The 20th century produced several fundamental governmental changes in South Africa. In 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed as a largely autonomous dominion of Britain. Under the 1910 constitution, the British monarch was the nominal head of state, but authority over most matters was vested in a single-chamber parliament, headed by a prime minister. By the 1931 Statute of Westminster, South Africa and other dominions within the British Commonwealth were proclaimed fully autonomous, gaining equality status with Britain. In 1961 South Africa became a republic and left the Commonwealth.
The 1961 constitution created the office of president as head of state. A new constitution in 1984 established a tricameral (three-house) parliament with white, Coloured, and Asian houses, but excluded the black majority altogether.
Lengthy constitutional negotiations in the early 1990s led to the implementation of an interim constitution in April 1994. These negotiations also resulted in agreement on a number of principles that would be binding during the negotiations for a final constitution. The final constitution was passed by parliament in May 1996 but was subsequently rejected by the Constitutional Court because certain provisions did not comply with the 1994 principles. A revised version was finally accepted in December 1996 and went into force in February 1997. The new constitution, which included a comprehensive bill of rights, was the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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