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South Africa: South Africa Government Profile

2015/01/24

Jacob Zuma trod a rocky road to the presidency
 
 
Jacob Zuma, elected president of South Africa in April 2009, signals a shift in political influence within the ANC party. Although the new government is not likely to introduce large changes in the guiding principles of economic policy, additional attention may be given to social and development issues, which are necessary to preserve social cohesion and attenuate rising tensions. Despite the victory, however, the share of votes going to the ANC declined for the initial time since 1994, indicating that next support will depend on success in conference expectations.
 
In 2009, several episodes of at times violent demonstrations occurred, highlighting the risk of rising social instability due to hardship in living conditions, particularly in shantytowns. This evolution, ongoing since 2004, has been exacerbated by the numerous job losses during the recent crisis. Industrial strikes as well intensified, mainly related to wage claims. These factors explain why the African Economic Outlook ‘civil tensions’ indicator remains strongly positive at 2.5, although it is decreasing.
 
The new government committed to make the fight against corruption a priority. This, coupled with the conclusion of President Zuma’s judicial vicissitudes before his election have sent positive signs to the business sector and to the people in general. Indeed, strengthening the fight against corruption is crucial, as South Africa has slipped in the international ranking of Transparency International from the 43th position to 55th between 2007 and 2009.
 
As for international relations, President Zuma’s era promises to be additional introspective. While addressing domestic problems is of key importance, there is as well a risk that the country’s leadership role in Africa could further weaken, at a moment in which the continent needs to strengthen its presence in international fora, such as the G20.

Election

Mr Zuma looked set to become president of South Africa next the 2009 parliamentary elections, but the corruption allegations persisted. It was not until April 2009 - weeks before the parliamentary polls - that national prosecutors finally threw out the charges on the grounds that there had been political interference.
 
The opposition said this was a technicality and that Mr Zuma ought to answer the charges in court. Nonetheless, he led the ANC to a convincing election victory and was duly inaugurated on 9 May.
In November 2011, a man seen as a potential critical challenger for Mr Zuma\'s post, the firebrand ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was suspended from the governing party. He remains a thorn in Mr Zuma\'s side, however, and called for him to resign over the Marikana mine shooting incident in August 2012.
 
In December 2012 Mr Zuma was was re-elected as ANC leader with an overwhelming majority. And in May 2014 the ANC again won a commanding majority in parliamentary elections, providing President Zuma a second term in office.
The ANC is in a formal alliance with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), known as the Tripartite Alliance. Neither the Communist Party nor COSATU contest elections, but call on supporters to vote for the ANC. Several members of post-Apartheid governments have been members of the Communist Party, inclunding Mr Zuma.
 
South Africa is a federal republic. Until 1994 it was governed by the white minority with minimal mixed-race and Asian representation and virtually no black representation. In Apr., 1994, the country became a fully multiracial democracy, under an interim constitution; a permanent constitution was adopted in 1996. It provides for a strong central government headed by a president, who is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term and serves as both the chief of national and chief of government.
 
The bicameral Parliament consists of a 400-member National Assembly, which is elected by proportional representation, and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces, which is elected by the provincial legislatures. Legislators serve five-year terms. The constitution contains an extensive bill of rights and provides for an independent judiciary; the Constitutional Court is the highest court of appeal. The leading political parties are the African National Congress, the predominantly white Democratic Alliance, and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom party. Administratively, the country is divided into nine provinces. Provinces are given exclusive powers in only a few areas, such as roads and recreation.
Government type: 

republic

Administrative divisions: 

9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West, Western Cape

Independence: 

31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State); 31 May 1961 (republic declared) 27 April 1994 (majority rule)

National holiday: 

Freedom Day, 27 April

Constitution: 

10 December 1996; note - certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996; was signed by then President MANDELA on 10 December 1996; and entered into effect on 4 February 1997

Legal system: 

based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 

18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Council of Provinces (90 seats; 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities) and the National Assembly (400 seats; members elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms) elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held on 22 April 2009 (next to be held in April 2014) election results: National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 65.9%, DA 16.7%, COPE 7.4%, IFP 4.6%, other 5.4%; seats by party - ANC 264, DA 67, COPE 30, IFP 18, other 21

Judicial branch: 

Constitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts

Political parties and leaders : 

African Christian Democratic Party or ACDP [Kenneth MESHOE]; African National Congress or ANC [Jacob ZUMA]; Congress of the People or COPE [Mosiuoa LEKOTA]; Democratic Alliance or DA [Helen ZILLE]; Freedom Front Plus or FF+ [Pieter MULDER]; Independent Democrats or ID [Patricia DE LILLE]; Inkatha Freedom Party or IFP [Mangosuthu BUTHELEZI]; Pan-Africanist Congress or PAC [Motsoko PHEKO]; United Christian Democratic Party or UCDP [Lucas MANGOPE]; United Democratic Movement or UDM [Bantu HOLOMISA]

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

Congress of South African Trade Unions or COSATU [Zwelinzima VAVI, general secretary]; South African Communist Party or SACP [Blade NZIMANDE, general secretary]; South African National Civics Organization or SANCO [Mlungisi HLONGWANE, national president] note: note - COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the ANC

International organization participation: 

ACP, AfDB, AU, BIS, C, CD, FAO, FATF, G-20, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NAM, NSG, OPCW, Paris Club (associate), PCA, SACU, SADC, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Flag description: 

two equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band that splits into a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side; the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green band and its arms by narrow white stripes; the flag colors do not have any official symbolism, but the Y stands for the "convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity"; black, yellow, and green are found on the flag of the African National Congress, while red, white, and blue are the colors in the flags of the Netherlands and the UK, whose settlers ruled South Africa during the colonial era note: the South African flag is the only national flag to display six colors as part of its primary design