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South Africa-Political Elites Trade Unions





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South Africa Index

Although change was evident at all levels of society as South Africa began to dismantle apartheid during the 1990s, particularly dramatic changes were occurring in the country's political and social leadership. Not only were new leaders emerging on the national level, but shifts were also occurring within political organizations, as new political expectations and aspirations arose and as new demands were placed on political leaders at all levels.

Since 1948 the country's governing class, the political elite, had been dominated by Afrikaners. Afrikaners held most high positions in government, including the legislature, the judiciary, the cabinet, and the senior ranks of the military and security services. Afrikaners also came to dominate the larger community of leaders, the power elite, by assuming important roles in the civil service bureaucracy, and to a lesser extent in business, the universities, and the media. Afrikaner dominance was reinforced by the rules of apartheid, in large part because the government's security and intelligence services helped to enforce the rules of apartheid through other institutions.

In general, during the apartheid era, English-speaking whites were less important in the political and power elites. They played only secondary roles in most areas of government. English speakers were, nevertheless, prominent in commerce and industry, where the Afrikaners' success had lagged behind their political achievements, as is explained by Thompson and Prior. By the 1980s, English-speaking whites also held important positions in universities and the media, and in a few areas of government.

In the early 1990s, these political and power elites were evolving, as is demonstrated in the authoritative survey of elites, Who's Who in South African Politics , by the South African writer Shelagh Gastrow. Gastrow divided South Africa's dominant political leaders into four major categories: political leaders within the Afrikaner community, most associated with the NP; an older generation of black opposition leaders, most within the ANC; a younger generation of leaders emerging from the Black Consciousness Movement; and a new group of labor leaders who had risen to prominence as the trade union movement strengthened during the 1970s and 1980s. A fifth category might be added--according to South African political scientist Roger Southall, who reviewed Gastrow's book--the small number of white political leaders who attempted to reshape white politics along nonracial, democratic lines.

A subsequent revised edition of Gastrow's book identified 118 individuals--110 men and only eight women--as constituting South Africa's evolving political elite in 1992. Among the obvious changes occurring at that time was the emergence of formerly imprisoned, exiled, or banned opposition leaders, who had been released from prison or had been legally recognized since early 1990. They could then be legally quoted in the country's media, and their ideas were being widely disseminated. In addition, new challengers arose to replace formerly entrenched leaders, especially conservative blacks, coloureds, and Indians who had gained office through various forms of state patronage in the black homelands or in other institutions of government.

Changes were also occurring within the senior ranks of the organizations from which the country's new leaders had emerged. As the ANC, for example, was forced to cooperate with former opponents, especially the NP, in pursuing national goals, new alliances and friendships were formed, shaped in part by a pragmatic appraisal of the political realities of the time. In addition, former opposition groups--especially the ANC--began to revise their rhetoric from that of guerrilla opponents of government, or "states in exile," to adapt to their new positions of responsibility. The ANC's best educated, skilled technocrats, capable of managing governmental and other bureaucracies, were gaining particular prominence.

At the same time, a greater distance was developing between these educated elites and the less educated rank-and-file within their own organizations. In particular, there was a growing distance between the ANC and its radical youth wing in late 1994 and 1995. There was also a growing distance between the ANC leadership and their former ally, the South African Communist Party (SACP). Ties between these two organizations had not only been close in the past; their membership and leadership rolls had overlapped.

In some cases, the new elites appeared to have more in common with members of rival political organizations than with their organization's own members. Several new government leaders, for example, were drawn from traditional African elites--royal families, chiefs, and influential clans. President Mandela, while a university-trained lawyer, is also a descendant of a leading family among the Thembu (Tembu), a Xhosa subgroup. Like Mandela, the prominent Zulu leader and minister of home affairs, Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi, is university-educated and the product of aristocratic origins. Buthelezi, a member of the Zulu royal family, is also a chief within the Buthelezi sub-group (also, "tribe") of the Zulu.

Other members of South Africa's new government also represent ethnic elites. For example, the minister of public enterprises in 1995, Stella Sigcau, is the daughter of a well-known Pondo paramount chief, Botha Sigcau. Stella Sigcau also had served as chief minister in the Transkei government during the early 1980s.

Many former ANC officials who were in government office in the mid-1990s had worked to overcome factional differences based on ethnicity during the apartheid era. Although the ANC is often stereotyped as "Xhosa-dominated," and a number of its officers are Xhosa, several ethnic groups have been represented in the ANC's senior ranks. Thomas Nkobi, treasurer general from 1973 through the early 1990s, represents a subgroup within the Zimbabwe-based Shona people. Former Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa and National Working Committee member Sydney Mufamadi are Venda (VaVenda--see Ethnic Groups and Language, ch. 2). Ramaphosa's former deputy, Jacob Zuma, is one of several Zulu leaders who rose to prominence within the ANC. The ANC's former security and intelligence specialist, Patrick "Terror" Lekota, and former MK leader Joe Modise are Sotho (BaSotho). Several popular regional leaders are Tswana (BaTswana). In general, these leaders have rejected arguments that favored the use of ethnicity to define political factions.

