Political Science – Examination of South Africa
Introduction. The geography of the country known as South Africa is varied and rich. Most of the country is a “veld” which is a grassy plateau high above sea level; in some places as high as 3,900 feet above the sandy coasts along the oceans. On the northwest are the Namib and Kalahari Deserts. Forests are found on the northeast side.
South Africa is also rich in natural resources. There is the beauty of the land which is priceless; tourists from all over the world visit. The farm region has the ability of producing enough food for the country as well as for export. The wine region sells their wine around the world. The mineral wealth includes gold (about 30% of the world’s gold), diamonds, manganese, chromium and lead.
South Africa is the southernmost tip of the African continent. The Atlantic Ocean borders the narrow width of the country on the west side of the tip. The Indian Ocean borders on the east. Four countries border South Africa on the continent side Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique. Two small countries, Lesotho and Swaziland are located within the main boundaries of South Africa. These are the political divisions of southern most Africa at this time.
Political History until the mid-twentieth Century. The very first known inhabitants were the Bantu whose archeological items are dated at about 100 BCE. Colonialzation had the usual detrimental effects on the original population of the area. Because of the rich amount of valuable natural resources the struggle between the English and the Boers was greater than in most places. The Zulus under the leadership of Chaka starting at about 1818 waged a strong and well structured war against both the Boers and the Anglos. During the same time the Anglos and Boers were battling each until finally in 1902 the Boers surrendered.
Political History since the mid-Twentieth Century. In 1931 South Africa became independent, seventeen years later the National Party (NP) was elected to the national government. Only two years later Apartheid Policy was passed. The black majority was settled into “Homelands” for the poor and restricted in their travels, work and health care opportunities.
Sanctions and boycotts were carried out towards South Africa starting in the 1970s. in order to stop repression of dark-skinned people. In South Africa the unhappiness from repression broke out into wide spread demonstrations when police fired into a 1976 student march in Soweto.
Leaders of the African National Committee (ANC) were imprisoned until finally, after twenty-eight years, in 1990 Nelson Mandela was released. The momentum increased and in 1991 the Apartheid Policy was abolished. In 1994 Nelson Mandela was elected the first black skinned president of the modern government in the first election in South Africa which allowed “Asians, “Blacks” and “Coloreds” in the population to vote.
The affect of the colonial period on the present. The impacts of colonialism were devastating to the people in southern Africa. They were sold as slaves and used as slaves on the farms and mines. The colonial attitude continued into the modern years with repression of the majority people into sectioned off “Homelands.” They were not allowed to go to the same hospitals, have the same jobs, good education or travel rights as the white-skinned people. The greed that brought and keep the colonial powers to South Africa ruined the lives for the majority of people with wars and day-to-day violence.
The Reconciliation hearings helped the stability of the country but did not solve all the problems. Human Rights Watch reports problems that still exist. Farm workers are not given good housing or retirement funds. Women have a difficult time. (HRW, 2011)
Demographics. The ratio of urban to rural dwellers is approximately 60% to 40%. South The USAID reported a 2007 population of47.9 million people and 2008 GPD per capita of $5,900. The most recent population figures from Stats SA (as reported in the COP17 literature) has reached 50.6 million.
Africa has many official languages demonstrating it unique wealth of cultures. The languages include English, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, and Afrikaans. (USAID, 2009)
Ethnic. The two largest ethnicities are Zulu and Xhosa tribes. Less than 10% of the population is mixed race called “Coloreds.” The rest of the population is made of people with ancestry of England “Anglos” and Holland “Afrikaners.” Since the first attempts at colonialism battles have waged between the natives and the English; then between the English and the Dutch. The natives were sold as slaves and used as slaves in the mines from the start of this time. Now they are part of their government and its future although old ways are difficult to change.
Religious. The indigenous San people of South Africa have a rich religious life. They celebrate a personal and ritual relationship God. The shamans of their religion are the healers. Traditional African religions are based on ancestor worship and are practiced by approximately 28.5% of the South African population. The family and community are very well respected as is each individual (Bishops, 2011).
Christianity is practiced by the most people in South Africa. The approximate amount is 85% of the population (Religions, 2009).
The other major religions of Buddhism, Islam (2%), Hinduism (1.5%) and Judaism are practiced.
Governing diverse cultures. An intense time of painful Reconciliation in the 1990s helped the different factions heal terrible wounds so that the new democratic country could move forward.
Major political institutions. The government is a multi-party democracy, a Parliamentary system. The President is Jacob Zumaand and the Deputy President is Kgalema Molanthe (since February, 2011).
Separation of Power. On February7, 1997 the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa took effect. The Constitution ensures separation of powers between three government branches. The lawmaking branch is the Legislature. The Executive branch is directed to make sure the laws are carried out and is in charge of enforcing laws. The Judiciary branch, the justice system, is in charge of interpreting the laws. (See Chart 1 in the Appendix.)
Judicial System. The judiciary is composed of judges and magistrates. The justice system is in charge of interpreting the laws. If a law the Legislature has made is illegal the Justice system can stop invalidate the law. There is a Constitutional Court which can deem a law invalid if legislation goes against the Constitution. Citizens can take laws to court if they think the executive branch has overstepped legal boundaries in carrying out or enforcing the laws.
An independent body, the Judicial Services Commission, appoints judges.
The above design is to ensure the independence of the judicial systems.
State of democracy. Independence was achieved in 1994.
Elections. Elections are designed so that the citizens will have representative government. Four hundred representatives sit in the Parliament; the number of representatives per party is based on 0.25% of the vote for each seat.
Freedom of the Press. According to SouthAfrica.info the Reporters Without Borders organization ranked South Africa “44th out 168 countries in 2006.” In 2005 South Africa was rated 31rst. The Worldwide Press Freedom Index still considers this rating to be within the top 50 countries of the world. (2007)
When considering press freedom on the continent of Africa South Africa is rated 6th. (southafrica.info, 2007).
