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Parliament set aside 2017 for celebrating 20 years of South Africa’s world acclaimed Constitution, as well as the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). 

These critical milestones in the history of our young democracy was marked by a comprehensive annual programme of action that involved the entire legislative sector and every sector of the South African society.

This programme was unveiled during the official launch of the campaign on 3 March 2017 in the National Assembly Chamber of Parliament in Cape Town. The event kicked off a rollout of the programme that included the participation of pioneers, drafters and early drivers of the implementation of the constitution. The Constitution was signed into law by the first democratic President uTatu Nelson Mandela on 10 December 1996, and came into effect on 4 February 1997, followed by the inaugural session of the NCOP on 6 February 1997.

The 20th celebration of the Constitution and the NCOP, was a watershed moment for every sector, and every individual in South Africa. It marked the coming of age of South Africa’s constitutional democracy, which demonstrated high levels of resilience and maturity, sometimes, under trying conditions. Parliament urged everyone to optimally participate in these celebrations during the course of the year. It also urged various stakeholders and beneficiaries of the new democratic and constitutional order to conceptualize and drive their own activities aimed at making these celebrations reflective of a truly people’s parliament.

The programme included:

  • A series of engagements aimed at reflecting on the impact of the constitution on, among others, young people, women, people with disabilities, rural and under-developed communities.
  • Exhibitions across the provinces to showcase the long and fulfilling journey of the past 20 years.
  • A comprehensive review of the impact registered by all legislation passed over the years of freedom and democracy, as led by the High Level Panel.

The theme for these celebrations was “My Constitution, My Rights, My Responsibilities”. People of South Africa cherish the constitution, as a national blue print for the ideal society we all are striving to realize. The celebration came at a critical time, when Parliament had commissioned an independent assessment of the impact of legislation passed over the first generation of Parliament in terms of helping the nation realize the ideals outlined in the Constitution. The findings and recommendations formed part of these celebrations.

The launch programme entailed, the unveiling of an exhibition that tells the story of the Constitution and the NCOP, speeches of the pioneers and midwives of our constitution, a keynote address of the Speaker of the National Assembly Hon Baleka Mbete and Chairperson of the NCOP Hon Thandi Modise, a round table discussion, and the unveiling of a video documentary to mark the 20 years of the Constitution and the NCOP.