South Africa - Politics
South Africa remains the continent's best prospect for establishing a successful democratic society with expanding prosperity despite its many challenges. Approximately 77 percent of registered voters participated in the 22 April 2009 national elections, indicating a popular will to build a democratic society. The African National Congress-led (ANC) South African Government (SAG) has made major progress toward establishing a vibrant democracy and a market-based economy since the end of apartheid in 1994.
The country's first nonracial elections were held on April 26-28, 1994, resulting in the installation of Nelson Mandela as President on May 10, 1994. Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was governed under an interim constitution establishing a Government of National Unity (GNU). This constitution required the Constitutional Assembly (CA) to draft and approve a permanent constitution by May 9, 1996. After review by the Constitutional Court and intensive negotiations within the CA, the Constitutional Court certified a revised draft on December 2, 1996. President Mandela signed the new constitution into law on December 10, and it entered into force on February 3, 1997. The GNU ostensibly remained in effect until the 1999 national elections. The parties originally comprising the GNU--the ANC, the NP, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)--shared executive power. On June 30, 1996, the NP withdrew from the GNU to become part of the opposition.
During Nelson Mandela's 5-year term as President of South Africa, the government committed itself to reforming the country. The ANC-led government focused on social issues that were neglected during the apartheid era such as unemployment, housing shortages, and crime. Mandela's administration began to reintroduce South Africa into the global economy by implementing a market-driven economic plan known as Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR). In order to heal the wounds created by apartheid, the government created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During the first term of the ANC's post-apartheid rule, President Mandela concentrated on national reconciliation, seeking to forge a single South African identity and sense of purpose among a diverse and splintered populace, after years of conflict. The diminution of political violence after 1994 and its virtual disappearance by 1996 were testament to the abilities of Mandela to achieve this difficult goal.
Nelson Mandela stepped down as President of the ANC at the party's national conference in December 1997, when Thabo Mbeki assumed the mantle of leadership. Mbeki won the presidency of South Africa after national elections in 1999, when the ANC won just shy of a two-thirds majority in Parliament. President Mbeki shifted the focus of government from reconciliation to transformation, particularly on the economic front. With political transformation and the foundation of a strong democratic system in place after two free and fair national elections, the ANC recognized the need to focus on bringing economic power to the black majority in South Africa. In April 2004, the ANC won nearly 70% of the national vote, and Mbeki was reelected for his second 5-year term. In his 2004 State of the Nation address, Mbeki promised his government would reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, and fight crime. Mbeki said that the government would play a more prominent role in economic development.
Defeated in a bid for a third term as ANC chair in party elections in December 2007, Mbeki was "recalled" by the ANC and resigned as President in September 2008. Kgalema Motlanthe was sworn in as President on September 25, 2008 and served out the remainder of Mbeki's term. South Africa held its fourth democratic election on April 22, 2009. The ANC won with 65% of the vote followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 16% of the vote. The DA also won power in the Western Cape, which became the only province that the ANC does not govern. The newly formed Congress of the People, launched by ANC members angered at the firing of Mbeki, won 9% of the vote. The National Assembly elected Jacob Zuma president, with Motlanthe as his deputy, following the ANC’s win in the 2009 national election.
Zuma was propelled to power at the 2007 ANC party congress by support from the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the South African Communist Party (SACP), and ANC members from the Women's League, all of whom were disgruntled with the autocratic rule of then-President Thabo Mbeki. Backing from these elements sustained Zuma as he ran for President of South Africa and helped him win the public relations battle he faced over the state's corruption case against him, which was ultimately dropped. The SACP, COSATU, and ANCYL had greater access to the machinery of state power than ever before, but had been unable to steer Zuma or the party away from many of the same policies on the economic front Mbeki had been following.
South Africa held its fourth post-apartheid local government elections on May 18, 2011. The elections were peaceful and well organized. While the International Electoral Commission (IEC) struggled with some minor technical glitches and mishaps, voting was orderly. The African National Congress (ANC) held onto its dominant position nationally with an estimated 64% of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance (DA), the nation’s major opposition party, saw growth in its voter base, winning an estimated 22% of the vote.
