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South Africa - Government

South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared between the president and the Parliament. South Africas Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and enjoys high acclaim internationally. Human rights are given clear prominence in the Constitution. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 was approved by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997.

The Constitution has been amended 17 times since it was signed into effect as South Africas supreme law by President Nelson Mandela on 10 December 1996 in Sharpeville, where 69 anti-pass protesters were shot dead by apartheid police in 1960. But none of these 17 constitutional amendments, including to do with politically expedient floor-crossing, caused as big a furore as land expropriation without compensation. In one of the most extensive public consultations by Parliament, there were 34 public hearings over six weeks in 2018 across all nine provinces. Some argued that there was no need for a constitutional amendment, as the Constitution already allowed expropriation without compensation in terms of its provision of just and equitable compensation that could well be zero. But the EFF and ANC agreed there should be a constitutional amendment.

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa stated on 31 July 2018 " The intention of this proposed amendment is to promote redress, advance economic development, increase agricultural production and food security. It will also transform the unjust spatial realities in urban areas." The EFF wanted all land nationalised, which was not the ANC position. And the DA, FF+ and IFP were opposed. The precedent of land--grabbing in Zimbabwe lurked in the foreground.

The Parliament consists of two houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, which are responsible for drafting the laws of the republic. The National Assembly also has specific control over bills relating to monetary matters. The National Assembly is elected to represent the people and to ensure democratic governance as required by the Constitution. It does this by electing the President, providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, passing legislation and scrutinising and overseeing executive action.

The National Assembly, which is elected for a term of five years, is presided over by the speaker, assisted by the deputy speaker. The current 400-member National Assembly was retained under the 1997 constitution, although the constitution allows for a range of between 350 and 400 members. The Assembly is elected by a system of "list proportional representation." Each of the parties appearing on the ballot submits a rank-ordered list of candidates. The voters then cast their ballots for a party.

Seats in the Assembly are allocated based on the percentage of votes each party receives. In the 2009 election, the ANC won 264 seats in the Assembly, just shy of a two-thirds majority and a decrease of 33 seats from 2004; the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 67, the newly formed Congress of the People (COPE) won 30, and the IFP won 18. Smaller parties won the remaining 21 seats.

In accordance with legislation designed to enable "floor-crossing" members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces are allowed to change political parties without losing their seats in either house. The "floor-crossing" legislation provides for three "window periods," during which such changes are permissible. The first period was a 15-day transitional period in March 2003 and the second and third periods were in September 2004 and September 2005 respectively. Following a number of challenges to the constitutionality of the floor-crossing legislation, the Constitutional Court finally determined that floor-crossing during designated window periods is indeed constitutional.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) consists of 90 members, 10 from each of the nine provinces. The NCOP replaced the former Senate as the second chamber of Parliament and was created to give a greater voice to provincial interests. It must approve legislation that involves shared national and provincial competencies as defined by an annex to the constitution. Each provincial delegation consists of six permanent and four rotating delegates. The National Council of Provinces represents the provinces to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government. It does this mainly by participating in the national legislative process and by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues affecting the provinces.

The president is the head of state, and is elected by the National Assembly from among its members. The president's constitutional responsibilities include assigning cabinet portfolios, signing bills into law, and serving as commander in chief of the military. The President appoints the Deputy President from among the members of the National Assembly. The Deputy President assists the President in executing government functions. The president works closely with the deputy president and the cabinet.

The Cabinet consists of the President, as head, the Deputy President and ministers. The President appoints the Deputy President and ministers, assigns their powers and functions and may dismiss them. The President may select any number of ministers from the members of the National Assembly, and may select no more than two ministers from outside the assembly. The President appoints a member of the Cabinet to be the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly.

The President has the powers entrusted by the Constitution and legislation, including those necessary to perform the functions of Head of State and head of the national executive. The President is responsible for assenting to and signing Bills; referring a Bill back to the National Assembly for reconsideration of the Bill's constitutionality; referring a Bill to the Constitutional Court for a decision on the Bill's constitutionality; summoning the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces or Parliament to an extraordinary sitting to conduct special business; making any appointments that the Constitution or legislation requires the President to make, other than as head of the national executive; appointing commissions of inquiry; calling a national referendum in terms of an Act of Parliament; receiving and recognising foreign diplomatic and consular representatives; appointing ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, and diplomatic and consular representatives; pardoning or reprieving offenders and remitting any fines, penalties or forfeitures; and conferring honors.

No person may hold office as President for more than two terms, but when a person is elected to fill a vacancy in the office of President, the period between that election and the next election of a President is not regarded as a term. The National Assembly, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members, may remove the President from office only on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution or the law; serious misconduct; or inability to perform the functions of office. Other methods defined in the South African Constitution by which a sitting president may be removed from office: (1) the National Assembly may pass a resolution indicating no confidence in the President; (2) the National Assembly may vote to dissolve Parliament and hold new elections; or, (3) President Mbeki may resign. Anyone who has been removed from the office of President may not receive any benefits of that office, and may not serve in any public office.

Jacob Zuma was inaugurated as President of South Africa on 9 May 2009. Shortly thereafter, President Zuma announced several changes to existing government departments and the creation of new structures within The Presidency. The latter essentially comprises the Ministry for Performance Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration and the National Planning Ministry, in keeping with the new administrations approach to intensify government delivery through an outcomes-based approach, coupled with a government-wide monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system.

The third arm of the central government is an independent judiciary. The Constitutional Court is the highest court for interpreting and deciding constitutional issues, while the Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest court for nonconstitutional matters. Most cases are heard in the extensive system of High Courts and Magistrates Courts. The constitution's bill of rights provides for due process including the right to a fair, public trial within a reasonable time of being charged and the right to appeal to a higher court. The bill of rights also guarantees fundamental political and social rights of South Africa's citizens.

One important issue continues to be the relationship of provincial and local administrative structures to the national government. Prior to April 27, 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 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 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. Still, the economic disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many years, remaining an area of priority attention for the government.

Traditional leadership institutions play a critical role in South Africas constitutional democracy and are at the core of South Africas success as a nation in achieving the countrys developmental objectives, particularly in so far as they apply to the Rural Development Strategy. Chapter 11 of the Constitution states that the institution, status and roles of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised, subject to the Constitution. Government remains committed to strengthening the institution of traditional leadership and appreciates the role it plays in society. The Department of Traditional Affairs was established in April 2010 to underline the critical focus on traditional leadership. This signifies the importance that is placed on the role and place of traditional leaders in the lives of people, especially in rural areas.

The Constitution mandates the establishment of houses of traditional leaders by means of either provincial or national legislation. The National House of Traditional Leaders was established in terms of the National House of Traditional Leaders Act, 1997 (Act 10 of 1997). Its objectives and functions are to promote the role of traditional leadership within a democratic constitutional dispensation, enhance unity and understanding among traditional communities and advise national government. Guidelines on the operations of the National House of Traditional Leaders will constitute the first internal document that deals specifically with issues of operation and tools-of-trade for members of the national house. In the past, these were dealt with through departmental policies primarily meant for governent officials.

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