Union of South Africa

From Roach Busters

Union of South Africa

Flag of South Africa Coat of arms of South Africa
Flag Coat of arms

Motto
"Ex Unitate Vires" (Latin)
"From Unity, Strength"

Anthem
The Call of South Africa (state)
God Save the Queen (royal)

Location of South Africa

Capital


Largest city
Pretoria (administrative)
Bloemfontein (judicial)
Cape Town (legislative)
Johannesburg

Official languages Afrikaans, Chibemba, Chichewa, English, German, Northern Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Oshiwambo, Shona, Southern Ndebele, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu

Recognized regional languages Over 75 indigenous languages

Demonym South African

Government

 - Monarch
 - Governor-General
 - Prime Minister
 - President of the Senate
 - Speaker of the House
 - Chief Justice
Parliamentary democracy
Constitutional monarchy
Queen Elizabeth II
Festus Mogae
Morgan Tsvangirai
M.J. Mahlangu
Arthur Mutambara
Pius Langa

Independence
 - Union
 - Statute of Westminster
from the United Kingdom
May 31, 1910
December 11, 1931

Area
 - Total

 - Water (%)

3,954,932 km²
2,037,753 sq mi
1.4

Population
 - July 2008 estimate
 - Density
 

88,958,386
20.48/km²
53.06/sq mi

GDP (PPP)
 - Total
 - Per capita
2007 estimate
$3.193 trillion
$35,894

GDP (nominal)
 - Total
 - Per capita
2007 estimate
$1.588 trillion
$17,856

Gini (2004) 59.2 (high)

HDI (2008) 0.867 (high)

Currency South African pound (ZAP)

Time zone
- Summer (DST)
WAT, SAST (UTC +1 to +2)
not observed (UTC +1 to +2)

Internet TLD .za

Calling code +27

The Union of South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of the African continent. It borders Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north; Tanzania to the northeast; and Mozambique to the east. South Africa is a highly developed, stable parliamentary democracy with a republican form of government. South Africa has experienced a significantly different evolution from other nations in Africa arising primarily from two facts: immigration from Europe reached levels not experienced in other African communities; and a level of mineralogical wealth that has made the country extremely important to Western interests. As a result of the former, South Africa is a very racially diverse nation. It has the largest population of people of colored (i.e., mixed racial background), white, and Indian communities in Africa.

The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'état, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. The economy of South Africa is the largest and best developed on the continent, with modern infrastructure common throughout the country.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Prehistory

South Africa contains some of the oldest and most beautiful archaeological sites in Africa. Extensive fossil remains at the Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat caves suggest that various australopithecines existed in South Africa from about three million years ago. These were succeeded by various species of Homo, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and modern man, Homo sapiens. Bantu-speaking peoples, iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, moved south of the Limpopo River into modern-day South Africa by the fourth or fifth century (the Bantu expansion) displacing the original Khoi and San speakers. They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoi and San people, reaching the Fish River, in today's Cape Province. These Iron Age populations displaced earlier hunter-gatherer peoples as they migrated.

[edit] Early exploration

The written history of South Africa begins with the accounts of European navigators passing South Africa on the East Indies trade routes. The first European navigator to achieve circumnavigation of the Cape was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.

When Bartolomeu Dias returned to Lisbon he carried news of this discovery he called Cabo das Tormentas ("Cape of Storms"). But for his sponsor, Henry the Navigator, chose a different name, Cabo da Boa Esperança ("Cape of Good Hope") for it promised a sea route to the riches of India, which was eagerly anticipated in Portugal.

[edit] Arrival of the Dutch

Along with the accounts of the early navigators, the accounts of shipwreck survivors provide the earliest written accounts of Southern Africa. In the two centuries following 1488, a number of small fishing settlements were made along the coast by Portuguese sailors, but no written account of these settlements survives. In 1652 a victualling station was established at the Cape of Good Hope by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the slowly-expanding settlement was a Dutch possession. The Dutch settlers eventually met the southwesterly expanding Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called Cape Frontier Wars, ensued, mainly caused by conflicting land and livestock interests.

To ease Cape labor shortages slaves were brought from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India. Furthermore, troublesome leaders, often of royal descent, were banished from Dutch colonies to South Africa. This group of slaves eventually gave rise to a population that now identifies themselves as "Cape Malays". Cape Malays have traditionally been accorded a higher social status by the European colonists — many became wealthy landowners, but became increasingly dispossessed as apartheid developed. Cape Malay mosques in District Six were spared, and now serve as monuments for the destruction that occurred around them.

Most of the descendants of these slaves, who often married with Dutch settlers, were later classified together with the remnants of the Khoikhoi (a.k.a. Khoisan) as Cape Coloreds. Further intermingling within the Cape Colored population itself, as well as with Xhosa and other South African people, now means that they constitute roughly 50% of the population in the western part of Cape Province.

[edit] British at the Cape

Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795 ostensibly to stop it falling into the hands of the French under Napoleon Bonaparte but also seeking to use Cape Town in particular as a stop on the route to Australia and India. It was returned to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806. The British continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa, pushing the eastern frontier eastward through a line of forts established along the Fish River and consolidating it by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament first stopped its global slave trade in 1806, and then abolished slavery in all its colonies in 1833.

