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The horizontal application of the South African Bill of Rights.

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The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 200 of 1993 which operated as the interim constitution of the Republic introduced a new legal order predicated on constitutionalism and constitutional supremacy. Within it was entrenched a justiciable Bill of Rights that guaranteed the enforcement and protection of the fundamental rights of the individuals of the state. Notionally and traditionally bills of rights have been conceived as a mechanism for the protection and enforcement of fundamental human rights against the state, the abuse of state authority and sate power. Such an application has been typified as the vertical application of the bill of rights . During the drafting process of the Interim Constitution, the Technical Committees commissioned by the Multi-Party Negotiating Process for that purpose were preoccupied with the question as to whether the South African Bill of Rights should apply in the private sphere between private persons acting inter se; such an application being typified as the horizontal application. The result was an ambiguous text. The question of whether the Bill of Rights was indeed capable of a horizontal application was intensely debated before the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Du Plessis And Others v De Klerk And Another 1996 (3) SA 850. And in an equally intense judgment the majority of the Court concluded that the Bill of Rights was not in general capable of a direct horizontal application. Although influenced by a strenuous textual analysis, there were other considerations too that influenced the Court's decision. One of the most important of these was that the operation of a bill of rights in the private sphere would be contrary to the notion of a constitutional state and that it would make the law vague and uncertain. However, the very same Constitutional Court a few months later in In Re: Certification of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, 1996 (10) BCLR 1253 (CC) certified that Section 8 (2) of Chapter 3 unequivocally provided for the horizontal application of the Bill of Rights. This dissertation examines the paradigms within which the Bill of Rights operates horizontally and analyzes the apprehensions expressed in Du Plessis v De Klerk within the context of these paradigms.


Thesis (LL.M.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1998.


South African bill of rights., Theses--Law.