The ANC held its national conference in Mangaung in December 2012, where Zuma was re-elected to the ANC presidency. Presidential elections will take place in South Africa in 2014. Zuma was elected to the ANC presidency in December 2007 and was scheduled to serve a five year term as party leader; he was named national leader when the party won the election in April. He had said he will serve only one term, but that was called into question by a number of political leaders and allies who wanted to see him stay on.
The party slate for 2014 included a new deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is a trade-union leader turned businessman. In 2011, he took over all South Africa's McDonald’s franchises. ANC-affiliated business magnates Ramaphosa is a former Secretary General of the ANC and a former Member of Parliament. Ramaphosa possesses the necessary background and attributes to lead the country, but Ramaphosa was extremely bitter when Mbeki stepped ahead of him to become South Africa's Deputy President in 1994 -- especially since Ramaphosa led the transition talks and Nelson Mandela himself wanted Ramaphosa as deputy. Ramaphosa was so annoyed by the slight that he declined to serve in the Mandela administration, and even refused to attend Mandela's inauguration. This behavior was seen as "unbecoming," "nakedly ambitious," and "very un-ANC," and continued to haunt Ramaphosa's candidacy for ANC president.
In June 2013 expelled ANC Youth League member Julius Malema said he planned to launch a political party. This followed a new party led by former anti-apartheid fighters that announced its formation in April 2013. South African activist and anti-apartheid stalwart Mamphela Ramphele will launch yet a third party, called Agang, in July 2013. The aims of Malema’s future party are clear. He said he wants to "restore the dignity of blacks" and lead an "onslaught against a white male monopoly capital" in a nation that still bears deep scars after the end of apartheid. He said he intends to achieve that by nationalizing mines and redistributing land without compensation.
The new parties had more than just the ANC to worry about. Since none has the resources or organization to beat the large, well-organized ANC, their real competition is each other. The opposition parties would be fishing for votes in the same pool because very few of them had distinguished themselves to such an extent that they’re appealing to particular and specific constituencies in the South African polity.
South Africa's best-known firebrand politician, Julius Malema, launched his own political party in October 2013. Expelled r as the youth leader of the ruling African National Congress in 2012, Malema vowed to defeat ANC stalwart President Jacob Zuma in the 2014 elections. Malema was once considered Zuma’s protégé and had memorably said he would "kill for Zuma." Supporters of the new party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), were already celebrating what they hoped will be a big victory in the elections. The party could win enough seats in parliament to make the EFF a governing political party at the provincial level.
Malema warned white South Africans who obtained land during the colonial period, to return it to the indigenous blacks, or forget about reconciliation. “You are not ashamed for having stolen our land. You want us to come to you and kneel before you to ask for the land of our ancestors. We are not going to do that. We are not going to beg for our land," said Malema. Malema’s supporters seemed to take his message even further. One banner carried at his party launch rally read: “Honeymoon is over for whites." Another said: “to be a revolutionary you have to be inspired by hatred and bloodshed."
South Africa's post-apartheid governments have made remarkable progress in consolidating the nation's peaceful transition to democracy. Programs to improve the delivery of essential social services to the majority of the population are underway. Access to better opportunities in education and business is becoming more widespread. Nevertheless, transforming South Africa's society to remove the legacy of apartheid will be a long-term process requiring the sustained commitment of the leaders and people of the nation's disparate groups.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), chaired by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, helped to advance the reconciliation process. Constituted in 1995 and having completed its work by 2001, the TRC was empowered to investigate apartheid-era human rights abuses committed between 1960 and May 10, 1994; to grant amnesty to those who committed politically motivated crimes; and to recommend compensation to victims of abuses. In November 2003, the government began allocation of $4,600 (R30,000) reparations to individual apartheid victims. The TRC's mandate was part of the larger process of reconciling the often conflicting political, economic, and cultural interests held by the diverse groups of people that make up South Africa's population. The ability of the government and people to agree on many basic questions of how to order the country's society remains a critical challenge.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) won the 07 May 2014 election, guaranteeing it another five years at the helm of Africa’s most advanced nation, but the ANC's share of the vote slipped. In all, nearly 19 million votes were cast in national and provincial polls. With all votes counted, the ANC won just over 62 percent of the poll, compared to the opposition Democratic Alliance's 22 percent. The far-left, radical Economic Freedom Fighters nabbed third place. The success of the party, which targeted South Africa’s large population of unemployed youth, reflects South Africa’s demographic shift toward a younger population, as does the fact that the EFF shoved aside the venerable Inkatha Freedom Party, which is led by an 85-year-old man, the respected Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Of all the parties, the DA is the only one that has been able to gain ground with each election, while the ANC consistently sheds 3 percent.