[edit] The Boer Wars

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886 encouraged economic growth and immigration, intensifying the subjugation of the natives. The Boers successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, much better suited to local conditions. However, the British returned in greater numbers without their red jackets in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The Boers' attempt to ally themselves with German South-West Africa provided the British with yet another excuse to take control of the Boer Republics.

The Boers resisted fiercely, but the British eventually overwhelmed the Boer forces, using their superior numbers, improved tactics and external supply chains. Also during this war, the British used controversial concentration camps and scorched earth tactics. The Treaty of Vereeniging specified full British sovereignty over the South African republics, and the British government agreed to assume the £3,000,000 war debt owed by the Afrikaner governments. One of the main provisions of the treaty ending the war was that 'Blacks' would not be allowed to vote, except in the Cape Colony.

[edit] Birth of the Union

After four years of negotiations, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the colonies of Basutoland (renamed Lesotho in 1966), Swaziland, and Bechuanaland (renamed Botswana in 1961), and the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal, on May 31, 1910, exactly eight years after the end of the Second Boer War. The newly-created Union of South Africa was a dominion.

[edit] Expansion of the Union

The Union fought on the side of the Allies during World War I; after the war, German South-West Africa (later renamed Namibia in 1990) became a South African League of Nations mandate, which in turn became one of South Africa's eight provinces in 1921.

The British colony of Southern Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe Rhodesia in 1979) was incorporated into the Union in 1922, after the Southern Rhodesian electorate voted in favor (albeit by a slim majority) of doing so via a referendum. Southern Rhodesia became the ninth province of the Union. Two years later, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (renamed Zambia and Malawi, respectively, both in 1964) held similar referendums, which also won the "yes" vote, and they joined the Union, as well.

[edit] The 1920s

Due largely to support from pro-British and pro-Smuts elements in Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland, the South African Party of Jan Smuts won the 1924 election by a landslide, defeating James Barry Munnik Hertzog's National Party, resulting in Hertzog's party taking a position on the political fringe, carrying Afrikaner nationalist resentment to the Anglophile Smuts.

Under Smuts, South Africa adopted segregationist racial legislation in tune with British colonial policy in its other African colonies. Though official and societal discrimination resulted in vastly inferior living standards for blacks and coloreds, the legislation Smuts adopted was far less draconian than that advocated by Hertzog and his cohorts.

[edit] World War II

With Hertzog's political influence all but diminished by the late 1930s, pro-neutrality and pro-Axis sentiments in South Africa were sparse, and there was only minimal opposition to Smuts's decision to intervene in World War II on the side of the British. Opposition was limited largely to pro-Nazi, anti-British demonstrations in predominantly Afrikaner areas. Smuts collaborated with German monarchists, Weimar republic exiles, and anti-fascist Italians, and subsidized their relocation to, and settlement in, South Africa.

South Africa's military fought with great distinction and courage in North Africa against their Axis foes; they counted among their ranks large numbers of Askaris (indigenous African soldiers). In the aftermath of the war, Smuts's already high prestige increased considerably when he helped co-found the United Nations and wrote the Preamble to the United Nations Charter.

[edit] Liberalization

In the aftermath of World War II, hundreds of thousands of European settlers, especially Britons, settled in South Africa, bringing with them skills and expertise which bettered the economy, and socially moderate outlooks that helped further mitigate racialism in society. Smuts's United Party won a landslide victory in the 1948 election, handily defeating the far-right National Party, which was reduced to a minor party, which it remains to this day.

Smuts died in 1950. His successors, largely influenced by the philosophy of his liberal deputy, Jan Hofmeyr, and the prevailing moderation among society (and a slowly growing revulsion toward racism, having witnessed its grisly consequences in the form of the Holocaust), cautiously embraced reform, and began a gradual process of political and social liberalization that would culminate in full rights for all South Africans and non-racial democracy by the late 1960s. The process began with the relaxation of segregation laws and the granting of limited franchise and political power to blacks. In 1969, shortly after the establishment of full-fledged, colorblind democracy, the African National Congress won its first election, and lawyer/activist Nelson Mandela became the country's first black Prime Minister. He introduced several ambitious social programs and sought to improve the living standards of blacks in the field of health, education, and housing, with mixed success. While the economy did stagnate slightly and many foreign investors shied away, blacks' living standards rose substantially. The ANC has formed the government of the country since then.

[edit] Present day

South Africa has undergone profound social, economic, and political change in the past few decades. It has gone from a segregated society to a vibrant, integrated, mostly color blind rainbow nation, and its commitments to liberal democracy, the market economy, peace in Africa, and support of the West have resulted in South Africa being among the most highly regarded and respected nations in the world.

[edit] Politics

South Africa is a unitary, representative democratic constitutional monarchy that uses the Westminster system. Suffrage is universal at age 21; all voting is done by equal, direct, and secret ballot.

[edit] Executive

[edit] The Governor-General

South Africa is a hereditary constitutional monarchy in which the monarch is the sovereign. The present monarch is Elizabeth II – officially styled Queen of South Africa – who has reigned since February 6, 1952. She is represented for ceremonial purposes in South Africa by the Governor-General, in accordance with the South African constitution. The South African monarch, besides reigning in South Africa, separately serves as monarch for each of the other Commonwealth countries known as Commonwealth Realms. This developed from the former colonial relationship of these countries to Britain, but they are now independent and the monarchy of each is legally distinct.

