South Africa’s Constitution was the result of remarkably detailed and inclusive negotiations – difficult but determined – that were carried out with an acute awareness of the injustices of the country’s non-democratic past.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the country. No other law or government action may supersede its provisions. The Preamble to the Constitution states that its aims are to:
- heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights
- improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person
- lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law
- build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
Government consists of national, provincial and local spheres. The powers of the legislature, executive and courts are separate.
Parliament consists of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Parliamentary sittings are open to the public. Several measures have been implemented to make Parliament more accessible and accountable. The National Assembly consists of no fewer than 350 and no more than 400 members, elected through a system of proportional representation for a five-year term. It elects the President and scrutinises the executive.
National Council of Provinces
The NCOP consists of 54 permanent members and 36 special delegates, and aims to represent provincial interests in the national sphere of government.
The President is the head of state and leads the Cabinet. He or she is elected by the National Assembly from among its members, and leads the country in the interest of national unity, in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
The Deputy President
The President appoints the Deputy President from among the members of the National Assembly.
Cabinet consists of the President, as head of the Cabinet, the Deputy President and ministers. The President appoints the Deputy President and ministers, assigns their powers and functions and may dismiss them. No more than two ministers may be appointed from outside the National Assembly.
Each of the nine provinces has its own legislature of 30 to 80 members. They elect the Premier who heads the Executive Council.
Provinces may have legislative and executive powers concurrently with the national sphere, over:
- casinos, horse racing and gambling
- cultural affairs
- education at all levels, except university and university of technology education
- environment and nature conservation
- health, housing and welfare
- language policy
- police services, public transport, traffic regulation and vehicle
- regional planning and development and urban and rural development
Provinces are also responsible for promoting trade, investment and tourism. They have exclusive competency over:
- ambulance services
- liquor licences
- museums other than national museums
- provincial planning
- provincial cultural matters
- provincial recreation
- provincial roads and traffic
Local governments are not merely instruments of service delivery, but are expected to act as key agents for economic development.
There are 283 municipalities focused on growing local economies and providing infrastructure and services. The Constitution provides for three categories of municipalities:
- metropolitan municipalities
- local municipalities
- district areas or municipalities
South Africa has nine metropolitan municipalities, namely:
- Buffalo City (East London)
- City of Cape Town
- Elurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (East Rand)
- City of eThekwini (Durban)
- City of Johannesburg
- Mangaung Municipality (Bloemfontein)
- Msunduzi Municipality (Pietermaritzburg)
- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (Port Elizabeth)
- City of Tshwane (Pretoria)
Municipalities enjoy significant powers to corporatise their services. Legislation provides for them to report on their performance, and for residents to compare this performance with that of other municipalities.
Local Government Strategic Agenda (LGSA) (2006 2011)
The implementation of the LGSA from 2006 onwards was a logical extension of Project Consolidate, initiated in 2004. The three core pillars of the LGSA are:
- mainstreaming hands-on support to local government to improve municipal governance, performance and accountability
- addressing the structure and governance arrangement of the State to better strengthen, support and monitor local government
- refining and strengthening the policy, regulatory and fiscal environment for local government and giving greater attention to the enforcement measures.
The mainstreaming of Project Consolidate into the LGSA saw a total of 1 134 experts deployed to 268 municipalities by August 2008 (Project Consolidate municipalities included). Key partners, such as the Siyenza Manje initiative of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, played a valuable role. Deployed experts provide technical assistance in areas such as engineering, finance, town planning, project management and human-resource development. The involvement of national- and provincial-sector departments in supporting local government has improved. However, professional vacancy rates remain relatively high.
Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG)
The largest infrastructure transfer programme is the MIG, currently administered by the Department of Provincial and Local Government. The MIG has shown strong real growth, averaging 6.4% between 2004/05 and 2006/07. Real growth is projected to accelerate to an average of 21.4% over the medium term. The MIG was introduced in 2004/05 through consolidating various sector infrastructure grants, each administered by different departments, into a single programme. This was intended to make the system of transfers to municipalities simpler, more certain and more supportive of municipal infrastructure priorities. The programme is designed to supplement the capital budgets of municipalities, with a focus on providing basic infrastructure services to the poor, while stimulating job creation over the medium term. MIG funds are distributed to all municipalities, based on a formula that accounts for existing backlogs in service delivery as well as the functions assigned to individual municipalities.
Chapter 11 of the Constitution states that the institution, status and roles of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised, subject to the Constitution. A national department is being established to deal with traditional affairs.
