The South African case of Harris v. (Donges) Minister of the Interior is one familiar to most students of British constitutional law. The case was triggered by the South African government's attempt in the 1950s to disenfranchise non-white voters on the Cape province. It is still referred to as the case which illustrates that as a matter of constitutional doctrine it is not possible for the United Kingdom Parliament to produce a statute which limits the powers of successive Parliaments.
The purpose of this book is twofold. First of all it offers a rather fuller picture of the story lying behind the Harris litigation,and the process of British acquisition of and dis-engagement from the government of its 'white' colonies in southern Africa as well as the ensuing emergence and consolidation of apartheid as a system of political and social organisation. Secondly the book attempts to use the South African experience to address broader contemporary British concerns about the nature of our Constitution and the role of the courts and legislature in making the Constitution work. In pursuing this second aim, the author has sought to create a counterweight to the traditional marginalistion of constitutional law and theory within the British polity. The Harris saga conveys better than any episode of British political history the enormous significance of the choices a country makes (or fails to make) when it embarks upon the task of creating or revising its constitutional arrangements. This, then, is a searching re-examination of the fundamentals of constitution-making, written in the light of the British government's commitment to promoting wholesale constitutional reform.