The executive government is administered by the Governor-General, appointed by the Queen and acting on the advice of the Executive Council. While in theory the Governor-General has vast powers, in practice he performs mainly ceremonial functions. The Governor-General wears the traditional Windsor uniform (composed of a blue military jacket and plumed hat) and is referred to as "Your Excellency." The current Governor-General, The Honourable Festus Mogae was appointed on May 31, 2003.

The Governor-General has power to dissolve the Senate or the House of Assembly, or both simultaneously; to appoint Ministers and deputies to Ministers; to confer honors; to appoint and accredit, and to receive and recognize, ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, diplomatic representatives and other diplomatic officers, consuls and consular officers; to appoint the times for the holding of sessions of Parliament and prorogue Parliament; to pardon or reprieve offenders, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as he may deem fit, and to remit any fines, penalties, or forfeitures; to enter into and ratify international conventions, treaties, and agreements; to proclaim and terminate martial law; to declare war and make peace; and to make such appointments as he may deem fit under powers conferred upon him by any law, and to exercise such powers and perform such functions as may be conferred or assigned to him by law. The Governor-General also has power to assent or withhold assent to bills passed by Parliament; finally, he also has important reserve powers, much like the Governors-General of other Commonwealth Realms.

The command-in-chief of the South African Defence Force is vested in the Governor-General (as the Queen's representative), but in practice this role is ceremonial, with actual authority in the hands of the Defence Minister and the Chief of the SADF.

[edit] The Executive Council

The Executive Council is composed of the Ministers and deputies to Ministers who advise the Governor-General; they are appointed by him, and serve during his pleasure. The Prime Minister is the de facto head of government and wielder of executive powers.

While it is within his discretion to appoint the individual of his choice to be Prime Minister, in practice the Governor-General appoints whomever is most likely to maintain the confidence of Parliament (usually the leader of the largest political party or coalition of parties in Parliament). The other Ministers are then appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Ministers may not hold office for more than three months unless they are or become members of either the Senate or the House of Assembly, but by convention, Ministers are almost always members of the House of Assembly.

While the Prime Minister holds office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, he must also be able to retain the support of Parliament. If Parliament issues a vote of no confidence or defeats a supply bill, the government must either resign immediately (allowing the majority blocking supply to form a government) or seek a parliamentary dissolution (so allowing the electorate to pass judgment on the issue).

The powers of the Governor-General – to grant assent to legislation, to dissolve and prorogue Parliament, to call elections, to make appointments, and to deploy military forces and declare war – are exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Below is a list of the Ministers that currently comprise the South African government:

Portfolio Minister
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
Minister of Agriculture Dirk Cornelis du Toit
Minister of Defence and Intelligence Services Mosiuoa Lekota
Minister of Economic Planning and Development Trevor Manuel
Minister of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism Thizwilondi R. Mabudafhasi
Minister of Finance Roy Bennett
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Elias Mudzuri
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Nelson Chamisa
Minister of Justice and Home Affairs Eddie Cross
Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Tendai Biti
Minister of Lands and Housing Jerry Ekandjo
Minister of Minerals, Energy, and Water Affairs Erkki Nghimtina
Minister of National Education Nangolo Mbumba
Minister of Public Health Molefi Sefularo
Minister of Social Welfare and Pensions Rosalia Nghindinwa
Minister of Trade and Industry Jan Sithole
Minister of Works, Transport, and Communication Jeff Radebe
Minister of Youth, Sports, and Culture Thamsanqa Mahlangu

[edit] Parliament

The bicameral Parliament serves as the legislative branch of the South African government. It is comprised of the Queen (represented by the Governor-General), the Senate (the upper house), and the House of Assembly (the lower house).

According to the Constitution, the Parliament has "full power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Union."

General elections occur whenever Parliament is dissolved by the Governor-General. The timing of the dissolution is normally chosen by the Governor-General (on the advice of the Prime Minister); however, a parliamentary term may not last for more than five years.

The Constitution of South Africa requires that the Parliament hold at least one session each year, "so that a period of twelve months shall not intervene between the last sitting of Parliament in one session and its first sitting in the next session."

Once a bill passes both houses, it is sent to the Governor-General for his assent, and he either signs the bill into law or returns it to the house in which it originated, and recommends amendments to the bill.

The Parliament convenes in Cape Town, the legislative capital of South Africa.

[edit] House of Assembly

The House of Assembly is a democratically elected body, consisting of 743 members, who are directly elected using the simple plurality, or "first-past-the-post" voting system, in electoral divisions apportioned among the provinces.

Once elected, members normally continue to serve until the next dissolution of the House of Assembly. If a member, however, dies, resigns, or ceases to be qualified, his or her seat falls vacant. It is also possible for the House to expel a member, but this power is exercised only in cases of serious misconduct or criminal activity. In each case, a vacancy may be filled by a by-election in the appropriate constituency, with the same electoral system as in general elections.

The presence of at least 150 members of the House is necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers.

The House of Assembly is presided over by a Speaker, chosen by the House from among its own members. Prior to or during the absence of the Speaker, the House may choose a member to serve as Deputy-Speaker and perform the Speaker's duties in his absence.

All questions in the House of Assembly are determined by a majority of votes of members present other than the Speaker or the presiding member, who may, however, exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie.

