South Africa is a federal state. Until 1994 it was governed by the white minority with minimal mixed-race and Asian representation and virtually no black representation. In April, 1994, the country became a fully multi-racial democracy, under an interim constitution; a permanent constitution was adopted in 1996.
South Africa is the only nation in the world with 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 ninety members of the National Council of Provinces (the upper house); and the four hundred members of the National Assembly (the lower house). Members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation: half of the members are elected from national lists and 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 upper house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President. The President then names a cabinet, divided proportionally between parties that have gained at least 5% of the vote.
Current South African politics are dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), 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 main challenger to the ANC’s rule is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. The leader of this party is Helen Zille (elected May 6 2007).
The formerly dominant New National Party, which introduced apartheid through its predecessor, the National Party, suffered increasing humiliation at election polls since 1994, and finally voted to disband. It 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.
Conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
Conventional short form: South Africa
Former: Union of South Africa
Name: Pretoria (administrative capital)
Geographic coordinates: 25 42 S, 28 13 E
Time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Note: Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Western Cape
31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State); 31 May 1961 (republic declared)
Freedom Day, 27 April