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


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]

Local government in South Africa consists of municipalities of various types. The largest metropolitan areas are governed by metropolitan municipalities, while the rest of the country[2] is divided into district municipalities, each of which consists of several local municipalities. After the municipal election of 18 May 2011 there were eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and 226 local municipalities.[3]

Municipalities are governed by municipal councils which are elected every five years. The councils of metropolitan and local municipalities are elected by a system of mixed-member proportional representation, while the councils of district municipalities are partly elected by proportional representation and partly appointed by the councils of the constituent local municipalities.[4]


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.


  1. ^
  2. ^ With the exception of the Prince Edward Islands, although they are for certain legal purposes deemed to fall within the City of Cape Town.
  3. ^ "Municipal elections: fact file". Media Club South Africa. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Understanding Local Government". Community Organisers Toolbox. Education and Training Unit. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 

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