The transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa has raised questions, on the one hand, about the tension between the imperatives of justice and equality and, on the other, reconciliation. Transforming the decades’ old apartheid system under conditions of a political compromise has turned out to be a formidable challenge. This paper is about the complexity of the transformation process going on in South Africa. Although too early for a real assessment of the experi-ment, the tensions, dilemmas, contradictions, paradoxes and some of the changes have already begun to mani-fest themselves.The paper shows how political deals affect the administration of justice, and how they impinge upon the nature of democracy, often by frustrating efforts to realise social goals in the post-authoritarian phase. It also raises the fundamental question of the broader necessities for the long-term survival of democracy in South Africa.