Bills appropriating revenue or moneys or imposing taxation may originate only in the House of Assembly.

To qualify for membership in the House of Assembly, one must meet the following qualifications:

  • He must be qualified to be registered as a voter for the election of members of the House of Assembly in one of the provinces.
  • He must have resided for five years within the limits of the Union.
  • He must be a citizen of South Africa.

[edit] Senate

Unlike the House of Assembly, which is directly elected, most of the Senate is indirectly elected. Each province elects nine Senators; the Senators are elected by an electoral college consisting of the members of the Provincial Council of the province concerned and the members of the House of Assembly from that province. The remaining Senators are appointed by the Governor-General, who nominates two from each province. The Senate consists of 121 members, and is presided over by the President of the Senate (currently M.J. Mahlangu, of the African National Congress), chosen by the Senate from among its own members. Prior to or during the absence of the President of the Senate, the Senate may choose a senator to serve as Deputy-President and perform the President of the Senate's duties in his absence. The President of the Senate may be removed by a vote of the Senate.

All questions in the Senate are determined by a majority of votes of members present other than the President of the Senate or the presiding member, who may, however, exercise a casting vote in the event of a tie.

The Senate may introduce bills, except for those appropriating revenue or moneys or imposing taxation; furthermore, the Senate may not amend any bills so far as they impose taxation or appropriate revenue or moneys for the services of the government.

The presence of at least thirty members of the Senate is necessary to constitute a meeting of the Senate for the exercise of its powers.

To qualify for membership in the Senate, one must meet the following qualifications:

  • He must be 30 years of age or older.
  • He must be qualified to be registered as a voter for the election of members of the House of Assembly in one of the provinces.
  • He must have resided for five years within the limits of the Union.
  • He must be a citizen of South Africa.

[edit] Parliament seats by party

Party name Party leader Platform/ideology House of Assembly Senate
African National Congress Morgan Tsvangirai Center-left, social democracy 273 56
Democratic Party Ian Khama Center-right, conservatism 128 40
South African Party Christiaan Willem Smuts Centrism, monarchism 110 19
National Party Marthinus van Schalkwyk National conservatism, protectionism, republicanism 70 5
Communist Party of South Africa Blade Nzimande Reformist communism 52 1
Shaka Party Mangosuthu Buthelezi Right-wing, Zulu/Ndebele nationalism 38 0
African Christian Democratic Party Kenneth Meshoe Christian democracy 26 0
Minority Front Amichand Rajbansi Center-left, minority rights 14 0
Azanian People's Organisation Mosibudi Mangena Far-left, black separatism 10 0
Green Party Judy Sole Environmentalism, progressivism 6 0
Economic Freedom Movement Josh Latimer Libertarianism 6 0
Workers International Vanguard League Shaheed Mahomed Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism 5 0
Purified National Party Ferdinand Hartzenberg Fascism, Afrikaner separatism 2 0
Independent (no party affiliation) not applicable not applicable 3 0

[edit] Supreme Court

The judicial system is headed by the Supreme Court, the decisions and interpretations of which are considered an important source of the law. The Supreme Court comprises an Appellate Division and eleven provincial divisions. Each provincial division encompasses a judge president, three local divisions presided over by judges, and magisterial divisions presided over by magistrates.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country and is seated in Bloemfontein, the country's judicial capital. The Appellate Division is composed of the Chief Justice and the judges of appeal, whose number varies, as determined by the Governor-General. Supreme Court members can be removed only on grounds of misbehavior or incapacity. The Appellate Division's decisions are binding on all lower courts, as are the decisions — within their areas of jurisdiction — of the provincial and the local divisions. Lower courts, which are presided over by civil service magistrates, have limited jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases.

[edit] Provinces

South Africa is divided into eleven provinces, which are listed as follows:

Province Capital
Botswana Gaborone
Cape Province Cape Town
Lesotho Maseru
Malawi Lilongwe
Namibia Windhoek
Natal Pietermaritzburg
Orange Free State Bloemfontein
Swaziland Mbabane
Transvaal Pretoria
Zambia Lusaka
Zimbabwe Rhodesia Harare

[edit] Administrators

Each province is headed by a chief executive, appointed by the Governor-General, known as an administrator. All executive acts relating to provincial affairs are done in his name. An administrator serves a five year term, and his salary is fixed and provided by Parliament and cannot be reduced during his term in office. An administrator cannot be removed from office before his term expires, except by the Governor-General for cause assigned which shall be communicated by message to the Senate and to the House of Assembly within one week after the removal, if Parliament is in session, or, if Parliament is not in session, within one week after the commencement of the next ensuing session. If the administrator is absent, ill, or otherwise unable to fulfill his duties, the Governor-General may appoint a deputy-administrator to perform the duties of the administrator's office. A deputy-administrator may also be appointed while the appointment of an administrator for the province concerned is pending.

[edit] Provincial councils

The legislatures of the provinces are known as Provincial Councils. Each Provincial Council consists of the same number of members as are elected in that province for the House of Assembly. However, if the province's representatives in the House of Assembly are less than twenty-five in number, the province's Provincial Council consists of twenty-five members. Members are elected by persons qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Assembly in the province, voting in the same electoral divisions delimited for the election of members of the House of Assembly. The tenure of provincial councillors is five years.

