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South Africa - First Decades of Freedom

After a long negotiation process, sustained despite much opportunistic violence from the right wing and its surrogates, and in some instances sanctioned by elements of the state, South Africa’s first democratic election was held in April 1994 under an interim Constitution. The interim Constitution divided South Africa into nine new provinces in place of the previous four provinces and 10 “homelands”, and provided for the Government of National Unity (GNU) to be constituted by all parties with at least 20 seats in the National Assembly.

The ANC emerged from the first democratic election in 1994 with a 62% majority. The main opposition came from the NP, which gained 20% of the vote nationally, and a majority in the Western Cape. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) received 10% of the vote, mainly in its KwaZulu-Natal base. On 10 May 1994, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as President of South Africa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The NP and the IFP formed part of the GNU until 1996, when the NP withdrew.

The ANC-led Government embarked on a program to promote the reconstruction and development of the country and its institutions. This called for the simultaneous pursuit of democratisation and socio-economic change, as well as reconciliation and the building of consensus founded on the commitment to improve the lives of all South Africans, in particular the poor. It required the integration of South Africa into a rapidly changing global environment. Pursuit of these objectives was a consistent focus of government during the First Decade of Freedom, seeking the unity of a previously divided society in working together to overcome the legacy of a history of division, exclusion and neglect.

Converting democratic ideals into practice required, among other things, initiating a radical overhaul of the machinery of government at every level, working towards service delivery, openness and a culture of human rights. It has required a more integrated approach to planning and implementation to ensure that the many different aspects of transformation and socio-economic upliftment cohere with maximum impact. A significant milestone in the democratisation of South Africa was the exemplary Constitution-making process, which in 1996 delivered a document that has evoked worldwide admiration. So, too, have been the national and local government elections subsequent to 1994 – all conducted peacefully, with high levels of participation compared with the norm in most democracies, and accepted by all as free and fair in their conduct and results.

Since 2001, participatory democracy and interactive governance have been strengthened through the practice of public participation, roving executive council and mayoral meetings, in which members of the Executive, in all three spheres of government, including The Presidency, regularly engage directly with the public around implementation of programs of reconstruction and development.

The second democratic national election in 1999 saw the ANC majority increase to just short of two-thirds and the election of Mr Thabo Mbeki as President and successor to Mr Mandela. It saw a sharp decline of the NP (then the New National Party [NNP]) and its replacement by the Democratic Party as the official opposition in Parliament. These two parties formed the Democratic Alliance (DA), which the NNP left in 2001.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, helped inculcate a commitment to accountability and transparency in South Africa’s public life, at the same time helping to heal wounds inflicted by the inhumanities of the apartheid era. During 2003, Parliament accepted the Government’s response to the final report of the TRC. Out of 22 000 individuals or surviving families appearing before the commission, 19 000 were identified as needing urgent reparation assistance – virtually all, where the necessary information was available, received interim reparations. As final reparations, government provided a once-off grant of R30 000 to individuals or survivors who appeared before and were designated by the TRC, over and above the programs for material assistance. There are continuing programs to project the symbolism of the struggle and the ideal of freedom. These include the Freedom Park and other symbols and monuments, and such matters as records of history, remaking of cultural and art forms and changing geographical and place names.

The ethos of partnership informed the establishment of the National Economic Development and Labour Council. It brings together government, business, organised labor and development organisations to confront the challenges of growth and development for South Africa in a turbulent and globalising international economy. The Presidential Jobs Summit in 1998 and the Growth and Development Summit (GDS) in June 2003 brought these sectors together to take advantage of the conditions in South Africa for faster growth and development. At the GDS, a comprehensive set of agreements was concluded to address urgent challenges in a practical way and to speed up job-creating growth and development.

Partnership between government and civil society was further strengthened by the creation of a number of working groups through which sectors of society – business, organised labor, higher education, religious leaders, youth and women – engage regularly with the President. In the First Decade of Freedom, government placed emphasis on meeting basic needs through programs for socio-economic development such as the provision of housing, piped water, electricity, education and healthcare, as well as social grants for those in need.

The integration of South Africa into the global political, economic and social system has been a priority for democratic South Africa. As a country isolated during the apartheid period, an African country, a developing country, and a country whose liberation was achieved with the support of the international community, it remains of critical importance to build political and economic links with the countries and regions of the world, and to work with others for an international environment more favorable to development across the world, and in Africa and South Africa in particular. The South African Government is committed to the African Renaissance, which is based on the consolidation of democracy, economic development and a cooperative approach to resolving the challenges the continent faces. South Africa hosted the launch in 2002 of the African Union (AU), a step towards further unification of Africa in pursuit of socio-economic development, the Organisation of African Unity having fulfilled its mandate to liberate Africa. President Mbeki chaired the AU for its founding year, handing over the chair to President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in July 2003. In 2004, the AU decided that South Africa should host the Pan-African Parliament and it met for its second session in South Africa, the first time on South African soil, in September of that year.

