South Africa is a parliamentary republic, although unlike most such republics the President is both head of state and head of government, and depends for his tenure on the confidence of Parliament. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the Constitution, and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional.
The National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, consists of 400 members and is elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation. The National Council of Provinces, the upper house, consists of ninety members, with each of the nine provincial legislatures electing ten members.
After each parliamentary election, the National Assembly elects one of its members as President; hence the President serves a term of office the same as that of the Assembly, normally five years. No President may serve more than two terms in office. The President appoints a Deputy President and Ministers, who form the Cabinet which consists of Departments and Ministries. The President and the Cabinet may be removed by the National Assembly by a motion of no confidence.
In the most recent election, held on 7 May 2014, the African National Congress (ANC) won 62.2% of the vote and 249 seats, while the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 22.2% of the vote and 89 seats. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded by Julius Malema, the former President of the ANC’s Youth Wing who was later expelled from the ANC, won 6.4% of the vote and 25 seats. The ANC has been the governing political party in South Africa since the end of apartheid.
South Africa has no legally defined capital city. The fourth chapter of the Constitution of South Africa, states that “The seat of Parliament is Cape Town, but an Act of Parliament enacted in accordance with section 76(1) and (5) may determine that the seat of Parliament is elsewhere. The country’s three branches of government are split over different cities. Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria, as the seat of the President and Cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein, as the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, is the judicial capital, while the Constitutional Court of South Africa sits in Johannesburg. Most foreign embassies are located in Pretoria.
Since 2004, South Africa has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the “most protest-rich country in the world”. There have been a number of incidents of political repression as well as threats of future repression in violation of this constitution leading some analysts and civil society organisations to conclude that there is or could be a new climate of political repression, or a decline in political tolerance.
In 2008, South Africa placed 5th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. South Africa scored well in the categories of Rule of Law, Transparency & Corruption and Participation & Human Rights, but was let down by its relatively poor performance in Safety & Security. In November 2006, South Africa became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage.
Crime in South Africa
The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme rule of law in the country. The primary sources of South African law are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European based law in South Africa was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law, both common and statutory. After unification in 1910, South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies.
The judicial system consists of the magistrates’ courts, which hear lesser criminal cases and smaller civil cases; the High Courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction for specific areas; the Supreme Court of Appeal, which is the highest court in all but constitutional matters; and the Constitutional Court, which hears only constitutional matters.
Soweto Pride 2012 participants protest against violence against lesbians. The country has strong human rights laws but some groups are still discriminated against. It is the first country in Africa to recognise same sex marriage.
Nearly 50 murders are committed each day in South Africa. In the year ended March 2014 there were 17,068 murders and the murder rate was 32.2 per 100,000 – about five times higher than the global average of 6 per 100,000. Middle-class South Africans seek security in gated communities. The private security industry in South Africa is the largest in the world, with nearly 9,000 registered companies and 400,000 registered active private security guards, more than the South African police and army combined. Many emigrants from South Africa also state that crime was a major factor in their decision to leave. Crime against the farming community has continued to be a major problem.
It is estimated that 500,000 women are raped in South Africa every year with the average woman more likely to be raped than complete secondary school. A 2009 survey found one in four South African men admitted to raping someone and another survey found one in three women out of 4000 surveyed said they had been raped in the past year. Rapes are also perpetrated by children (some as young as ten). Child and baby rape incidences are some of the highest in the world, largely as a result of the virgin cleansing myth, and a number of high-profile cases (sometimes as young as eight month) have outraged the nation.