Government of South Africa

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The Republic of South Africa is a constitutional democracy with three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary, operating in a parliamentary system. 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 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 national, provincial and local levels of government all have legislative and executive authority in their own spheres, and are defined in the South African Constitution as "distinctive, interdependent and interrelated".

Operating at both national and provincial levels ("spheres") are advisory bodies drawn from South Africa's traditional leaders. It is a stated intention in the Constitution that the country be run on a system of co-operative governance.

The national government is composed of three inter-connected branches:

All bodies of the South African government are subject to the rule of the Constitution, which is the supreme law in South Africa.


The Houses of Parliament in Cape Town.

The bicameral Parliament of South Africa makes up the legislative branch of the national government. It consists of the National Assembly (the lower house) and the National Council of Provinces (the upper house). The National Assembly consists of 400 members elected by popular vote using a system of party-list proportional representation. Half of the members are elected from parties' provincial lists and the other half from national lists.[vague]

Following the implementation of the new constitution on 3 February 1997 the National Council of Provinces replaced the former Senate with essentially no change in membership and party affiliations, although the new institution's responsibilities have been changed; with the body now having special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities. In ordinary legislation, the two chambers have coordinate powers, but all proposals for appropriating revenue or imposing taxes must be introduced in the National Assembly.

The President is elected by the members of the General Assembly. Upon election the President resigns as an MP and appoints a Cabinet of Ministers from among the members. Ministers however retain their parliamentary seats. The President and the Ministers are responsible to the Parliament, of which they must be elected members. General elections are held at least once every five years. The last general election was held on 7 May 2014.[1]


The Union Buildings, the seat of the national executive

The President, Deputy President and the Ministers make up the executive branch of the national government. Ministers are Members of Parliament who are appointed by the President to head the various departments of the national government. The president is elected by parliament from its members. The ministers individually, and the Cabinet collectively, are accountable to Parliament for their actions.


Each minister is responsible for one or more departments, and some ministers have a deputy minister to whom they delegate some responsibility. The portfolios, incumbent ministers and deputies, and departments are shown in the following table.

Portfolio Minister Deputy Minister(s) Department(s)
President of South Africa Jacob Zuma - -
Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa - -
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe - NPC
Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu - -
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana Bheki Cele Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa Rejoice Mabudafhasi Arts and Culture, National Archives and Records Service
Basic Education Angie Motshekga Enver Surty Basic Education
Communications Faith Muthambi Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams ICASA, SABC, GCIS, Brand SA, MDDA
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan Andries Nel
Obed Bapela
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula Kebby Maphatsoe Defence, Military Veterans, Armscor
Economic Development Ebrahim Patel Madala Masuku Economic Development
Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson Thembi Majola Energy, NECSA
Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa Barbara Thomson Environmental Affairs
Finance Nhlanhla Nene Mcebisi Jonas Treasury, Stats SA
Health Aaron Motsoaledi Joe Phaahla Health
Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande Mduduzi Manana Higher Education and Training, NRF
Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba Fatima Chohan Home Affairs
Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu Zoe Kota-Hendricks Human Settlements
International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane Noma-India Mfeketho, Lluwelyn Landers International Relations and Cooperation
Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha John Jeffery,Thabang Makwetla Justice and Constitutional Development, Correctional Services, NPA, SALRC
Labour Mildred Oliphant Inkosi Patekile Holomisa Labour
Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramathlodi Godfrey Oliphant Mineral Resources
Police Nkosinathi Nhleko Maggie Sotyu Police, IPID
Public Enterprises Lynne Brown Gratitude Magwanishe Public Enterprises
Public Service and Administration Collins Chabane Ayanda Dlodlo Public Service and Administration, PSC, PALAMA
Public Works Thulas Nxesi Jeremy Cronin Public Works
Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti Mcebisi Skwatsha, Candith Mashego-Dlamini Rural Development and Land Reform
Science and Technology Naledi Pandor Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi Science and Technology, CSIR, HSRC, SANSA
Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu Elizabeth Thabethe Small Business Development
Social Development Bathabile Dlamini Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu Social Development
Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula Gert Oosthuizen Sport and Recreation
State Security David Mahlobo Ellen Molekane State Security, NICOC
Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele Hlengiwe Mkhize Telecommunications and Postal Services, Post Office, Sentech, ZADNA
Tourism Derek Hanekom Thokozile Xasa Tourism
Trade and Industry Rob Davies Mzwandile Masina Trade and Industry
Transport Dipuo Peters Sindiswe Chikunga Transport, ACSA, CAA, PRASA, SAMSA, SANRAL
Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane Pam Tshwete Water Affairs


The third branch of the national government is an independent judiciary. The judicial branch interprets the laws, using as a basis the laws as enacted and explanatory statements made in the Legislature during the enactment. The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law and accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations. The constitution's bill of rights provides for due process including the right to a fair, public trial within a reasonable time of being charged and the right to appeal to a higher court. To achieve this, there are four major tiers of courts:

  • Magistrates' Courts – The court where civil cases involving less than R100 000, and cases involving minor crimes, are heard.
  • High Courts – The court of appeal for cases from the magistrates courts, as well as the court where major civil and criminal cases are first heard.
  • Supreme Court of Appeal – The final court of appeal for matters not pertaining to the constitution.
  • Constitutional Court – The final court of appeal for matters related to the constitution

In addition provision is made in the constitution for other courts established by or recognized in terms of an Act of Parliament.

Provincial government[edit]

The provincial governments of the nine provinces of South Africa have their own executive and legislative branches, but no separate judicial systems. In each province the legislative branch consists of a provincial legislature, varying in size from 30 to 80 members, which is elected through party-list proportional representation. The legislature elects one of its members as Premier to lead the executive branch, and the Premier appoints between five and ten members of the legislature as an executive council (a cabinet) to lead the various departments of the provincial government.

Local government[edit]


In each legislative body, the party or coalition of parties holding a majority of seats forms the government. The largest party not in the government is recognized as the official opposition.


External links[edit]