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Archive of Constitution making available online

The first phase of a digital, open-access “Constitution making” archive,  is now complete. Our purpose was to identify, preserve and make available historical records relevant to the development of South Africa’s constitution and the founding of its constitutional democracy.  Approximately 13,000 documents have been digitized thus far and are published for public access at Archive of constitution making.

The current archive consists of collections of materials donated by individuals or institutions involved in the constitutional negotiations. The records in each collection are predominantly public records emanating from the three major negotiations processes: the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), the Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP)  which culminated in the interim constitution of 1993,  and the Constitutional Assembly (CA), tasked with drafting the final constitution of 1996.

The first collection to be posted online was the CA Secretariat Collection. The CA Secretariat provided administrative and logistical support to the political structures of the CA (e.g. minutes of meetings; coordinating venue bookings, catering, and document distribution, etc.).

The collection includes approximately 3,000 documents as well as some artwork and videos. It consists primarily of materials from the Constitutional Assembly (minutes and reports of committees, working groups and expert panels, submissions, working drafts of the 1996 Constitution, media materials such as press statements and CA publications, such as annual reports and issues of the newsletter Constitutional Talk), as well as documentation pertaining to the certification of the 1996 constitution by the Constitutional Court.

A small collection of materials from CODESA (declaration reports, etc.) and the MPNP (technical committee reports; text of the 1993 interim constitution, etc) have also been digitized and added.

The UCT Constitutional Assembly Database Collection consists of electronic documents originally lodged with University of Cape Town Law Faculty by the Constitutional Assembly. These files were housed as part of the CA Database Project, which began publishing proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly on the internet in 1995.  The collection consists primarily of materials from the Constitutional Assembly (minutes and reports of the technical committees, working groups and expert panels, submissions and working drafts of the 1996 constitution), as well as documentation pertaining to the certification of the 1996 constitution by the Constitutional Court.  Important documents from CODESA and the MPNP were later added. The website was accessible until a computer crash in 2000, after which it could not be restored. The raw database files were recovered from a backup, but other material posted to the site, such as news reports and cartoons, were lost. This collection comprises only the raw database files, along with some indexes to those files.

The Schabort collection comprises documents collected by Judge Schabort while serving as joint chair of CODESA.

We hope to locate additional materials and would welcome further contributions from persons involved at any stage of the constitution-making process.

Please contact the Head Librarian at the Constitutional Court, Ms Sheryl Lethuli by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Our work to date on this project was generously funded by the Bertha Foundation.

For more information see the Constitutional Court Trust website

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