South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on 31 March 2016 proposed a motion in parliament to impeach President Jacob Zuma. The move followed a Constitutional Court ruling Thursday that said Zuma should pay part of the $16 million of public funds used to renovate his private home in Nkandla, according to James Selfe, chairman of the DA's federal executive, which deals with legal matters. Supporters of the ANC say it is unlikely the party's lawmakers will back the impeachment proceedings against Zuma. They cited previous attempts by the opposition DA after it moved a vote of no confidence in Zuma, which eventually failed.
South Africa's top court ruled 31 March 2016 that Zuma did violate the constitution by ignoring the state anti-corruption agency's recommendation that he return part of the $20 million spent on his home improvements. Under the court's ruling, the national treasury will decide which of the upgrades at Zuma's house were related to security, and will order Zuma to reimburse the cost of any other expenses, such as the swimming pool and a cattle enclosure.
On April 01, 2016 President Zuma apologized for spending more than $20 million in state funds on his private residence, but he did not, as some had predicted, offer to step down to atone for his actions.
Allegations that whites own 80% of the land and blacks 20% do not include places where tens of thousands of new homes have been built by people themselves. Statistics SA’s Household Survey of 2014 seemed to indicate that Africans now claim to own about 52% of the land that households claim to own if measured by size of the property. An April 2016 private survey looking at residential property says black South Africans own 52 percent of the value of the nation’s homes, and that the figure is rising. This is up from 41.7% in 2009, where white ownership was at 43.8%, coloured ownership at 8.3% and Indian ownership at 6.2%. However, nearly 80 percent of South Africa’s population is black, meaning they are still underrepresented in this domain.
Black First Land First activists want land to be given to black South Africans as compensation for colonial-era land seizures. This far-left group objects to the current policy that allows landowners to hold out until the selling price is acceptable. Lindsay Maasdorp, national spokesman for Black First Land First, says “We will not wait for a constitution that is anti-black and enshrines land theft to determine when we take back land…. We’re saying black people should not be buying back stolen land. We agree that we should not. White people didn’t come here and just start speaking to us and say, ‘let me just take it.’ It was a violent process, and it continues to be a violent process…. When we confront violence we will do so with violence too. Sometimes it will be with words, sometimes it will be through dialogue. But other times, it will be physical as well. Why? Because we have the right to defend ourselves against those who have taken our land from us."
Local elections are the barometer of the depth of democracy in South Africa. Returning to the polls on 03 August 2016, in the fifth local election since the dissolution of the apartheid state in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party would find out how well it still represented the aspiration of the South African people. High unemployment, corruption and poor service delivery have been the main issues dominating the election campaign. At least 26 percent of South Africans are without work. The ruling ANC government has been hit by string of corruption scandals, most notably the $20m funnelled into upgrading President Jacob Zuma's personal home in Nkandla. The party had been hit by a string of alleged politically motivated murders exposing deep rooted factionalism within the party.
A total of 26.3 million South Africans are registered to vote, but this certainly does not mean that so many will turn up. At the 2011 local election, 23 million people were registered, but only 11 million voted. There were some 61,014 candidates from 200 political parties (a 65 percent increase in the number of parties compared to the last election in 2011) vying for 283 municipalities. In 2011, the ANC managed to secure control of 198 councils, winning in seven of the country’s eight biggest metropolitan areas. Some 40 percent of the population live in those areas. In contrast, the Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party, with Cape Town under its control, managed 18 councils.
