Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 64: South Africa

Jacques E. du Plessis


Since 1961, the country’s official name has been the Republic of South Africa. Previously, it was known as the Union of South Africa, which was formed as a dominion of the British Empire in 1910 through the joining of the former Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and the Cape and Natal Colonies. The legal system is often described as ‘mixed’ on the basis that it has been influenced substantially by Roman– Dutch civil law and English common law. It can be argued that the ‘mix’ also includes African customary law, which enjoys recognition as a source of law under s. 211(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996. However, since African customary law has only interacted in a very limited way with the civil law and common law mix, it is perhaps more appropriate to state that South Africa has a ‘pluralist’ system, in which the civil law/common law mixture and customary law are separate components. Of course, this description would no longer be appropriate if the components were to interact more strongly in future (on the need for such a development, see Mahomed, 1985, p. 363).

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