Civil Rights. Chapter 2 of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights. Section 9 guarantees the Right of Equality. “Alll laws may not unfairly discriminate against anyone.” And “The government must take active steps to change the inequalities of the past. This part of the Bill of Rights contains Affirmative Action and Employment Equity Act
Equity in employment in the Labour law. (1994)
Political Culture. The political culture of contemporary South Africa inherited all the problems of corruption from previous administrations as well as making new problems. In South Africa there is not just an “elite” political culture such as in Washington, D.C. The political culture includes “liberation movements and the apartheid system.” (Kadima, 2006)
Major economic sectors. South Africa still has its historical primary sector of the economy in minerals and agricultural but now there is a shift to the tertiary sector. The tertiary sector since the 1990s has generally been wholesale and retail trade, tourism and communications and now financial institutions, mining and manufacturing add the most to the GDP. (See Chart 2 in Appendix.)
South Africa is moving towards becoming a knowledge-based economy, with a greater focus on technology, e-commerce and financial and other services. (ClubSouthAfrica.com, 2008)
Economic Opportunities. “Batho Pele” or “People’s First” is a government campaign to bring an ethical consciousness to the three government branches. The goal is to advance cooperation and to act to bring progress “in the economy and society to address social and economic developmental goals.” (SA Yearbook, 2010/11)
One of the National Immigration targets is to bring immigrants to South Africa who have skills needed (“in accordance with the 2014 vision of eradicating poverty and underdevelopment.”) (SA Yearbook, 2010/11).
Economic Challenges Consumer inflation in South Africa rose to 5.7% from 5.3% in September. (Overview, 2011)
Corruption. Unfortunately South Africa faces an ongoing battle with corruption. President Zuma’s government has lost many civil servants due to corruption charges. On Oct. 22 The Economist reported a police chief and (at least) two government ministers were involved in corruption scandals. And President Zuma is under suspicion of involvement in a 1999s weapons selling case. He has recently agreed to set up an independent investigation in the 1999 arms deal. (The Economist, 2011)
The government has an agency, the Special Investigating Unit (SPI) to deal with corruption, bribery and graft under an independent prosecutor. The agency estimates that “as much as 20-25% of state procurement expenditure (about $3.8 billion a year) is wasted due to overpayment.” (The Economist, 2011)
Social Security fraud is also high. “More than 15,000 fraudulent beneficiaries have been convicted in the past five years but that is the tip of the iceberg,” reports The Economist (2011).
The end of corruption is nowhere in sight. President Zuma is “caught in a web” of giving favors and powerful positions to friends, family and former aides. Now some that have supported President Zuma in the past are coming forward with allegations, such as Ms Madonsela. She has pointed to an example of his government paying three times the normal rent for leasing of two provincial headquarters. She alleges that the contracts were not put up for bid. (The Economist, 2011)
Human rights. The South African Constitution guarantees “human dignity, equality, advancement of Human rights and freedoms.” Much work lies ahead.
The national institution in charge of promoting human rights and making it a part of the structure of the government and society is called the South African Human Rights Commission.
South Africa reportedly has three times the number of rapes compared to other countries of the world (excepting those in conflict situations). USAID quotes police reports that demonstrate the number is 194 rapes per 100,000 reported. “Experts estimate that only one in nine victims report” an act of sexual violence against their person. A center called the Thuthutuzels (to comfort) Care Center (TCC) has been set up by the Women’s Justice and Empowerment Initiative in South Africa. Its purpose is to give victims a safe place and give them the aid they need. (USAID, 2008).
The end of apartheid has brought a chance for the people of South Africa to reconcile their differences and make their new democracy an example of a sold democratic institution. The problems that the country has encountered over the past centuries due to the greed for natural resources are hard to overcome. The solving of these problems will take time and hard work. Sometimes no progress will be seen but as the people and the new government face the problems head-on even moving forward an inch will be well worth the effort.
The Reconciliation Tribunals were incredible in their power of healing even though people were faced with enemies who had inflicted unbelievable cruelty on them. This process strengthened The Republic of South Arica and is a positive indication that the Republic will be a success when problems are faced with the same courage and determination.
Press freedom in South Africa. South Africa.info. Sept. 2007. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
Bishops. Different Religions of South Africa. (2011). Prep.Bishops.org.za. n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2011.
ClubSouthAfrica.com. (2008). Key economic Sectors in South Africa. n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2011.
Corruption in South Africa. A Can of Worms. (2011). The Economist. www.economist.com. 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. Retrieved from
Kadima, D. (Ed.) (2006). The Politics of Party Coalitions in Africa. Seminar report from . 7 Sept. 2005. Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa.SA. Konrad-Adenauser-Stiftung.
Odhiambo, A. Keeping Health Systems Accountable: A Critical Component of the Every Woman, Child Campaign. RH Reality Check. Human Rights Watch. www.hrw.org. 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. Retrieved from
Overview. (2011). The Economist. www.economist.com. 22 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. Retrieved from
Religions in the South Africa. (2009). Maps of the World. Your Window to the World. www.mapsofworld.com. n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.
South Africa: Farmworkers’ Dismal, Dangerous Lives. Human Rights Watch. www.hrw.org. 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. Retrieved from
South Africa 2010/2011.Government Communication and Information System. Republic of South Africa.
United Nations Development Program South Africa. (UNDP-South Africa). The Republic of South Africa and the United Nations. N.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2011.
Chart 1. Separation of Powers provide for by the Republic
of South Africa’s Constitution. (Overview, 2011)
Chart 2. MediaClubSouthAfrica. COP17, Durban 2011. (2008)