Since the beginning of the 1990s, South
Africa has moved from a system where the majority of the
country's population lacked the right to vote to become
a full-fledged democracy with a constitution that
guarantees human rights and emphasizes everyone's
equality before the law. For over twenty years, the
previously banned African National Congress (ANC) has
ruled, leading the blacks' struggle against apartheid.
During the apartheid period from 1948 until the early
1990s, blacks lacked full representation. In 1984, a
three-chamber parliament was introduced for whites,
colored and Indians, but the blacks remained outside.
After the abolition of apartheid, a temporary
constitution was introduced that gave all adults the
right to vote, paving the way for elections to South
Africa's first democratic parliament, which opened in
Total population and chart of South Africa for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The President is appointed by Parliament for a
five-year term and may be re-elected at most once. The
president appoints the ministers, leads the government's
work and is commander-in-chief. He or she may be deposed
by a motion of no confidence or court procedure.
Legislative power is held by Parliament's two
chambers - the National Assembly and
the National Provincial Council. The
National Assembly's 400 members are elected in general
elections every five years according to a proportional
electoral system. The provincial council's 90 members
are appointed by the provincial legislative assemblies
(see below). The task of the Provincial Council is to
decide on the laws adopted in the National Assembly.
In order to vote, you must be at least 18 years of
age and register several months before the election.
Voting has declined significantly since the first
democratic elections in 1994, when 85 percent of the
adult population went to the polls. The reduced tendency
to vote can be interpreted as disappointing in the
development (see Current policy). Opinion polls show
that voting for a party other than the ANC, in
particular among the black population, is a big step and
many would rather vote.
Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds
majority of the National Assembly. To change the
constitutional declaration of human rights requires a
South Africa is divided into nine provinces. Each
province has a legislative assembly of 30 to 100
members, depending on the size of the population.
Provincial elections are held every five years. At the
municipal level, there are 278 councils, whose members
are appointed in separate elections.
The judiciary has an independent position. A
constitutional court with eleven members shall supervise
that the executive, legislative and judicial power
comply with the constitution. There is also a Supreme
South Africa's dominant political party is the
African National Congress (African
National Congress, ANC), which has held
government power since the mid-1990s. The party was at
the top of the 2004 election when almost 70 percent of
all South Africans voted for the ANC. Since then, the
ANC has lost ground. In 2019, the ANC received 57.5
percent of the vote - the party's worst result to date.
However, this was enough for the ANC to retain its
majority in Parliament.
The ANC was formed in 1912, was given the name ANC in
1923 and demanded the right to vote and other political
rights for the blacks. In the 1950s, ANC led mass
protests against the apartheid system. In 1960 the ANC
was banned and after a police massacre of protesters the
same year (see Modern history), the principle of
non-violence was abandoned. In 1964, Nelson Mandela and
other leading ANC members were sentenced to life
imprisonment. In the 1960s, the ANC expanded its
cooperation with the South African Communist Party (SACP),
which had white members. Non-Africans subsequently
became members of the ANC. The ban on the ANC was lifted
in 1990, Mandela was released and the party by far won
the country's first democratic elections in 1994.
Mandela was then elected by parliament to the country's
At the beginning of the 1990s, the ANC formed an
alliance with the Communist Party and the trade union
movement Cosatu (Congress of South
African Trade Unions). Thus, the Communists and Cosatu
gained representation and influence in the government,
which also led to tensions. The ANC's more market
economy orientation has been criticized by the others in
The first breakaway from the ANC since the party came
to power, the CCP People's Congress
(Congress of the People, Cope), which
was founded in 2008 by two prominent figures in the ANC.
Cope gained just over seven percent in the 2009 election
but then fell into internal power struggles and has
fallen below one percent in the last two elections.
The Democratic Alliance (Democratic
Alliance, DA), has been the largest
opposition party since 1999 and has power in the Western
Cape Province. The party was formerly called the
Democratic Party (DP) and
brought together the liberal opposition to apartheid
among English-speaking whites. Cape Town Mayor Helen
Zille was elected new party leader for DA in 2007. She
resigned in May 2015 when the party got its first black
leader, Mmusi Maimane. The DA, is often accused of being
a party of whites, despite the fact that white voters
are now a minority and its largest constituency consists
of colored. The party has grown steadily until the 2019
election when it lost a handful of seats (see fact box).
The third largest party since the 2014 elections is
the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters
(EFF) led by Julius Malema. He was
formerly chairman of the ANC Youth League but was kicked
out following racist statements and harsh criticism of
the party leadership. Among other things, the EFF wants
state mines and agricultural land, as well as conduct a
tougher policy against the country's white population.
The 2019 election was a great success for the EFF, which
almost doubled its number of seats in Parliament (see
Inkatha's Freedom Party (Inkatha
Freedom Party, IFP) was originally a
cultural movement for Zulus formed in 1922. The movement
was registered as a political organization in 1975 under
the leadership of Mangosuthu Buthelezi, head of
government in the so-called homeland of KwaZulu (see
Modern history). A violent and deadly political fight
was fought between Inkatha and the ANC, who considered
Buthelezi to be a failure to fight apartheid. At least
15,000 people lost their lives in clashes between the
ANC and Inkatha. Inkatha has gradually weakened and
received only ten seats in the 2014 elections but
strengthened its position slightly in the 2019 elections
when it came in fourth place.
Another party that has strengthened its position is
the conservative Freedom Front Plus (Vryheidsfront
Plus, VF +) which was founded in 1994.
The party mainly attracts white voters and strives to
protect the rights of the African-speaking people. The
party opposes reforms to give blacks more power and
opposes a redistribution of land from white landowners
to blacks. In the 2019 election, the Freedom Front came
in fifth place after Inkatha.