Evaluation of rehabilitation programmes is essential in order to monitor its effectiveness and relevance. There is however a need to consider policies when conducting evaluation research in rehabilitation. The aim of this paper is to present the theoretical and legislative underpinnings of rehabilitation in South Africa. A narrative review of national and international disability legislation and empirical research in context of rehabilitation was conducted. The findings of this review reveals that as a fluid construct, the discourse of rehabilitation has been underpinned by the changing theoretical and socio-political understandings of disability. This in turn has influenced various international and national health and disability policies and legislations that oversee the implementation of rehabilitation practice. Despite this, there has been little evaluation of public health rehabilitation services in context of these policies and legislations in South Africa. The fluidity of rehabilitation need to be considered when conducting evaluation research in rehabilitation.