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The Office of the Chief State Law Adviser provides legal advice, representation and legislative drafting services to the Executive, all state departments at both national and provincial levels, municipalities, parastatals and independent or autonomous bodies that may refer work to it. It supports the government to achieve its objectives of transforming South African society and redressing past imbalances by providing efficient and cost-effective legal advice, legislative drafting and translation services of high quality.

OCSLA Virtual Stakeholder Engagement Session Report 2022OCSLA Virtual Stakeholder Engagement Session (SES) Report, May 2022

It is an honour to present a Report on the outcome of the proceedings of the Virtual Stakeholder Engagement Session (SES) between legal advisers in government departments and other organs of state and the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser (OCSLA). The purpose of the coming together was to strengthen synergies with the view of improving service to the government and, ultimately, the people of South Africa by ensuring that the legal advice we give consistently guardrails and strengthens constitutional democracy.

The OCSLA in the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development has always remained pivotal in providing legal opinions and scrutinising Bills for Parliament, subordinate legislation and international agreements for consistency with the Constitution and other law.

MISSION: To provide reliable legal advice, representation, legislation and legislative drafting services to the State in a cost effective and efficient manner.

VISION: To ensure that the services rendered are improved in accordance with the mission and that of the Chief State Law Adviser is responsive to the needs of its clients in a globalised and highly industrialised world in which information technology plays a vital role.

PRINCIPLES AND VALUES: Constitutional Values; Batho Pele principles; Professionalism and continuous improvement; Integrity and Ubuntu

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Improved provision of legal services to the state organs.


The core functions of the office include:

  • Drafting and certification of legislation;
  • Translation of legislation;
  • Writing of legal opinions;
  • Scrutiny and certification of all international agreements including extradition agreements;
  • Scrutiny and certification of draft subordinate legislation;
  • Review and certification of municipal by-laws;
  • Serving as consultants to organs of state; and
  • Perform any other function referred to it by the Executive.

The State Law Advisers are tasked with the solemn responsibility of ensuring that the state is able to deliver on its obligations, promote the rule of law and give effect to the values enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The State Law Advisers do this by providing legal advice and guidance to the state on its proposals, legislation and international agreements and by ensuring that potential litigation against the state, on constitutional and other legal grounds, is considerably reduced. The State Law Advisers scrutinise, develop, draft and certify all primary legislation before it is introduced in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. It is the responsibility of the State Law Advisers to ensure that it is compatible with the Constitution and other legal instruments and that it will withstand constitutional muster. In this way, the State Law Advisers make a significant contribution towards the development of our constitutional jurisprudence.

The office of the Chief State Law Adviser provides legal advice to the Executive, all state departments at both national and provincial levels, municipalities, parastatals and other organs of state on various matters.

  • Drafting of legislation
  • Provide advice to the State at a national level on legal matters, including policy related matters
  • Scrutinise all Constitutional Court judgments and made recommendations to the Executive
  • Providing assistance to provinces, smaller and larger municipalities to assist in limiting legal costs and to obtain second opinions
  • Assist municipalities in drafting by-laws & training in drafting of by-laws
  • Legislative drafting training internally and in other departments
  • Translation and drafting in indigenous languages


Legal Opinions

  1. Get a brief from client department (department of the South African government).
  2. Law advisers discuss issues as team who will identify questions and if it has been previously encountered.
  3. Research will be done using the Constitution, relevant legislation, case law and foreign law.
  4. A legal opinion will be drafted.

International Agreements

  1. Department contacts OCSLA during the negotiation process to assist with International agreements.
  2. The following item is used in this scrutiny: Manual on Executive Acts of the President of the Republic of South Africa.
  3. This is done to verify that the agreement is harmonized with the provisions of the Constitution, domestic law, international law, the form and style of Parliamentary.

Draft Subordinate Legislation

  1. Scrutiny of draft subordinate legislation occurs to ensure constitutionality, legality, avoidance of possible conflict with other laws and compliance with the acceptable form and style (which includes correct language usage and grammar, clarity of expression (with regards to comprehension), forms and style identical to that of Acts in Parliament and correct numbering).
  2. It also decreases the number of invalid provisions.

Certification of Bills

The certification process involves the following steps: 

  1. Policy Document: The target client (Department) generates a draft bill (sometimes with OCSLA assistance).
  2. Stakeholders can then comment on the draft bill when it is published for comment.
  3. The Department incorporates comments into draft bill.
  4. The Department applies for Cabinet approval.
  5. The SLA will then check the following: compliance with the Constitution, Rule of Law, PAJA, PAIA and PEPUDA, and whether Government policy is properly captured in the draft Bill.
  6. Furnish an opinion with regard to tagging of the draft Bill (whether it is a section 74;75;76 or 77 Bill).
  7. SLA will prepare draft bill with its charges and send it to the Department for consideration, and if the Department agrees, SLA will certify the Bill.

    A shortened version therefore would be: 
    1. Bills are introduced to Parliament.
    2. Discussion and Approval of Bill by Portfolio Committee (NA).
    3. Discussion and Approval NCOP of the Bill. 
    4. Presidential Assent is required for publication.
    5. Publication of Bills.

Drafting, scrutinisation and review of municipal bylaws
The process is the same as for Certification of Bills.