Freedom in the World
You are here
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
South Africa successfully hosted soccer’s 2010 World Cup tournament despite concerns about criminal violence and the rule of law. In keeping with a recent trend, there were a number of threats to freedom of the press during the year, including proposed legislation for a statutory media council and a set of potentially wide-ranging regulations on the publication of “sensitive” information. In August, public-sector workers staged a massive, three-week strike that shut down schools and hospitals throughout the country.
In 1910, the Union of South Africa was created as a self-governing dominion of the British Empire. The Afrikaner-dominated National Party (NP) came to power in 1948 on a platform of institutionalized racial separation, or “apartheid,” that was designed to maintain white minority rule. Partly as a result, South Africa declared formal independence in 1961 and withdrew from the Commonwealth. The NP went on to govern South Africa under the apartheid system for decades. Mounting domestic and international pressure prompted President F. W. de Klerk to legalize the antiapartheid African National Congress (ANC) and release ANC leader Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990. Between then and 1994, when the first multiracial elections were held, almost all apartheid-related legislation was abolished, and an interim constitution was negotiated and enacted.
South Africa is an electoral democracy with a bicameral Parliament. 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.