South African Legal Research

This is an introductory guide for U.S. law students and practitioners researching the law of South Africa.


South Africa is a multiracial, multilingual parliamentary republic comprised of nine provinces.  Since the end of apartheid and the transition to majority rule in 1994, it has undergone significant changes, including the introduction of a new constitution, bill of rights, and constitutional court.  Although South Africa is a unitary state, its provincial governments enjoy a limited degree of autonomy.

South Africa's uniquely hybrid legal system is a legacy of successive waves of colonial settlement.  A foundation of Roman-Dutch law principles, introduced by the Dutch East India Company prior to the modern era of civil law codification, has evolved under the influence of English common law procedures and precedents.  A parallel system of African customary law operates alongside the European system, and is particularly salient in the fields of family law, property, and inheritance.

The Georgetown Law Library's print collection of South African legal materials is located on the fourth floor of the Williams Library.  All of these materials have call numbers beginning with the letters KTL.

Key Resources for South African Legal Research

Free Resource

  • Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII)
    This free resource provides access to both national and provincial legislation and case law, as well as articles published in selected South African law journals.  All content can be browsed chronologically by year of enactment (legislation), year of decision (case law) or year of publication (articles) .  It is also possible to search by keyword.  For greater precision, use the Advanced Search form.  Select the type of search from the "Find" column.  Use the database menu on the right to limit the search to a particular type of content.

South African Content for U.S. Academic Subscribers to Lexis

  • Butterworth's South African Constitutional Law Reports
    This reporter selectively publishes judicial decisions that interpret South Africa's post-apartheid constitution.  Most decisions are in English, but some are in Afrikaans.  It also publishes key constitutional law decisions from neighboring jurisdictions, including Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.  Coverage is from 1991-present.
  • Butterworth's Statutes of South Africa
    This compilation includes all statutes enacted at the national level that were in force at the time of publication (July, 2014).  It has not been updated.  Consult SAFLII for statutes enacted or revised subsequent to July of 2014.

Practical Guidance & Commentary on South African Law

  • Getting the Deal Through (GTDT)
    GTDT offers practitioner-written summaries of South African law governing selected practice areas ("work areas").  Each summary follows a question and answer format and includes references or citations to primary legal materials.  Begin by selecting South Africa as the jurisdiction from the menu at the center of the page.  Then select the desired work area (practice area).
  • Thomson Reuters Practical Law - South Africa
    U.S. academic subscribers to Westlaw may access this online resource, which provides practitioner-written guidance on South African law for select practice areas.  Content includes practice notes, checklists, and tool kits, plus standardized forms and document templates.
  • Global Legal Monitor - South Africa (Law Library of Congress)
    This free resource provides analysis and commentary on significant developments in South African law, including the enactment of important new legislation and the issuance of landmark judicial decisions.  Links to primary sources are almost always provided.  Use the filters on the left to narrow by date and by topic.

Research Assistance

If you need assistance with South African legal research, visit the Research Help page of the Georgetown University Law Library's website. Or contact the Law Library's International and Foreign Law Department by phone (202-662-4195) or by email (  Georgetown Law Center students may schedule a one-on-one research consultation with a librarian.

South African Flag

Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

Need Help? Contact the Georgetown Law Library's International and Foreign Law Department.

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The Nine Provinces of South Africa

Image by Mart Bouter via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 international license).

Update History

Revision in progress 05/21 (chb)
Revised 11/13 (mms)