Provincial Councils may make ordinances in relation to matters coming within the following class of subjects, namely:

  1. Direct taxation within the province in order to raise revenue for provincial purposes;
  2. The borrowing of money on the sole credit of the province with the consent of the Governor-General and in accordance with regulations framed by Parliament;
  3. Education, other than higher education;
  4. Agriculture to the extent and subject to the conditions defined by Parliament;
  5. The establishment, maintenance, and management of hospitals and charitable institutions;
  6. Municipal institutions, divisional councils, and other local institutions of a similar nature;
  7. Local works and undertakings within the province, other than railways and harbors, and other than such works as extend beyond the borders of that province and subject to the power of Parliament to declare any work a national work and to provide for its construction by arrangement with the provincial council or otherwise;
  8. Roads, outspans, ponts, and bridges, other than bridges connecting two provinces;
  9. Markets and pounds;
  10. Fish and game preservation, subject to the provisions of section fourteen of the Sea Fisheries Act, 1940;
  11. The imposition of punishment by fine or imprisonment for enforcing any law or any ordinance of the province;
  12. Generally all matters which, in the opinion of the Governor-General, are of a merely local or private nature in the province;
  13. All other subjects in respect of which Parliament may by law delegate the power of making ordinances to the Provincial Council

[edit] Political parties

South Africa is a vibrant multiparty liberal democracy with literally hundreds of political parties of every ideology. Local, provincial, and national political parties exist; other parties are mainly tribal based (although, it should be noted that virtually every party has more appeal to certain groups than to others), though this is becoming less common. Even parties which once limited membership to a certain group (or at the very least, made it extremely difficult or impossible for people outside the group to join the party) now attract a broad demographic. For example, the once Afrikaner-exclusive National Party now enjoys support from many Afrikaans-speaking Coloureds and Asians. At the other extreme, there are parties like the Purified National Party (an offshoot of the National Party) that continue to accept only certain people (in this case, Afrikaners) and shun all others, but these are usually fringe parties that have only minimal support, even among the groups they court.

Due to the ever-changing number of parties, and the impossibility of naming them all (some have literally only a handful of members; others frequently change their name, ideology, or both; etc.), only parties which hold seats in Parliament will be described below (note: most parties are neutral on the issue of the monarchy, unless otherwise indicated):

