South Africa; a brief overview

The county we officially call the Republic of South Africa, or Azania as it is also unofficially known, is a multicultural nation of much historical importance to our people, as well as to the international community, historians, and anthropologists. Our multiculturalism has inspired many world leaders and our first democratically elected President is an inspiration to humanity. Nelson Mandela’s legacy is one of unity, of forgiveness and of progress.

It was as a result of Nelson Mandela and that of his administration’s leadership that the LGBT members of South Africa were finally afforded the right to marry and exist without fear of persecution despite ongoing hate crimes against this section of the population in the country. Indeed South Africa managed to achieve remarkable advances in turning South Africa from an oppressive, segregated state to one of freedom and unity. We have much to be proud of, but probably as much to worry about.

The Republic of South Africa is comprised of (at time of writing) nine provinces, 52 districts, and 278 municipalities (of which 8 are large metropolitan municipalities) and is home to 11 official languages. The current President is Cyril Ramaphosa. It is the home of the Khoi-San, South Africa’s first nation.

South Africa was the original home of the Khoi-San people until the appearance of the Bantu people in modern Limpopo Province. It is said the Bantu people moved further south into the country assimilating much of the Khoi-San people over time. Later Europeans would come to colonise southern Africa. Dutch colonists settled in Cape Town shortly followed by the British Empire who wasted no time in setting up their own colonies in modern KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape.

Tshwane/Pretoria is considered the capital of South Africa although the Republic has three official capitals. Pretoria serves as the executive capital, Cape Town the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein/Manguang is the judicial capital. The countries major economic hub and largest city is Johannesburg, which is also home to South Africa’s stock exchange, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

Tshwane Cape TownManguang

South Africa’s electoral system is governed by party-list Proportional Representation and overseen by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The only exception to Proportional Representation is within the municipal election where a mixed-member system is employed. This means that a ward Councillor is elected together with party-list candidates. Proportional Representation determines the representation of political parties proportional to their electoral support; one wo/man, one vote.

Elections in South Africa occur on a five year cycle basis. Local government elections take place two years after a general election. Citizens can register with the IEC at age 16, but may only legally vote at age 18. Voters are encouraged to vote for the party of their choice and throughout South Africa’s young democracy there have been a number of party choices.

All that became South Africa’s current democracy was a product of the post 1994 transition ushered in by Nelson Mandela. While it is true that elections was common practice in minority governed apartheid South Africa, the processes were segregated thus undemocratic. General elections would determine the so-called tricameral parliament, which was nothing more than an attempt to partially include the Indian and Coloured populations while reserving all meaningful power for the all white ‘House of Assembly’. Contrary to an attempt (if there was any real attempt) of unity, it was just another symbol of established segregation.

The very first election in South Africa was held in 1910, which was won by the South African Party. From its inception as an independent Union from the British Empire to its transformation into a free Republic beyond 1994, South Africa has been lead by a total of four parties, namely: 1. South African Party, 2. United Party, 3. National Party, 4. African National Congress. All of these parties, with the exception of the currently ruling ANC, have served as the opposition and/or merged with other parties in their life time.

South Africa has been represented by three flags since 1910. The flag that had represented South Africa from 1928 to 1994 became associated with the country’s past racial segregation policy of apartheid post-1994. The ‘old flag’ is thus controversial in the all-inclusive, democratic South Africa and its display in public is often met with outrage from all sectors of South African society. The current flag, officially adopted in 1994, is the only flag to represent all the people of the country. In the early nineties it was the only official national flag to make use of six colours.

South Africa is home to spectacular natural sites and wildlife reserves such as the Kruger National and Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Parks. Famous geological land-forms include the Drakensburg mountain range and Table Mountain – an iconic flat top mountain around which the cosmopolitan metro City of Cape Town was built.

The Cradle of Humankind, A paleoanthropological discovery of great significance was made in South Africa. The site is located in the Gauteng Province and is a World Heritage Site. A visitors centre was established by former President Thabo Mbeki.

While South Africa is a country of many achievements it has not been without its share of challenges such as electricity shortages, high crime and murder rates, xenophobic violence, government corruption and land disputes. South Africa is also one of the world’s most water scarce countries.

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