Overview of Johannesburg

Politics of Johannesburg

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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 judicial capital. 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 (enacted by the Dutch East India Company), along with English common and statutory law, evidence of the influence of Dutch settlement and British colonialism. Roman-Dutch law was imposed 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. 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.

When apartheid ended in 1994, the South African government integrated the formerly independent and semi-independent Bantustans into the political structure of South Africa. To this end, it abolished the four former provinces of South Africa (Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal) and replaced them with nine fully integrated provinces. The new provinces are usually much smaller than the former provinces, which theoretically gives local governments more resources to distribute over smaller areas. The nine provinces are further subdivided into 52 districts: 6 metropolitan and 46 district municipalities. The 46 district municipalities are further subdivided into 231 local municipalities. The district municipalities also contain 20 district management areas (mostly game parks) that are directly governed by the district municipalities. The six metropolitan municipalities perform the functions of both district and local municipalities. The provincial structure is detailed in the chart below:

Province Former homelands and provinces Capital Area (km²) Area (sq mi) Population (2001)
Eastern Cape Cape Province, Transkei, Ciskei Bhisho 169,580 65,475 6,436,761
Free State Orange Free State, QwaQwa Bloemfontein 129,480 49,992 2,706,776
Gauteng Transvaal Johannesburg 17,010 6,568 8,837,172
KwaZulu-Natal Natal, KwaZulu Pietermaritzburg 92,100 35,560 9,426,018
Limpopo Transvaal, Venda, Lebowa, Gazankulu Polokwane 123,900 47,838 5,273,637
Mpumalanga Transvaal, KwaNdebele, KaNgwane, Bophuthatswana, Lebowa Nelspruit 79,490 30,691 3,122,994
Northern Cape Cape Province Kimberley 361,830 139,703 822,726
North West Transvaal, Cape Province, Bophuthatswana Mafikeng 116,320 44,911 3,669,349
Western Cape Cape Province Cape Town 129,370 49,950 4,524,335
Total 1,219,080 470,688 44,819,768

Current South African politics are dominated by the African National Congress, which received 69.7% of the vote during the last 2004 general election and 66.3% of the vote in the 2006 municipal election. The current President of South Africa is Kgalema Motlanthe, who replaced Thabo Mbeki on 25 September 2008. Mbeki succeeded former President Nelson Mandela in 1999, and was re-elected for a second five year term in 2004, but announced his resignation on 20 September 2008. The main challenger to the rule of the ANC is the Democratic Alliance Party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. Helen Zille, (elected 6 May 2007), is the party leader; the previous leader was Tony Leon. 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 Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters, and the Independent Democrats, who took 6.97% and 1.7% of the vote respectively, in the 2004 election. Since 2004, the country has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent. Many of these protests have been organised due to growing unrest in the sprawling shanty towns that surround South African cities.

Since the end of apartheid, South African foreign policy has focused on its African partners, particularly in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union. South Africa has played a key role as a mediator in African conflicts over the last decade, such as in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe. As the Union of South Africa, South Africa was a founding member of the United Nations and then Prime Minister Jan Smuts wrote the preamble to its constitution. South Africa is currently a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, recently attracting controversy by voting against a resolution criticising the government of Myanmar (Burma) in 2006 and against the implementation of sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2008.

South Africa is a member of the Group of 77 and chaired the organisation in 2006. South Africa is also a member of the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, Southern African Customs Union, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, G20 and G8+5. The South African armed forces, known as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), was created in 1994. Previously known as the South African Defence Force (SADF), the new force is an all volunteer army and consists of the forces of the old SADF, as well as the forces of African nationalist groups, namely Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), and the former Bantustan defense forces. The SANDF is subdivided into four branches, the South African Army, the South African Air Force, the South African Navy, and the South African Military Health Services.

In recent years, the SANDF has become a major peacekeeping force in Africa, and has been involved in operations in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi, amongst others. It has also participated among multi-national UN peacekeeping forces. South Africa began its nuclear weapons programme in the 1970s and may have conducted a nuclear test over the Atlantic in 1979.It is the only African country to have successfully developed nuclear weapons. It has become the first country (followed by Ukraine) with nuclear capability to voluntarily renounce and dismantle its programme and in the process signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991

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Update 27/11/2008

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