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Government and policies of South Africa

The Republic of South Africa has a central government and nine provincially based governments. Executive leadership is in the person of the president, elected by the National Assembly, which in turn is elected by proportional representation, with the National Council of Provinces representing South Africa’s nine regions.


Both the parliament and the president are elected for five-year terms, the last general election being in April 2004. South Africa’s head of state is by law only allowed to serve two terms, with the present incumbent, President Thabo Mbeki, now into his second term.

South Africa has a separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

It has a bicameral parliament: the ninety members of the National Council of Provinces (the upper house); and the four hundred members of the National Assembly (the lower house). Members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation: half of the members are elected from national lists and half are elected from provincial lists.

The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, which are responsible for drafting the laws of the republic. The National Assembly also has specific control over bills relating to monetary matters.

The current 400-member National Assembly was retained under the 1997 constitution, although the constitution allows for a range of between 350 and 400 members. The Assembly is elected by a system of "list proportional representation." Each of the parties appearing on the ballot submits a rank-ordered list of candidates. The voters then cast their ballots for a party.

Ten members are elected to represent each province in the National Council of Provinces, regardless of the population of the province. Elections for both chambers are held every five years. The government is formed in the lower house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President.

Last Updated on Monday 4th August 2008