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Thus originally, important primary sources of South African law were the treatises of authors such as Grotius, Johannes Voet, Simon Groenewegen and Johannes van der Linden. When the British took possession of the Cape in 1806 they did not impose their substantive legal system in a formal way.Instead, it was decided that the local Roman-Dutch law would remain in force.
‘Grand apartheid’ divided the territory of South Africa into separate ‘states’, some of which (the Transkei, Boputhatswana, Venda and the Ciskei) were given ‘independence’ by the South African government.
In terms of South African law, the ‘citizens’ of such states lost their South African citizenship.
While many legal doctrines and the arrangement of the law in general can be traced to a civilian heritage, court procedure owes much to the common law tradition, with adversarial trial, detailed case reports (which include dissenting judgments), and adherence to precedent.
The formal legal system is dominated by this European heritage.
The advocates and judges of the superior courts were usually trained in England and tended to rely on their English treatises.
As a result of such factors, the Roman-Dutch law of the Cape Colony was overlaid with a heavy English law influence.
The Constitution has elements of federalism, and the nine provinces (Eastern Cape; Free State, Gauteng, Kwa Zulu-Natal, Limpopo (previously called the Northern Province), Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape) may pass laws on certain matters such as education, health and housing.
However, the national legislature retains its legislative power in these areas, and may override provincial legislation in the event of a conflict.
However, English procedural law was adopted and this had a tendency to influence substantive provisions.