  • African National Congress
    • Founded in 1912 as the South African Native National Congress, a black civil rights organization, the African National Congress (ANC) has since evolved into a political party whose membership encompasses people of all racial groups. The ANC is a center-left/social democratic party that is ideologically more or less the same as the Labour Party in the United Kingdom; like the Labour Party, the ANC holds membership in the Socialist International. Generally pro-Western in foreign policy, the ANC has controlled the government of South Africa since 1969. It is currently led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader and political moderate popular for his pragmatism. Most members of the ANC have no official opinion as to whether South Africa should retain the monarchy or become a Commonwealth Republic (however, Tsvangirai himself is a monarchist).
  • Democratic Party
    • A center-right party, the Democratic Party was founded in 1966 by Sir Seretse Khama, who served as administrator of Botswana at the time and would go on to serve as Governor-General from 1975 until his death. The DP is very conservative on social issues, but very liberal on the economy, generally supporting free trade and free markets. The party supports the continuation of South Africa's close ties with the West. Lieutenant General (ret.) Ian Khama, former administrator of Botswana and son of the party's founder, currently serves as leader of the Democratic Party. The DP is a member of the International Democrat Union.
  • South African Party
    • The South African Party is the oldest political party in South Africa. Established by moderate Afrikaners and Britons committed to reconciliation between the two groups after the Second Anglo-Boer War, the SAP has been staunchly pro-British and pro-Commonwealth throughout its history, and it remains adamantly opposed to South Africa becoming a republic. The SAP is a centrist party that enjoys support equally from all segments of society. The party is moderate on both social and economic issues and strongly supportive of a color-blind society with "equal rights for all, special privileges for none."
  • National Party
    • The National Party has undergone a significant evolution since its foundation in 1914. Established by hard-liner Afrikaner nationalists who opposed peaceful reconciliation with the British, the National Party (or "Nats," as its members are commonly called) was dedicated to republicanism and the preservation of Afrikaner culture and heritage. Once a white supremacist party, today the Nats support racial integration and a color-blind society, but believe that communities should enjoy "the paramount right to maintain their traditions, culture, and identity." Culturally and socially very conservative, the Nats also support economic protectionism and a relatively high level of state intervention in the economy (although they are professedly anti-socialist, especially anticommunist). Once an exclusively Afrikaner party, the party has since then attracted significant support from Afrikaans-speaking Coloureds, Asians, and even blacks, as well as non-Afrikaner groups that support the party's platform of protecting "group rights." The party's opposition to illegal immigration has won it immense popularity among poor blacks who resent the influx of "job stealing" illegals from Mozambique, the Congo, etc. Even so, the majority of its members are still Afrikaners. While no longer anti-British, the National Party was and remains a staunchly republican party, and regularly calls for either an outright abolition of the monarchy or the holding of a referendum for such a purpose.
  • Communist Party of South Africa
    • Founded in 1921 as a hard-line Marxist-Leninist party, the CPSA has, like the National Party, become increasingly pragmatic and moderate over the years. While still committed to the establishment of communism in South Africa, the party opposes revolutionary violence and believes that true communism can only be brought about by "peaceful, democratic means." Once a virtual puppet of the U.S.S.R. and the P.R.C., the party is now independent of both countries and is even occasionally critical of them. Today, the party has more in common with the reformist "Eurocommunist" parties in the West than the hard-line Marxist-Leninist parties in the East. Needless to say, the CPSA's members are strongly republican.
  • Shaka Party
    • A conservative, right-wing Zulu/Ndebele nationalist party, the Shaka Party supports the establishment of an independent Zulu state, the adoption of an American-style federal system, and free market economics. Its tough stance on law-and-order and opposition to communism make the Shaka Party natural allies of the National Party, and the two parties regularly vote for or against the same legislation. Critics charge that the Shaka Party represents only the Zulu and Ndebele people, rather than South African society as a whole.
  • African Christian Democratic Party
    • The ACDP was founded in 1993 and claims to represent "Bible believing Christians" and "those who have a high regard for moral values." As such the party concentrates mostly on "moral" issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and pornography. Indeed, its 2000 manifesto opposed the promotion of condoms and safe sex as a way of preventing HIV transmission. "The ACDP feel strongly that the condom campaign must be abandoned and that abstinence and faithfulness in marriage must be promoted." Party members only support legislation that "is consistent with God's Word and compatible with traditional values and morality." A few of the more extreme members call for an outright theocracy, but most support a secular government, albeit one that does not violate "God's laws."
  • Minority Front
    • A moderate center-left party made up mostly of South Asian members, the Minority Front has an ill-defined platform that mostly emphasizes "minority rights." Its membership and voter base are almost exclusively Asian.
  • Azanian People's Organisation
    • The Azanian People's Organisation, or AZAPO, is a far-left, republican, black nationalist party championing black pride and pan-Africanism. Most of its critics (on all sides of the political spectrum) accuse it of being a black separatist and/or black supremacist organization, which the party denies. It opposes both capitalism and communism on the grounds that they are "ideologies that are not indigenous to Africa." Instead, it supports communitarian "African socialism" and traditional African values and the elimination of "foreign influence" in South Africa.
  • Green Party
    • One of South Africa's smallest parties, the Green Party is also one of its fastest-growing. While it focuses mainly on environmentalism, the party also supports social progressivism, internationalism, and the abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide. While its economic views are definitely left-wing, it does not call for socialism, but for "socially and environmentally responsible capitalism." It is a member of the Federation of Green Parties of Africa.
  • Economic Freedom Movement
    • A libertarian party, the EFM was founded in 2004 by Josh Latimer, an Austrian School economist and fourth-generation South Africa of American descent. About half of the party's membership (including Latimer himself) is made up of anarcho-capitalists, while the remainder are minarchists. About a third are Objectivists. Needless to say, the party is extremely laissez faire on both economic and social issues.
  • Workers International Vanguard League
    • The Workers International Vanguard League (WIVL) is a Trotskyist party which describes itself as the "vanguard of the revolutionary left." It favors the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a "revolutionary people's democracy."
  • Purified National Party
    • An extremist Afrikaner nationalist party, the PNP broke away from the National Party in the early 1960s in response to the "metastasizing liberalism and sickly humanism" within that party. The PNP is regarded as a fringe party by nearly all Afrikaners, even most of those who define themselves as "far-right." The PNP is militantly white supremacist and favors the establishment of an Afrikaner-only Volkstaat (Afrikaans for "people's state") "of the Afrikaner, by the Afrikaner, and for the Afrikaner." The party is almost universally described as neo-fascist. Among its most vocal critics is the National Party, which regards the PNP as "un-Christian, un-South African, and sickening to any decent person regardless of skin color." The party is professedly anti-British (and of course anti-Crown and anti-monarchy in general) and pro-Germany. Rumors of illegal campaign contributions to the party by the German government – coupled with the party's general extremism – have led to calls by many for the party to be banned, but to date, this has not happened.

[edit] Economy

South Africa has a prosperous Western-style mixed market economy with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange (the JSE Securities Exchange), that ranks among the top seven in the world, a modern, well-developed infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods, and high productivity.

South Africa's transportation infrastructure is among the best in Africa, supporting both domestic and regional needs. The Jan Smuts International Airport serves as a hub for flights to other southern African and international countries. South Africa also has several major ports that make it a central point for most trade in the southern African region.

South Africa has rich mineral resources. It is the world's largest producer and exporter of gold, platinum, and diamonds, and also exports significant amounts of coal, copper, and chrome. Other major exports include lead, zinc, tin, silver, uranium, and tungsten. The value-added processing of minerals to produce ferroalloys, stainless steels, and similar products is a major industry and an important growth area. The country's diverse manufacturing industry is a world leader in several specialized sectors, including railway rolling stock, synthetic fuels, and mining equipment and machinery.

Agriculture, based on a 2005 estimate by The World Factbook, accounts for only 3.4% of the gross domestic product. Major crops include citrus and deciduous fruits, corn, wheat, dairy products, sugarcane, tobacco, wine and wool. South Africa has many developed irrigation schemes and is a net exporter of food.

