Law of South Africa

South Africa has a 'hybrid' or 'mixed' legal system,[1] formed by the interweaving of a number of distinct legal traditions: a civil law system inherited from the Dutch, a common law system inherited from the British, and a customary law system inherited from indigenous Africans (often termed African Customary Law, of which there are many variations depending on the tribal origin). These traditions have had a complex interrelationship, with the English influence most apparent in procedural aspects of the legal system and methods of adjudication, and the Roman-Dutch influence most visible in its substantive private law.[2] As a general rule, South Africa follows English law in both criminal and civil procedure, company law, constitutional law and the law of evidence; while Roman-Dutch common law is followed in the South African contract law, law of delict (tort), law of persons, law of things, family law, etc. With the commencement in 1994 of the interim Constitution, and in 1997 its replacement, the final Constitution, another strand has been added to this weave.

Countries (in pink) which share the mixed South African legal system

Besides South Africa itself, South African law, especially its civil law and common law elements, also forms the basis of the laws of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, which were introduced during the process of colonisation. Basutoland (Lesotho) received the law of the Cape Colony in 1884, and Bechuanaland (Botswana) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) received it in 1891.[3] Swaziland (Eswatini) received the law of the Transvaal Colony in 1904,[3] and South-West Africa (Namibia) received the law of the Cape Province in 1920, after its conquest by South Africa.[4]


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