Governing under the Constitution


Higher postgraduate course, first semester, one seminar per week.

Course convener(s): Professor Pierre de Vos

Course outline: South Africa's new Constitution sets out the rights of citizens and establishes a framework for democratic governance and local government. In developing these institutions, along with a multi-level system comprising national, provincial and local government, South Africa's constitutional designers were responding to the needs and aspirations of contemporary South Africa. But they, in light of this comparative experience, also had before them a rich array of alternatives from other countries. The central purpose of this course is to seek to understand the new framework for governance in South Africa.
Constitutions are complex mixtures of broad principles, and specific rules and institutions. Accordingly, we will be interested in two levels of analysis: first, what broad principles and values underpin the institutional framework, and how are these expressed in the institutions themselves? And, second, more practically, how do these institutions, and the interactions among them, actually work in shaping the process of policy-making and implementation? Thus we are interested in the values associated with democracy - participation, accountability, consensus, etc; and in those associated with what might be called ‘effective governance', in light of the policy challenges which face the country.

The course will thus also provide you with an understanding of how government works with a focus on

  1. the relationship between the executive and the legislature and what that means for lawyers and
  2. the relationship between national, provincial and local government.

Our study of multi-level government and the powers of each sphere of framework necessary for policy making and litigation in this area.


DP requirements: Satisfactory attendance at and participation in seminars and completion of written assignments.

Assessment: Written assignments count 30%, written examination counts 70% of the final grade.