Since the early-1990s, South Africa has moved to reduce the government's role in the economy and to promote private sector investment and competition. It has significantly reduced tariffs and export subsidies, loosened exchange controls, cut the secondary tax on corporate dividends, improved enforcement of intellectual property laws, cut unnecessary government spending, and significantly relaxed restrictive labor laws. South Africa is the continent's largest energy producer and consumer. The government is considering privatizing several state-owned industries, including Eksom (Electricity Supply Commission), Iscor (South African Iron and Steel Corporation), Foskor (Phosphate Development Corporation), SASOL (South African Coal, Oil, and Gas Corporation), and Soekor (Southern Oil Exploration Corporation), as well as state-operated transport, postal, and telecommunications services, but to date this had not happened yet. South African society remains divided on these policies, and many of the policies face strong opposition from organized labor.

South Africa's currency is the South African Pound. It is one of the world's most actively-traded market currencies, and is also among the strongest and most stable. Currently, the South African Pound is worth only slightly less than the British pound.

The personal income tax is a flat-rate 20%, while the corporate income tax rate is 35%. Provincial governments obtain revenue through sales taxes (the rate varies by province) and/or a small poll (head) tax (the rate of which also varies by province). Some local governments also have property taxes. Inheritance tax was abolished in 1997.

In spite of the shrinking disparity between rich and poor, South Africa still has a much higher rate of income inequality than most other countries. The rift between whites and blacks in particular is considerable. Whereas under 5% of whites live below the poverty line, more than 30% of blacks live below the poverty line (although this percentage continues to decrease). This disparity is also reflected in employment, with the white unemployment rate standing at 3% and the black unemployment rate at nearly 15%. This disparity is in large part due to the legacy of severe discrimination in the past; in earlier times, blacks were provided the sparsest education and training possible, so they would remain a source of cheap labor. While their condition has improved a lot and continues to do so, much remains to be done.

[edit] Society

[edit] People

South Africa prides itself on being one of the most diverse nations in the world: ethnically, linguistically, and socially, it is home to many peoples of all backgrounds, radically different yet united culturally by their strong love for their homeland. Black South Africans are by far the largest ethnic group, with the largest groups being Zulus, Shonas, and Xhosas, though there are many other groups in addition, such as Ndebeles, Tswanas, Sothos, Swazis, Ovambos, and Hereros, to name just a few. The second largest ethnic group are white South Africans, the majority of them of British descent, followed closely by Afrikaners. There is also a sizeable population of Portuguese (mostly from Angola and Mozambique), Germans (mainly in South-West Africa), Belgians (from the former Belgian Congo), and others. About 10.7% of South Africans are colored, or mixed race. Most coloreds speak Afrikaans as a first language. Finally, Asians make up most of the remainder of the population; the vast majority of them originally came from the Indian subcontinent, though there are small but notable populations of Chinese and other Asians.

The majority of South Africans follow Christianity, though it should be noted that many black South Africans follow syncretic religious beliefs incorporating Christianity with traditional religion. Jewish South Africans make up approximately 2.25% of the population. This high figure is mainly due to a massive influx of Jewish refugees before, during, and after World War II. Unlike the Roosevelt Administration in the U.S., which turned away Jews in droves, Prime Minister Jan Smuts's government readily welcomed Jewish and other refugees fleeing Nazist oppression with open arms; in fact, many of these same refugees showed their gratitude by enlisting in the South African Army and helping to do their part to fight fascism. Other religious minorities include Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs (the majority of Asian South Africans subscribe to one or the other of these three faiths), and followers of indigenous religions. Slightly more than 11% of South Africans are agnostic or atheist.

Dozens of languages are spoken in South Africa, though virtually all South Africans are bilingual; most can speak English in addition to their native tongue. In fact, at least half of South Africans are trilingual to an extent.

While racism has had a long and ugly history in South Africa (and still rears its head from time to time), the majority of South Africans view racism as a relic of the past and embrace a future of diversity. Intermarriage between South Africans of different races and religions is quite common, though this is decried as "immoral" in conservative rural areas (whereas the urban population tends to be far more liberal).

[edit] Education

With a literacy rate of over 94%, South Africa's population is among the most literate in the world. Education is free and compulsory through the age of sixteen. Education (except for higher education) is generally the responsibility of provincial and local governments, and as such, the quality, curricula, etc. vary by province.

In South Africa, one can find the concept of public and private school which vary according to character, size, quality of education, and financial advantages. With both public and private intuitions, the education in South Africa is very promising. Most of the schools are supported by the state, but private schooling is also widely common. 2.8% of the total school population is private. Generally, public secondary and primary schools are administered and funded by provincial and local governments, while public universities are handled by the national government. An increasing percentage of South African parents are choosing to home-school their children.

South Africa has a vibrant higher education sector. For university entrance, a matric "endorsement" is required, although some universities do set their own additional academic requirements. Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand, Rhodes University, and the University of Pretoria are just a few of the country's major universities.

Current issues of concern include overcrowding schools, a rising drop-out rate, and shortage of qualified teachers in rural areas.

Though most South Africans are literate, small but decreasing pockets of illiteracy persist in remote rural areas (notably northern Namibia and some areas of Malawi and Zambia).

