mob justice

Politics of South Africa

In the current politics of South Africa, the African National Congress is the ruling party at a national level, and in most provinces, having received 69.7% of the vote during the 2004 general election and 66.3% of the vote in the 2006 municipal election. The main challenger to the ANC's rule is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. The leader of this party is Helen Zille. Other major political parties represented in Parliament are the Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters, with 6.97%; and the Independent Democrats with 1.7% in the 2004 election. The formerly dominant New National Party, who introduced apartheid through its predecessor the National Party, received very few votes and disbanded on 9 April 2005 to merge with the ANC. The current South African president is Kgalema Motlanthe. Fifteen cabinet ministers, including the current Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, resigned after the resignation of the previous president Thabo Mbeki on September 21, 2008, though some, including Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, indicated willingness to be reappointed by the new president .

South African Government

South Africa is a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, wherein the President of South Africa, elected by parliament, is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Council of Provinces and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Government is three-tiered, with representatives being elected at the national, provincial and local levels.

Constitution

Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was governed under an interim constitution. This constitution required the Constituent Assembly (CA) to draft and approve a permanent constitution by 9 May, 1996.

The Government of National Unity (GNU) established under the interim constitution ostensibly remained in effect until the 1999 national elections. The parties originally comprising the GNU — the African National Congress (ANC), the National Party (NP), and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) — shared executive power. On 30 June 1996, the NP withdrew from the GNU to become part of the opposition.

President

Under the Constitution, the President is both head of state and head of government. President Thabo Mbeki was unanimously elected by the National Assembly on 16 June 1999. He resigned on September 21, 2008 and was succeeded by Kgalema Motlanthe.

Political parties and their current vote share

General elections are held every 5 years. The first fully multi-racial democratic election was held in 1994, the second in 1999, and the most recent in 2004. The next general elections are due in 2009. Elected officials are allowed to change political party, while retaining their seats, during set windows occurring twice each electoral term, due to controversial floor crossing legislative amendments made in 2002. The last two floor crossing windows were in 2003 and 2005. The next floor crossing window will be from 2007-09-01 to 2007-09-15.

The ANC currently holds a sufficient majority in the national legislature (over 66%) to unilaterally alter the constitution.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are in a formal alliance with the ruling ANC, and thus do not stand separately for election.

Challenges ahead

The post-apartheid Government of South Africa have made remarkable progress in consolidating the nation's peaceful transition to democracy. Programs to improve the delivery of essential social services to the majority of the population are underway. Access to better opportunities in education and business is becoming more widespread. Nevertheless, transforming South Africa's society to remove the legacy of apartheid will be a long-term process requiring the sustained commitment of the leaders and people of the nation's disparate groups.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), chaired by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, helped to advance the reconciliation process. Constituted in 1996 and having completed its work by 2001, the TRC was empowered to investigate apartheid-era human rights abuses committed between 1960 and 10 May 1994, to grant amnesty to those who committed politically motivated crimes and to recommend compensation to victims of abuses. The TRC's mandate was part of the larger process of reconciling the often conflicting political, economic, and cultural interests held by the many peoples that make up South Africa's diverse population. The ability of the government and people to agree on many basic questions of how to order the country's new society will remain a critical challenge. One important issue continues to be the relationship of provincial and local administrative structures to the national government. Prior to 27 April 1994, South Africa was divided into four provinces and 10 black "homelands," four of which were considered independent by the South African Government. Both the interim constitution and the new 1997 constitution abolished this system and substituted nine provinces. Each province has an elected legislature and chief executive — the provincial premier. Although in form a federal system, in practice the nature of the relationship between the central and provincial governments continues to be the subject of considerable debate, particularly among groups desiring a greater measure of autonomy from the central government. A key step in defining the relationship came in 1997 when provincial governments were given more than half of central government funding and permitted to develop and manage their own budgets.

Although South Africa's economy is in many areas highly developed, the exclusionary nature of apartheid and distortions caused in part by the country's international isolation until the 1990s have left major weaknesses. The economy is now in a process of transition as the government seeks to address the inequities of apartheid, stimulate growth, and create jobs. Business, meanwhile, is becoming more integrated into the international system, and foreign investment has increased dramatically over the past several years. Still, the economic disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many years, remaining an area of priority attention for the government.

Other legacies of Apartheid in South African politics

Many leaders of former Bantustans or Homelands have had a role in South African politics since their abolition. Mangosuthu Buthelezi was chief minister of his Kwa-Zulu homeland from 1976 until 1994. In post-apartheid South Africa he has served as President of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Bantubonke Holomisa, who was a general in the homeland of Transkei from 1987, has served as the president of the United Democratic Movement since 1997. General Constand Viljoen an Afrikaner who served as chief of the South African Defence Forces sent 1500 of his militiamen to protect Lucas Mangope and to contest the termination of Bophuthatswana as a homeland in 1994. He founded the Freedom Front in 1994. Lucas Mangope, former chief of the Motsweda Ba hurutshe-Boo-Manyane tribe of the Tswana and head of Bophuthatswana is President of the United Christian Democratic Party.

Human rights

The new constitution's bill of rights provides extensive guarantees, including equality before the law and prohibitions against discrimination; the right to life, privacy, property, and freedom and security of the person; prohibition against slavery and forced labor; and freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and association. The legal rights of criminal suspects also are enumerated. The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary, and, in practice, these provisions are respected.

Citizens' entitlements to a safe environment, housing, education, and health care are included in the bill of rights, and are known as secondary constitutional rights. In 2003 the constitutional secondary rights were used by the HIV/AIDS activist group the Treatment Action Campaign as a means of forcing the government to change its health policy.

Since the abolition of apartheid, levels of political violence in South Africa have dropped dramatically. Violent crime and organized criminal activity are at high levels and are a grave concern. Partly as a result, vigilante action and mob justice sometimes occur.

Some members of the police commit abuses, and deaths in police custody as a result of excessive force remain a problem. The government has taken action to investigate and punish some of those who commit such abuses. In April 1997, the government established an Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate deaths in police custody and deaths resulting from police action.

Although South Africa's society is undergoing a rapid transformation, some discrimination against women continues, and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS is becoming serious. Violence against women and children also is a serious problem.

References

External links

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