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South Africa Table of Contents

South Africa

Government and Politics

Political System: Federal state consisting of central government and nine provincial governments. Interim constitution: approved December 22, 1993, implemented April 27, 1994, intended to be in force until 1999, being replaced by final constitution in phases, 1997-99. Interim constitution provides for Government of National Unity: bicameral parliament includes 400-member National Assembly (popularly elected by party, list-system proportional representation based on universal suffrage at age eighteen), ninety-member Senate (indirectly elected by provincial legislators). President elected by parliament; deputy presidents named by parties winning 20 percent of popular vote (minimum two). Executive branch under interim constitution: president, Nelson Mandela (African National Congress--ANC), two deputy presidents--Thabo Mbeki (ANC) and Frederik Willem de Klerk (National Party--NP). President appointed twenty-eight cabinet ministers from parties with 5 percent of popular vote. Executive, legislative officials normally serve five-year terms. Final constitution drafted by Constitutional Assembly (both houses of parliament), 1996; replaces Government of National Unity with majoritarian rule: Party winning majority of popular vote names executive officials; also replaces Senate with National Council of Provinces: six permanent members indirectly elected by each provincial legislature; each province fills additional four seats on national council by rotation from provincial legislature. NP abandoned Government of National Unity, June 1996, to become parliamentary opposition. Status of KwaZulu-Natal unresolved. Parliamentary Volkstaat Council considering proposals for self-determination by proapartheid whites in separate volkstaat.

Major political parties: ANC, NP, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Freedom Front (FF), Democratic Party (DP), Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP); several smaller parties. Next national elections scheduled 1999.

Administrative Divisions: Nine provinces, provisional boundaries subject to change by referendum. Provinces (and capitals): Eastern Cape (Bisho), Mpumalanga (Nelspruit), Gauteng (Johannesburg), KwaZulu-Natal (Ulundi or Pietermaritzburg), Northern Cape (Kimberley), Northern Province (Pietersburg), North-West Province (Mmabatho), Free State (Bloemfontein),Western Cape (Cape Town).

Provincial and local government: Nine provincial governments formed by list-system proportional representation. Provincial premier (executive) appoints Executive Council (cabinet) based on party strength; provincial assemblies, 30 to 100 legislators based on party strength. November 1995 elections for 688 metropolitan, town, and rural councils, except in KwaZulu-Natal (violence), areas of Western Cape (boundary disputes). Low voter turnout; ANC 66.3 percent, NP 16.2 percent, Freedom Front 5 percent. Western Cape elections, May 29, 1996; NP won control of all contested councils; ANC second. KwaZulu-Natal elections, June 26, 1996, IFP 44.5 percent, ANC 33.2 percent (concentration in urban areas). Provincial authority still being defined; provincial constitutions, once approved by Constitutional Court, could give provincial governments most responsibility for agriculture, education (except universities), health and welfare, housing, police, environmental affairs, language use, media, transportation, sports and recreation, tourism, urban and rural development, and role of traditional leaders. Status of volkstaat not yet determined.

Judicial System: Based on Roman-Dutch law, altered by British rule and post-independence constitutions. Interim constitution of 1993 empaneled eleven-judge Constitutional Court to rule on legislative constitutionality. Supreme Court: Appellate Division (Bloemfontein); six provincial division headquarters: Cape Town, Grahamstown, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria; local divisions. Lower courts: district magistrates hear cases concerning lesser offenses. Judges or magistrates decide guilt or innocence; jury system abolished 1969. Penalties include corporal punishment (whipping). Death penalty abolished in 1995.

Foreign Affairs: Global diplomatic isolation ended in early 1990s. Foreign policy goals: independence from foreign interference; desire to balance friendships with powerful donor nations against loyalty to former antiapartheid allies; desire for close political ties to Africa, close economic ties to Asian "tigers."

International Memberships: Participation in United Nations restored, June 1994. Membership: British Commonwealth of Nations, International Labour Organisation, International Telecommunications Union, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Nonaligned Movement (NAM), Organization of African Unity (OAU), Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Universal Postal Union, World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Trade Organization.

Data as of May 1996

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South Africa Table of Contents