting any legislation, and when developing the common
law or customary law, every court, tribunal or forum must promote the spirit,
purport and objects of the Bill of Rights.
(3) The Bill of Rights does not deny the existence of any other rights
or freedoms that are recognised or conferred by common law, customary law
or legislation, to the extent that they are consistent with the Bill.