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South Africa - Politics

Presidents

10 May 1994 16 Jun 1999 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
16 Jun 1999 25 Sep 2008 Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki
25 Sep 2008 09 May 2009 Kgalema Motlanthe
09 May 2009 14 Feb 2019 Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma
14 Feb 2019 xx May 2029 Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa

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 ANCs 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 nations major opposition party, saw growth in its voter base, winning an estimated 22% of the vote.





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