South Africa Government and Politics

Constitution and political system

South Africa Country Flag

South Africa is a democratic, modified unitary republic. The supreme executive is added to the president, who is the country’s real political leader. The president is elected by the National Assembly for five years and can only be elected for two terms. The two largest parties can each appoint an executive vice president from among their members. Parties with at least 20 seats in the National Assembly are entitled to proportional representation in the government. The scheme aims to promote national unity, but in practice the government has consisted of the largest party, the ANC. Legislative authority has been added to Parliament, consisting of the National Assembly and the National Provincial Council. The assembly has 400 members, mainly elected through ratio ratios(to ensure ethnic breadth) and for five years. The provincial council has 90 members; elected by each provincial assembly appointing six permanent and four special delegates. These too sit for five years. The provincial assemblies are elected at the same time as the national assembly.

After 1994, the country has a completely free party system. The policy is dominated by the African National Congress ANC, which has obtained a pure majority in all the free elections in the country. The former Nationalist Party has been reorganized several times. In 2000, they joined forces with the Democratic Party and formed the Democratic Alliance, but they broke out again the following year. In 2004, the party decided to join the ANC and was formally dissolved in April 2005. The Democratic Alliance is today the largest opposition party and holds power in the Western Cape Province and Cape Town.

Administrative division

After the introduction of majority rule, South Africa is a federal state divided into nine provinces. Although the provinces have some autonomy, much power is gathered by central authorities. Each province has its own constitution, its own laws and a legislative assembly of 30 to 80 elected members. The executive lies with a government responsible to the provincial assembly. Parties that have at least 10% of the seats in an assembly are entitled to proportional government representation. There are also elected councils in the municipalities. The Constitution also recognizes traditional leadership, and gives the provinces access to establish their own houses for traditional leaders both locally and provincially.


South African law is based both on Dutch-Roman law, that is, the unwritten law that prevailed in the Netherlands at the cession of the Cape Colony in 1806, and English law, partly explicitly and partly through court practice. The first type of law has characterized civil law in particular, while the second type of law dominates the commercial law and characterizes the criminal law. After 1948, the apartheid laws were gradually written into the legislation, but removed after 1994. After democratization, a constitutional right has been created, which can repeal laws given by the National Assembly if it finds them unconstitutional. This court includes a chairman, deputy chairman and nine other judges. The highest ordinary court is the Supreme Court of Appeal, with a Justice, a deputy judge and a number of other appeals judges. Furthermore, there are convictions and, as first instance courts, the magistrates’ courts. The prosecuting authority is headed by a national prosecutor (national prosecutor) and is appointed by the president.

A Judicial Service Commission advises the executive in judicial appointments and advises both central and provincial authorities on matters pertaining to the judiciary. The Constitution guarantees the independence of the courts.

Prime Ministers of South Africa

Period Prime minister
1910-1919 Louis Botha
1919-1924 Jan Christiaan Smuts
1924-1933 James Barry Monk Duke
1933-1939 James Barry Munnik Hertzog/Jan Christiaan Smuts
1939-1948 Jan Christiaan Smuts
1948-1954 Daniel Fran├žois Malan
1954-1958 Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom
1958-1966 Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
1966-1978 Balthazar Johannes Vorster
1978-1984 Pieter Willem Botha

Overview of South African Presidents after 1984.

Presidents of South Africa

Period President
1984-1989 Pieter Willem Botha
1989-1994 Frederick Willem de Klerk
1994-1999 Nelson Mandela
1999-2008 Thabo Mbeki
2008-2009 Kgalema Motlanthe
2009-2018 Jacob Zuma
2018- Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa Head of Government

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