[edit] Healthcare

Healthcare in South Africa is generally adequate to excellent, but varies widely by area, ranging in quality from world-class (such as the hospitals and clinics found in major cities) to rudimentary (such as most rural clinics). Since 1972, South Africa has provided universal healthcare for its citizens through the National Healthcare System (NHS), modelled after the one in the United Kingdom. The NHS comprises eleven systems, one for each province; forming the basis of healthcare in South Africa, each system operates independently, and is politically accountable to the relevant provincial government.

Health coverage is sometimes sparse in rural areas, so many South Africans living in these areas consult practitioners of traditional medicine, i.e. "witch doctors."

Due to the growing costs, inefficiency, bureaucratization, and long waiting lists involved with the NHS, many South Africans are increasingly turning to private clinics for their health care needs. The opposition Democratic Party, has introduced legislation that, if passed, would allow citizens to opt out of the NHS if they so choose. Some even call for the outright abolition of the NHS, such as the Economic Freedom Movement's leader, Austrian School economist Josh Latimer, but more than 96% of South Africans oppose this idea; most favor either increased funding for NHS, making it optional, or both.

The quality of sanitation in most areas - even most rural areas - is good to excellent. Over 94% of South Africans have safe access to drinking water.

Vaccination against illnesses such as measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, etc. is free and compulsory for children; as such, incidences of these diseases are extremely rare. However, due to irresponsible sex and other factors, some diseases preventable by vaccination - like hepatitis B - are fairly common, particularly in poorer areas. Some provincial and local governments offer free anti-retroviral treatment for those at high risk of contracting HIV. HIV does, however, remain much less prevalent than in other African countries, largely due to comprehensive education programs that alert people to the risks and how to minimize them.

[edit] Crime

The crime rate in most of South Africa is fairly high, and tends to be highest in large urban areas, though on a lower scale than in many other large cities in the world. Declining poverty and rising living standards have caused the crime level to steadily decline. Most crimes, especially in the cities, are of a petty variety, such as pickpocketing and assault. In poorer neighborhoods, property crimes are common. The overall crime rate is quite a bit higher than in most Western European countries, but not alarmingly high.

Domestic violence is rampant in some rural areas, although the police have only had mixed results in dealing with this problem, due to their sparse presence in these areas.

Rarely, carjackings occur near the South African-Mozambican border, and reports of occasional banditry near the borders with Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo persist, due largely to the chaotic situation in those two countries.

[edit] Demographics

Age structure
0-14 years = 34.6%
15-64 years = 61.13%
65 years and over = 4.27%


Sex ratio
At birth = 1.02 male(s)/female
Under 15 years = 1.012 male(s)/female
15-64 years = 0.951 male(s)/female
65 years and over = 0.628 male(s)/female
Total population = 0.947 male(s)/female


Infant mortality rate
Total = 4.92 deaths/1,000 live births
Male = 5.38 deaths/1,000 live births
Female = 4.42 deaths/1,000 live births


Life expectancy at birth
Total population = 77.87 years
Male = 74.6 years
Female = 81.36 years


Total fertility rate
2.72 children born/woman


HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate
1.9%


Nationality
Noun: South African(s)
Adjective: South African


Ethnic groups
Black African = 60.2%
White = 21.5%
Mixed race = 10.7%
Asian = 7.6%


Religions
Dutch Reformed = 10.45%
Anglican = 8.1%
Roman Catholic = 6.9%
Pentecostal/Charismatic = 6.67%
Methodist = 5.53%
Eastern Orthodox = 2.2%
Lutheran = 1.2%
Other Christian = 9.7%
Syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) = 20.2%
Indigenous beliefs = 5.35%
Hindu = 3.9%
Jewish = 2.25%
Muslim = 1.38%
Buddhist = 1.03%
Sikh = 0.7%
Other = 0.6%
Not specified = 1.64%
None/Agnostic = 8.1%
Atheist = 3.1%


Literacy rate
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 94.7%
Male: 94.8%
Female: 94.6%

[edit] Culture

It may be argued that there is no "single" culture in South Africa because of its ethnic diversity. Today, the diversity in foods from many cultures is enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine. In addition to food, music and dance feature prominently.

South African cuisine is heavily meat-based and has spawned the distinctively South African social gathering known as a braai, or barbecue. South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer, with some of the best vineyards lying in valleys around Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl, and Barrydale.

There is great diversity in music from South Africa. Of note is Brenda Fassie, who launched to fame with her song "Weekend Special", which was sung in English. More famous traditional musicians include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, while the Soweto String Quartet performs classic music with an African flavour. White and Colored South African singers are historically influenced by European musical styles including such western metal bands such as Seether. South Africa has produced world-famous jazz musicians, notably Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Chris McGregor, and Sathima Bea Benjamin. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr and the punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar. Crossover artists such as Johnny Clegg and his bands Juluka and Savuka have enjoyed various success underground, publicly, and abroad.

South Africa has also had a large influence in the Scouting movement, with many Scouting traditions and ceremonies coming from the experiences of Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting) during his time in South Africa as a military officer in the 1890s. The South African Scout Association was one of the first youth organizations to open its doors to youth and adults of all races in South Africa.

[edit]
Public holidays

Date Official Name
January 1 New Year's Day
April 6 Founder's Day
The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday
The Monday following Easter Sunday Family Day
1st Friday in May Workers' Day
May 25 Africa Day
May 31 Union Day
2nd Monday in July Queen's Birthday
September 24 Heritage Day
November 11 Remembrance Day
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day
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