South Africa's Constitution (1996) enshrines the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. Everyone in South Africa, including the government, and all laws are subject to and must follow the Constitution.
The Constitution also contains the Bill of Rights, which it describes as the 'cornerstone of democracy in South Africa' and compels the State to 'respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights'. Recognising that the protection and promotion of human rights cannot be left to individuals or the government, Chapter Nine of the Constitution creates independent national institutions, subject only to the Constitution and the law, to transform our society from its unjust past and to deliver the fundamental rights in the Constitution to all in South Africa.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is one such national institution, which derives its powers from the Constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act of 1994. It is also given additional powers and responsibilities by other national legislation. Since its inauguration on 2 October 1995, the Commission has taken up the challenge of ensuring that the noble ideals expressed in our Constitution are enjoyed by all in South Africa. The SAHRC works with government, civil society and individuals, both nationally and abroad, to fulfil its Constitutional mandate.