By participating in UN and AU initiatives to resolve conflict and promote peace and security on the continent – in among other countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Sudan – South Africa contributed to the achievement of conditions conducive to the entrenchment of stability, democracy and faster development. During the First Decade of Freedom, it acted at various times as chair of the Southern African Development Community, NAM, AU and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings. It played host to several international conferences, including the UN Conference on Trade and Development in 1996, the 2000 World AIDS Congress, the World Conference Against Racism in 2001, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and the World Parks Congress in 2003. The country has also been represented on international forums such as the International Monetary Fund’s Development Committee and Interpol.

The Second Decade of Freedom

When South Africa celebrated 10 years of freedom in 2004, there were celebrations across the world in countries whose peoples had helped to bring freedom to South Africa through their solidarity, and who today are partners in reconstruction and development. As government took stock of the First Decade of Freedom in the Towards a Ten Year Review, it was able to document great progress by South Africans in pursuit of their goals, as well as the challenges that face the nation as it traverses the second decade of its freedom towards 2014.

In its third democratic elections, in April 2004, the country gave an increased mandate to the Government’s program for reconstruction and development and for the entrenchment of the rights inscribed in the Constitution. It mandated government specifically to create the conditions for halving unemployment and poverty by 2014. Following these elections, Thabo Mbeki was appointed to a second term of office as President of South Africa – a position he relinquished in September 2008, following the decision of the National Executive Committee of the ANC to recall him. Parliament elected Kgalema Motlanthe as President of South Africa on 25 September 2008.

Local government elections in 2006, following a long period of civic unrest as communities protested against a mixed record of service delivery, saw increased participation compared with the previous local elections, as well as increased support for the ruling party based on a manifesto for a concerted effort, in partnership with communities, to make local government work better. South Africa held national and provincial elections to elect a new National Assembly as well as the provincial legislature in each province on 22 April 2009. Some 23 million people were registered for the 2009 general election, which were about 2,5 million more than in 2004. About 77% of registered voters took part in the election. The results for the top five parties were as follows: the ANC achieved 65,9%; the DA 16,6%; the newly formed Congress of the People (COPE) 7,4%; the IFP 4,5%; and the Independent Democrats 0,9% of the votes cast.

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 administration’s approach to intensify government delivery through an outcomes-based approach, coupled with a government-wide monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system.

Government has adopted 12 outcomes as focus areas for government’s work:

  1. an improved quality of basic education
  2. a long and healthy life for all South Africans
  3. all South Africans should be safe and feel safe
  4. decent employment through inclusive growth
  5. a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path
  6. an efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network
  7. vibrant, equitable, sustainable rural communities with food security for all
  8. sustainable human settlements and an improved quality of household life
  9. a responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government system
  10. environmental assets and natural resources that are well protected and enhanced
  11. a better Africa and a better world as a result of South Africa’s contributions to global relations
  12. an efficient and development-oriented public service and an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship.
A big part of making the outcomes a reality lies in escalating the extent to which government departments are accountable for their delivery areas. The President has signed performance agreements with all 34 Cabinet ministers. Delivery agreements further unpack each outcome and each output and the requirements to reach the targets. The performance M&E systems that have been put in place continue to be built upon so that the work of government towards achieving these outcomes is consistently tracked.

A significant milestone for South Africa in the Second Decade of Freedom was the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. The tournament, which was the first on African soil, demonstrated that South Africa has the infrastructure and capability to warrant serious investment consideration. It also showcased South Africa and its people to the world. Government spent about R40 billion on infrastructure projects, and billions more on upgrading roads and airports. South Africans continue to benefit from improvements in public transport, security, investment and tourism.

The 2011 local government elections, held in May, were characterised by lively and respectful campaigning with all political parties free to engage with voters in all areas. The Independent Electoral Commission highlighted decreased voter apathy and achieved an impressive 57,6% registered voter turn-out – an improvement from the previous local government elections, which scored below the 50% mark. The ANC won the highest number of seats and councils – 198 councils and 5 633 seats, constituting 62% of the vote. The DA came second with 18 councils, 1 555 seats and 23,9% support. The ANC and DA were followed by the IFP and COPE.

As part of government’s commitment to secure a better quality of life for all, the National Planning Commission (NPC) in The Presidency finalised the draft National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 in 2011. The plan is a step in the process of charting a new path for South Africa. By 2030, government seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. The plan was the product of not just the NPC but also tens of thousands of ordinary South Africans who shared their dreams, hopes and ideas for the future.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2012 19:13:08 ZULU