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South African Government and Politics

South Africa has three capital cities: Cape Town, the largest of the three, is the legislative capital; Pretoria is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein is the judicialcapital. South Africa has a bicameral parliament: the National Council of Provinces (the upper house) has 90 members, while the National Assembly (the lower house) has 400 members. Members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation: half of the members are elected from national lists and the other half are elected from provincial lists. Ten members are elected to represent each province in the National Council of Provinces, regardless of the population of the province. Elections for both chambers are held every five years. The government is formed in the lower house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President.

The primary sources of South Africa law are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European based law in South Africa was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law, both common and statutory. Starting in 1910 with unification, South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies. During the years of apartheid, the country's political scene was dominated by figures like B. J. Vorster and P. W. Botha, as well as opposition figures such as Harry Schwarz, Joe Slovo and Helen Suzman.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South African politics have been dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), which has been the dominant party with 60–70% of the vote. The main challenger to the rule of the ANC is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 16.7% of the vote in the 2009 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. The formerly dominant New National Party, which introduced apartheid through its predecessor, the National Party, chose to merge with the ANC on 9 April 2005. Other major political parties represented in Parliament are the Congress of the People, which split from the ANC and won 7.4% of the vote in 2009, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters and took 4.6% of the vote in the 2009 election.

Since 2004, the country has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the "most protest-rich country in the world". Many of these protests have been organised from the growing shanty towns that surround South African cities.

In 2008, South Africa placed 5th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. South Africa scored well in the categories of Rule of Law, Transparency & Corruption and Participation & Human Rights, but was let down by its relatively poor performance in Safety & Security. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens.

After the end of apartheid in 1994, the "independent" and "semi-independent" Bantustans were integrated into the political structure of South Africa by the abolition of the four former provinces (Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal) and the creation of nine fully integrated new provinces. The generally smaller size of the new provinces theoretically means that local governments have more resources to distribute over smaller areas. The provinces are subdivided into 52 districts: 6 metropolitan and 46 district municipalities. The district municipalities are further subdivided into 231 local municipalities. The metropolitan municipalities perform the functions of both district and local municipalities.

 

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