Falls the Shadow: Between the promise and the reality of the South African Constitution


Kristina Bentley
University of Cape Town
Laurie Nathan
University of Pretoria
Richard Calland
University of Cape Town


The gap between the promise of the Constitution and the reality of life for most South Africans is a significant problem that requires urgent attention. This book explores that gap — its causes, its meaning and its implications.

On the face of it, the Constitution provides for the security of all the people in South Africa and it does this in many compelling ways. Yet the majority of the population are socially, economically, physically and psychologically insecure.

This gives rise to troubling questions:

What is the nature and extent of the gap between the constitutional promise of security and the reality of people’s lives?

Does the gap depend on biological and social criteria such as race, class, gender, health and nationality?

What combination of ideas, values, policies and financial and bureaucratic constraints accounts for the gap?

And most vitally, what are the implications for human suffering and the potential for conflict and violence?

Falls the Shadow tackles these questions in a forthright and rigorous fashion, alerting us to the dimensions and perils of the ‘constitutional shadow’ — a realm of diminished dignity, chronic insecurity and acute political danger.


  • Falls the Shadow
    Between the promise and the reality of the South African Constitution


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8 February 2022


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