Voters disenchanted with two decades of rule by the African National Congress (ANC) slashed its overall support to 54 percent from its once consistent 60-percent-plus. In South Africa's 2014 general election, the ANC received 62 percent, down from nearly 66 percent in 2009. The radical left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, Zuma's one-time protégé, was on 8 percent nationwide. Turnout was about 58 percent overall. Although the ANC was still ahead in the overall count, the party was forced to concede defeat to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) in the municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes the city of Port Elizabeth. The DA also had a narrow lead in the economic hub of Johannesburg. The opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) gained 43 percent of the vote in the Tshwane municipality, which includes the nation's capital, Pretoria, while the ANC garnered 41 percent. The EFF took 12 percent, a share that was enough to give either the DA or ANC the lead role in a majority coalition.
The ANC lost its one-party rule, ushering in a new era of coalition politics, ahead of the next general election due in 2019. The urban centers had traditionally been held by the ANC. It now looked as though no party will win a majority in those areas. The electoral landscape was increasingly divided [as in the United States}, between rural areas dominated by the AND and major urban aress governed by the DP. South Africa could face three years of political stalemate, with pro- and anti-Zuma camps wrestling for power. In 26 cities, including Johannesburg and Pretoria, the black-dominated ANC, the white-dominated Democratic Alliance, or DA, and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF, failed to win a majority. That meant the parties, which in the past had battered and bruised each other's images, had to find a way to cooperate.
Zuma's time in office had been mired in numerous controversies and increasingly his fellow ANC lawmakers and activists have called on him to step down. Three of the South African president's Cabinet ministers called 27 November 2016 on scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma to resign. Local media say Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi called on Zuma to step down at a meeting of the ruling African National Congress. The president still enjoyed support from the rank-and-file ANC members and some of its lawmakers.
The State Capture report, drawn up by former Public Protector (ombudmswoman) Thulisile Madonsela, described in detail how Zuma's system of corruption has spread through all echeleons of the executive and the legislature. The sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his equally upstanding deputy Mcebisi Jonas was the final phase in Zuma's drive for total control. The aim is to further the interests of the dubious business empire of the Gupta family, his own relations, his scores of acolytes and also to thwart the work of state prosecutors.
On 30 March 2017 President Jacob Zuma fired five ministers and 10 deputy ministers from his cabinet in a major reshuffle which the governing ANC party criticised. The sacking of Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister, seen as a steady and reliable hand in policymaking by investors, came as part of a wider cabinet reshuffle, the latest chapter exposing deepening rifts and divisions within the government.
The sacking of Gordhan had serious consequences for the country's economy and deepened the rift within the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Since Gordhan’s dismissal, a leading financial agency, S&P Global Ratings, downgraded South Africa's credit rating to "junk" status. They blameed political uncertainty and the abrupt sacking of Gordhan. Two of the main opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters, said they would call for a vote of no-confidence against Zuma. Julius Malema, leader of the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters and a former protege of Zuma, filed a court application for disciplinary or impeachment proceedings against the president.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa's largest opposition party sought to bar President Jacob Zuma from sacking Gordhan. The DA filed a suit against the president in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Firing Gordhan - himself from the ANC - was "irrational, and therefore unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid," said the DA's request.
On 04 April 2017 South Africa's largest trade union joined calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down. While the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) had vigorously defended Zuma in the past, they now said they have lost confidence in him after Gordhan's dismissal. "The time has arrived for him [Zuma] to step down and allow the country to be led forward by a new collective at a government level," Cosatu said in a statement. Cosatu criticised Zuma's move saying it no longer believed in his ability to lead, and that it wanted to restructure its alliance with the party. Cosatu is in an alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party, which had already called for Zuma’s resignation.
This added pressure on the ANC's top officials, many of whom remain divided on Zuma. Half of the ANC's top six group of officials including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Secretary General Gwede Mantashe have publicly criticised Gordhan's sacking. But Zuma, also one of the top six, has the support of two other members and influential groups within the ANC. South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa criticised the cabinet purge and said the sacking of Pravin Gordhan was "unacceptable." The influential ANC Youth League, however, issued a statement on Thursday backing Zuma's planned cabinet changes.
Zuma can’t run again in 2019. He will have served his two-term limit. Party rules will not allow him to remain as ANC head either. A frontrunner to succeed him is his former wife and ex-African Union Commission chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She stepped down from the AU post in January 2017. Dlamini-Zuma has strong support in the party’s largest province of Kwazulu Natal. However, the opposite camp, largely dominated by the ANC’s alliance partners, wants current Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to take the reins.
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