Communicating with the people
The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) is primarily responsible for facilitating communication between government and citizens. A high premium is placed on communication that emphasises direct dialogue, especially with people in disadvantaged areas. The GCIS is responsible for maintaining government’s website (www.gov.za), which includes both an information portal for general information about government and a services portal that is a source of information about all the services offered by national government. The GCIS leads or is involved in various communication partnerships and joint processes, including:
- an intersectoral programme to set up Thusang Service Centres (formerly multi-purpose community centres), providing information about accessing government services, as well as some government services at the centres themselves. In January 2009, 130 Thusong Service Centres were in place and more centres were being established. A strategy for setting up one centre in each of the country’s municipalities by 2014 has been approved.
- the process towards the transformation of the advertising and marketing industry.
- the Imbizo Campaign of direct interaction between government and the public.
The GCIS publishes, among other things, the South African Year-book, the Pocket Guide to South Africa and Vukuzenzele. The following entities report to the GCIS:
- the International Marketing Council (IMC)
- the Media Development and Diversity Agency
International Marketing Council
The IMC of South Africa was established in 2000 as a public-private partnership aimed at creating a positive, united image for South Africa to give the country a strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The IMCs threefold mission is to:
- articulate a brand for South Africa, which positions the country to attract tourism, trade and investment, as well as realise international relations objectives
- establish an integrated approach within government and the private sector towards the international marketing of South Africa
- build national support for Brand South Africa
The Public Service
Government believes that the Public Service exists to create a better life for all. Community development workers (CDWs) are part of governments drive to ensure that service delivery reaches poor and marginalised communities. CDWs act as a bridge between government and citizens, providing information on services, benefits and economic opportunities. They are in a position to inform government of the needs of the people. By March 2008, more than 3 300 CDWs had been deployed in wards across the country. The CDW programme is one of the primary public-sector reform interventions to enhance development and the implementation of the Batho Pele principles, especially access to services.
The CDWs are pivotal in bringing government closer to the people, and in ensuring that community members become directly involved in the delivery of state services. CDWs have primarily helped citizens to gain access to social services and have increasingly provided support to citizens in taking up economic opportunities. By the end of March 2008, the Public Service had 1 204 525 people in its employ (including members of the South African National Defence Force). Of these employees, 63% were attached to the social services sector (health, social development, education and home affairs), followed by 20% in the criminal justice sector.
The Batho Pele (“People First”) policy promotes integrated and seamless service delivery. Various projects are being delivered through Batho Pele. These include:
- the Batho Pele Gateway Portal, maintained by government, to facilitate access to government services and information
- modernising government, for example, through the Centre for Public Service Innovation
- creating new service-delivery mechanisms such as Thusong Service Centres and one-stop centres
- the Government Information Technology Officers’ Council to alert government when and how to intervene to improve service delivery
- active auditing of national and provincial departments’ anti-corruption capabilities by the Public Service Commission.
The Department of Home Affairs has a network of offices in all provinces. Where the establishment of fixed offices is not warranted, mobile offices or units service such areas regularly.
The Population Register is being reproduced, and an associated document-management system will be developed and rolled out gradually. This will consist of a large database, an online document-storage system and a query interface for the retrieval and viewing of electronically stored documentation. The system will reduce processing time for each business transaction, while enhancing information integrity.
The department is responsible for admitting people suitable for immigration, such as skilled workers who are in short supply locally. Applications are particularly encouraged from industrialists and other entrepreneurs who wish to relocate their existing concerns or establish new concerns in South Africa. Those wishing to enter the country as work seekers or for study purposes must have the relevant permit, which is issued outside the country.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)
The IEC is a permanent body created by the Constitution to promote and safeguard democracy in South Africa. Although publicly funded and accountable to Parliament, the commission is independent of government. Its immediate task is the impartial management of free and fair elections at all levels of government.
In September 2008, the chairperson of the IEC, Dr Brigalia Bam, unveiled the 2009 general election logo and theme. By September 2008, there were more than 20 million registered voters on the national voters roll. Of these almost 55% were women. The next general election was planned for 22 April 2009.
Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (Palama)
Palama (Sesotho for “ascend”) was opened in August 2008. The academy, which has evolved from the South African Management Development Institute, aims to achieve a massive increase in training courses for managers in the Public Service by involving public-and private-sector educational and training institutions in an expanded training programme. The academy facilitates and co-ordinates the programmes by monitoring and ensuring quality assurance of the training delivered by participating educational and training institutions. The academy is part of the Batho Pele initiative, which aims to get public servants to be service-oriented, to strive for excellence in service delivery and to commit to continuous service-delivery improvement.