The Republic of South Africa is a constitutional democracy with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary, operating in a nearly unique system that combines aspects of parliamentary and presidential systems. The national, provincial and local levels of government all have legislative and executive authority in their own spheres, and are defined in the Constitution as “distinctive, interdependent and interrelated”. Operating at both national and provincial levels are advisory bodies drawn from South Africa’s traditional leaders.
Legislative authority is held by the Parliament of South Africa. Executive authority is vested in the President of South Africa, who is head of state and head of government, and his or her Cabinet. The president is elected from the Parliament to serve a fixed term. South Africa’s government differs greatly from those of other Commonwealth nations.
The country is divided into nine provinces, each with its own provincial parliament and administration. The nine provinces are:
- Western Cape
- Eastern Cape
- Free State
- Limpopo (formerly Northern Province)
- North West
- Northern Cape
Constitution of The Republic of South Africa
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Act 108 of 1996) came into effect on 4 February 1997. This is the highest law in South Africa and no other law or government action can overrule the Constitution or be in conflict with it. South Africa’s Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and is based on the values of dignity, equality and freedom. Chapter 2 of the Constitution contains the Bill of Rights.
The South African Parliament
The South African Parliament is responsible for creating and amending the countries laws in accordance with the Constitution. It consists of two parts, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The National Assembly consists of 400 elected representatives who meet at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town, to debate issues and create legislation. The National Council of Provinces consists of 54 permanent members and 36 special delegates representing the nine provinces. The NCOP represents provincial interests in the national sphere of government.
The executive arm of national government is headed up by the Cabinet which consists of the President, the Deputy President and various Ministers appointed by the President from the National Assembly. The President also determines which functions each of the Ministers will perform.
State institutions created to support constitutional democracy are the Public Protector; the Human Rights Commission; the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; the Commission for Gender Equality; the Auditor-General and the Electoral Commission.