South Africa’s Political Structure and Political History

I will be heading back to Coll, Scotland with Project Trust for training next week and for background research and to complete the One Awards Qualification I have researched the political system in my country placement – South Africa. This is just my summary of South Africa’s current political system and history and of course there is a lot more information that can be included. If you would like more information, I have attached some links at the bottom of the page.

The Current Political Structure of South Africa

  • South Africa is a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, where the President of South Africa is both Head of State and Head of Government.
  • The President is elected by the National Assembly (the lower house of the South African Parliament).
  • South Africans elect provincial legislatures which govern and respect each of the country’s 9 provinces.
  • General elections are held every 5 years.
  • The government system is three-tiered, with representatives elected at the national, provincial and local levels: 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, and the court system is independent of the executive and the legislature.
  • Parliament sits in Cape Town, even though the seat of government is in Pretoria. This goes back to the foundation of the Union, when there was disagreement among the then four provinces as to which city would be the national capital. As a compromise, Pretoria was made the administrative capital, Cape Town was designated the legislative capital, (and Bloemfontein became the judicial capital).
  • There were 29 parties that contested in the 2014 elections but only 13 received sufficient votes to gain representation in Parliament.
  • The African National Congress (ANC) is the majority party, with 249 of the 400 National Assembly seats. The party controls 8 out of the 9 provinces, with the exception of the Western Cape.
  • South Africa’s political system has been corroded by extensive corruption and mis-spending which has resulted in distrust by voters. For example, current President Jacob Zuma bought a splendid home in a deprived rural area with an alleged public cost of 246M rand (£ 13.7M).

The History of South Africa’s Political System

  • 1912:The South African Native National Congress is formed; it is renamed in 1923 as the African National Congress (ANC).
  • 1948:The National Party comes to power with its policy of apartheid.
  • 1994: The first fully multi-racial democratic election held. Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected president which was the official end to the apartheid. All South African citizens over the age of 18 eligible to vote, if they register to do so. Before the end of apartheid, only white South Africans were allowed to vote for the national government.
  • Until 1999: The Government of National Unity (GNU) established under the interim constitution and it remained in effect.
  • 1996: The the African National Congress (ANC), the National Party (NP), and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) comprised the GNU and they shared executive power but on 30 June 1996, the NP withdrew from the GNU to become part of the opposition.
  • 1997: The government established an Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate deaths in police custody and deaths resulting from police action as some members of the police are accused of applying excessive for and abusing suspects in custody.
  • 1999:Thabo Mbeki becomes president and the new head of the ANC.
  • Until 2008: Elected officials were allowed to change political party, while retaining their seats, during set periods which occurred twice each electoral term.
  • 2009: The Democratic Alliance party became the party in control of Western cape.
  • 2009: President Jacob Zuma was elected, replacing Nelson Mandela.

For more information about South Africa’s political structure use the links below:


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