South Africa is a federal republic. Until 1994 it was governed by the white minority with minimal mixed-race and Asian representation and virtually no black representation. In Apr., 1994, the country became a fully multiracial democracy, under an interim constitution; a permanent constitution was adopted in 1996. It provides for a strong central government headed by a president, who is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term and serves as both the head of state and head of government. The bicameral Parliament consists of a 400-member National Assembly, which is elected by proportional representation, and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces, which is elected by the provincial legislatures. Legislators serve five-year terms. The constitution contains an extensive bill of rights and provides for an independent judiciary; the Constitutional Court is the highest court of appeal. The leading political parties are the African National Congress, the predominantly white Democratic Alliance, and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom party. Administratively, the country is divided into nine provinces. Provinces are given exclusive powers in only a few areas, such as roads and recreation.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.