Country Profile: South Africa

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of South Africa, based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under South Africa's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status. 

Country Background

South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. It is bounded by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland; in addition, South Africa completely surrounds the Kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa's administrative capital is Pretoria, its legislative capital is Cape Town, and its judicial capital is Bloemfontein. The official languages are Zulu (spoken as a first language by about 23% of the population), Xhosa (16%), Afrikaans (14%), English (the dominant language in government and media), Northern Sotho, Tswana, Sesotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda, and Ndebele. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 54.8 million. South Africa is a predominantly Christian country, with about 78% of the population Christian. Islam is a minority religion in South Africa, and Muslims make up about 2% of the country's population. South Africa requested observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 2002.

Constitution & Legal Structure

South Africa is referred to as a parliamentary republic, in which sovereignty belongs to the people and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The current Constitution of South Africa was adopted in 1996, in response to the end of apartheid; it was revised most recently in 2012. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legal system of South Africa is a mixed legal system of Roman-Dutch civil law, English common law, and customary law. 

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no constitutional status in South Africa

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in South Africa. 

Dominant School of Islamic Law

South Africa has no official school of Islamic law. 

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

Unofficial Databases


For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].