Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Jacob Zuma, head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, faced renewed corruption charges in January 2009, but prosecutors dropped the case just before national elections in April. The ANC easily won the vote despite competition from a splinter party that had formed in 2008, and Zuma was elected president by the new National Assembly. Also during the year, residents intensified demonstrations to protest the government’s slow delivery of public services including electricity, water, and housing.
Some 5.5 million South Africans, about 11 percent of the population, are infected with HIV/AIDS. A 2008 Harvard University study claimed that 330,000 people had died between 2000 and 2005 as a result of the Mbeki government’s skepticism about the link between HIV and AIDS, and the disease caused average life expectancy to drop from 62 in 1990 to 50 in 2007. While state-funded access to antiretroviral drugs expanded rapidly in 2008, it slowed in 2009. In September, the AIDS Law Project reported that 40 percent of HIV-positive South Africans were not receiving treatment.
South Africa is an electoral democracy. Elections for the 400-seat National Assembly are determined by party-list proportional representation, and the 90 members of the National Council of Provinces are selected by the provincial legislatures. The National Assembly elects the president to serve concurrently with its five-year term.