What is the Rule of Law?

The ‘Rule of Law’ is a notoriously difficult concept to define, not because people cannot agree on what it means (indeed, there is widespread consensus on what the Rule of Law constitutes), but rather on how to phrase it. This website does not seek to compel a singular definition.

Imperatives of the Rule of Law

The Rule of Law Board of Advisors formulated the following ten Imperatives of the Rule of Law. Click on the Imperative to view a more detailed explanation of what it constitutes:

1st Imperative: All law must be clear, predictable, accessible, not contradictory, and shall not have retrospective effect.

2nd Imperative: All legislation that makes provision for discretionary powers, must also incorporate the objective criteria by which those powers are to be exercised. The enabling legislation must, in addition, stipulate the purpose or purposes for which the powers may be exercised.

3rd Imperative: All law must apply the principle of equality before the law.

4th Imperative: All law must be applied fairly, impartially, and without fear, favour or prejudice.

5th Imperative: The sole legitimate authority for making substantive law rests with the legislature, which authority shall not be delegated to any other entity.

6th Imperative: No law shall have the aim or the effect of circumventing the final authority of the courts.

7th Imperative: No one may be deprived of or have their property expropriated, except if done with due process for the public interest, and in exchange for compensation that is just and market-related.

8th Imperative: The law shall afford adequate protection of classical individual rights.

9th Imperative: All law must comply with the overriding principle of reasonableness, which comprehends rationality, proportionality, and effectiveness.

10th Imperative: The legislature and organs of state shall observe due process in the rational exercise of their authority.

Phumlani Majozi: Introduction to the Rule of Law

Rex van Schalkwyk: What the Rule of Law is and is not

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The Rule of Law Project is an initiative of the Free Market Foundation (www.freemarketfoundation.com) and is dedicated to giving substance to section 1(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which provides for the supremacy of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.