South Africa’s contemporary political climate reflects both, the cultural diversity of the population as well as the complexity of the socio-economic and historical relations of the populace.
Post-Apartheid South Africa could be seen as an experiment in the forging of a new political unit; the Apartheid era’s institutionalised and legally entrenched polarisation of South African society into two racially defined, antagonistic and opposed polities, is, however, still painfully evident in the economic inequalities and spatial divisions so pervasive in South African society.
The challenge of the “new” South Africa extends far beyond the conciliatory efforts of, particularly, the transition-period leaders of the African National Congress, into the critical need to address the continuing effects of Apartheid laws, growing poverty, inadequate education, and a lack of delivery on basic services (electricity, water, waste management systems, municipal services, etc.) to the majority of the country’s populace.
Another concern contesting the integrity of the ANC leadership is the corruption inherent in too many government controlled tender contracts, and government departmental financial irregularities.
The recently parliament-passed Protection of State Information Bill has also attracted the disdain of the South African public, media, and human rights activists alike. The bill replaces the 1982 Act which made provisions to protect information regarded as important to the maintaining of national security, and replaces it with what commentators fear will act as a means to censor the information to which the public will have access. In a telling, if somewhat symbolic scene, the body of media representatives who left the parliamentary proceedings after the bill was passed were heckled by triumphant ANC members on their way out.
Despite the unpopularity of the recent information bill, the ANC remains South Africa’s most supported political party, and can be seen to be central to the maintenance of peaceful relations between the differing racial groups (specifically between the white and black ethnicities), the unprecedented growth of the national economy, and its many initiatives to develop previously disadvantaged peoples and communities.
Furthermore, the leadership of the ANC was, undoubtedly, of key importance in South Africa’s transition to the liberal, human rights orientated constitution that South Africans enjoy today: South Africa’s constitution has been hailed as the most progressive and liberal in the world (truly an achievement of which the nation can be proud).
The focus of the party’s current executive leadership has been on the continuing and sustainable growth of the national economy, which was somewhat cushioned from the economic recession of 2009 by reserve funds held by the South African Reserve Bank. South Africa is currently included, along with China, Brazil and India, in group of nations with emerging economies collectively known as BSIC (pronounced “basic”).
In addition, the country is the foremost member of SADC (the Southern African Development Community), an inter-governmental organisation formed to further social co-operation and integration amongst its 15 member states, as well as create political and security co-operation in the southern African region. The 15 SADC member states include: Angola, Botswana (the SADC headquarters are housed in Gaborone), DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and the embattled Zimbabwe. SADC was conceived to work as a local complement to the African Union. For more information about the SADC initiative, check out the great deals at a reputable online bookstore.
South Africa is the largest economy in Africa, with a total GDP of USD 524 Billion (purchasing power parity), and only 3 other SADC members are included in the continent’s top 20 economies list. Despite this achievement, however, an ever increasing threat to the stability which South Africa has enjoyed since the dismantling of Apartheid and the inception of democracy is the climbing unemployment rate (currently as high as 25%-30%).
Government corruption, unemployment, poverty and a lack of service delivery have already been the precipitating factors in civil unrest and violent protests. Jobs in South Africa, their creation and sustainability, are a focus of the ruling party and could be seen as the most crucial area threatening the stability of the economy and country as a whole.