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Part II Federal and Hybrid Federal Systems in Africa, 6 The Dynamic Relationship between Devolution and Constitutionalism in South Africa

Nico Steytler

From: Decentralisation and Constitutionalism in Africa

Edited By: Charles M. Fombad, Nico Steytler

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 16 January 2021

This chapter describes the dynamic relationship between devolution and constitutionalism in South Africa. After centuries of colonialism and minority rule, the new dispensation ushered in by South Africa’s 1993 and 1996 constitutions reflects the basic elements of constitutionalism. A critical aspect of both constitutions was the establishment of a three-level system of devolved government (national, provincial, and local) that approximates to a highly centralised federal system. The South African case study shows that the broad commitment at national level to constitutionalism has worked to the benefit of the devolution of power to provinces and local government. In some sub-national governments, however, the practice of devolution has undermined constitutionalism owing to the prevalence of corruption and maladministration; at the same time, struggles for local democracy have often enriched the overall commitment to constitutionalism.

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