Constitutionalism Fund


The Joint Fund to Promote and Advance Constitutionalism in South Africa (Constitutionalism Fund - CF) is a collaboration between The Atlantic Philanthropies (represented now by the Social Change Initiative), the Ford Foundation and The Open Society Foundations, with a combined investment of US$25 million to be spent on grantmaking over a ten to twelve year period.
The CF does not have a legal persona in South Africa but is operated through the Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI). The CF is governed by the Constitutionalism Fund Committee (CFC) that is comprised of Founder Donors (The Atlantic Philanthropies - represented now by the Social Change Initiative), the Ford Foundation and The Open Society Foundations); and a panel of Independent Experts (Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, Yasmin Sooka, Nazmeera Moola and Aubrey Matshiqi). The Constitutionalism Fund is managed by the Secretariat that also provides support to the CFC.

The CFC has full decision-making powers in the allocation of grants and is not influenced by the mandates and grant-making processes of the Founder Donors. The CF has a mandate to support the efforts of civil society organisations to promote and advance constitutionalism in South Africa with a specific focus on transformation, such that key organisations in the field reflect the national demographic; and on sustainability of such institutions and the field more broadly.
The Constitutionalism Fund has three objectives:
  1. Promoting and advancing constitutionalism.
  2. Advancing transformation of the field and its institutions.
  3. Advancing sustainability of the field and its institutions.
The CF understands the above concepts as fluid with multiple interpretations and will shape its approach to these through engagement with the field. However, through consultations since its establishment, some issues have emerged as common cause among diverse constituencies. These will inform the Constitutionalism Fund Committee's criteria for selecting grantees.
The constitution of South Africa is the supreme law of the country of South Africa. It provides the legal foundation for the existence of the Republic, sets out the rights and duties of its citizens, and defines the structure of government. The current constitution was drawn up by Parliament elected in 1994 in the first non-racial elections and promulgated by President Nelson Mandela on the 18 December 1996. The constitution came into effect on the 4 February 1997.
We, the people of South Africa:
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to
Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996 - Preamble.
The Constitutionalism Fund aims to breath life into the constitution, such that the people of South Africa use it as a living document supporting the substantive promotion and realisation of rights, with particular attention to those who are poor, stigmatised or marginalised.
Constitutionalism is about maintaining the rule of law as well as making the promise of the Constitution real to the people of our country - both citizens and immigrants. It is about rights and responsibilities. Promoting and advancing constitutionalism requires holding government, the business sector and civil society accountable to the values and intentions of the constitution.

It requires strengthening the capacity of the state for sustaining a legal and regulatory environment that enables the realisation of rights and for delivering or facilitating the delivery of the services for which the Constitution holds it responsible. It requires protecting the independence of Chapter Nine institutions whose mandate is to assist in supporting constitutional democracy while holding them accountable for delivering on their mandates.

Promoting and advancing constitutionalism may involve multiple strategies from training to research to campaigns to protests to dialogues to negotiations to litigation. It requires investing in and building the capabilities of individuals and grassroots based structures (community advice offices, networks and social movements) to take action and support others to claim and realise their rights. It requires building the capabilities of our judges, lawyers, attorneys and paralegals while also building the capacity of community based groups to understand and use the law and constitution.

Promoting and advancing constitutionalism requires that all people in South Africa are able to organise, to protest, to negotiate and to engage the public, private and civil society sectors in order to realise their civil, political and socio-economic rights.
Transformation of organisations and social movements in this field refers to the importance of them reflecting the values of the constitution and the demographics of the country.
Advancing transformation requires building capacity among organisations and movements to critically reflect on institutional power dynamics in order to ensure that working environments do not discriminate or stigmatise on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship or anything else.

This requires investing in, mentoring, growing and retaining young black people in leadership and second-tier roles in the various NGOs, social movements and community organisations in the field, as well as developing inclusive organisational cultures that recognize and celebrate difference.

Advancing transformation requires strengthening the voice and capacities of grassroots organisations groups to promote and advance the constitution on their own terms with their own resources, and to expand the range of skilled practitioners - such as researchers and litigators working in service to these groups. Specifically in relation to the public interest legal sector, transformation includes the need to broaden the range of individuals and organisations litigating in the courts.

It requires addressing the profound prejudice, barriers and even hostility faced by young black men and women who join the Bar, exclusionary briefing patterns and the environment of misogyny pervading legal practice. This will contribute towards the development of new thinking and jurisprudence in the field.
Sustainability of organisations and social movements refers to institutional capacity to pursue their goals over the long term and resilience to withstand inevitable changes in staff, leadership and funders.
Sustainability refers to the extent to which the external environment is conducive to civil society organising. The following dimensions collectively characterise sustainability.

Strategic leadership, capable management, and ongoing leadership development;
Adaptability, creativity and innovation in shifting political and economic contexts; strong reflective and learning practices;
Ability to produce or access, analyse and strategically use contemporary evidence;
Systems that secure information and infrastructure against intrusion;
Systems for proper stewardship of financial and other resources;
Diverse funding sources including self-financing and local philanthropic.