Age differences appeared more divisive than ethnicity within the ANC during the early and the mid-1990s. There were heated debates over questions of political succession, as the ANC's aging leaders--many over the age of seventy--faced challenges from the generations below them. Nelson Mandela was seventy-five years old when he was elected president in 1994, and several other ANC leaders were more than seventy years of age. Their most likely successors--especially Mbeki, Ramaphosa, Zuma, and the ANC's former director of intelligence, "Mac" Maharaj--were roughly two decades younger. Some of the ANC's younger militants threatened revolt against senior party figures in the early months of the new government, as their demands for jobs, homes, and improved living standards continued to be unmet. Criticism of the "older generation" was fueled in late 1994 and early 1995, when the president's former wife, Winnie Mandela, clashed with the government and was ousted as a deputy minister, as she championed the grievances of the ANC's militant youth.

As the apartheid system was being dismantled, some members of the Afrikaner elite in government, the civil service, and the security services reacted with impressive flexibility. By adapting quickly to the new environment, many of them not only retained their valued positions in the bureaucracy but also won new respect from former adversaries. As the ANC assumed responsibility for the security establishment, the police, and the intelligence services, ANC leaders were often able to work closely and cooperatively with Afrikaners who had once been so effective in excluding blacks from the political process.

The shift in power and influence among the country's political elites had begun well before the April 1994 elections. An important arena in which this power shift occurred was that of the political negotiations concerning the interim constitution of 1993. During those negotiations, as difficult and unpromising as they sometimes appeared, then-governing whites began, some for the first time, to view their black counterparts as legitimate partners in the decision-making process. At the same time, many black leaders adjusted smoothly to the new climate of political tolerance.

Data as of May 1996

Labor activism dates back to the 1840s, when the first unions were formed. Most major industrial unions were organized after World War I either to support or to oppose racial privileges claimed by whites. Black and communist organizations formed antiapartheid unions to abolish racist policies in the workplace; most proapartheid unions were formed by government forces to support discriminatory labor practices. During the apartheid era, membership in most trade unions was based on race, and until 1979, the government did not recognize black unions or grant them labor law protection. In 1977, for example, out of 172 registered trade unions that were eligible to bargain collectively, eighty-three were white, forty-eight were coloured, and forty-one were open to whites, coloureds, and Asians. Among the proapartheid and all-white unions were the White Workers' Protection Association (Blankewerkersbeskermingsbond), the Mineworkers' Union, and larger coordinating bodies such as the South African Confederation of Labour.

The South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), formed in the early 1950s, became the leader of the antiapartheid struggle in the labor movement. The government often arrested and harassed its leaders for political agitation. During the 1970s, however, the government recognized the need to exert greater control over labor activities and to improve government-union relations. In 1977 it established the Commission of Inquiry into Labour Legislation, headed by Professor Nicolas Wiehahn. The Wiehahn Commission recommended the legalization of black unions, in part to bring labor militants under government control. The government recognized black unions in 1979 and granted them limited collective bargaining rights. In the same year, the government established a National Manpower Commission, with representatives from labor, business, and government, to advise policy makers on labor issues.

During the 1980s, business owners and management organizations, such as the Afrikaner Trade Institute (Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut--AHI), which had represented Afrikaner commercial interests since the 1940s, were forced to negotiate with black labor leaders for the first time. To adapt to the new labor environment, they established the South African Employers' Consultative Committee on Labour Affairs (SACCOLA) to represent the owners in lobbying and collective bargaining sessions.

Black union membership soared during the 1980s. New labor confederations included the nonracial COSATU, which was affiliated with the ANC and the SACP; the PAC-affiliated National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu); and the IFP-affiliated United Workers Union of South Africa (UWUSA). By 1990 COSATU, the largest of these, had more than thirty union affiliates with more than 1 million members.

Efforts to begin dismantling apartheid during the early 1990s meant that union leaders were pressed to represent workers' interests more vigorously in the changing economic environment. Although the largest unions had been strong ANC supporters in the past--and were vital to ANC efforts to mobilize popular demonstrations against apartheid--they began to clash with ANC party officials and with government leaders in 1994 and 1995. Some union members feared that workers' interests would be overlooked in the effort to implement economic development plans in the postapartheid era.

Political Elites

Although change was evident at all levels of society as South Africa began to dismantle apartheid during the 1990s, particularly dramatic changes were occurring in the country's political and social leadership. Not only were new leaders emerging on the national level, but shifts were also occurring within political organizations, as new political expectations and aspirations arose and as new demands were placed on political leaders at all levels.

Since 1948 the country's governing class, the political elite, had been dominated by Afrikaners. Afrikaners held most high positions in government, including the legislature, the judiciary, the cabinet, and the senior ranks of the military and security services. Afrikaners also came to dominate the larger community of leaders, the power elite, by assuming important roles in the civil service bureaucracy, and to a lesser extent in business, the universities, and the media. Afrikaner dominance was reinforced by the rules of apartheid, in large part because the government's security and intelligence services helped to enforce the rules of apartheid through other institutions.

In general, during the apartheid era, English-speaking whites were less important in the political and power elites. They played only secondary roles in most areas of government. English speakers were, nevertheless, prominent in commerce and industry, where the Afrikaners' success had lagged behind their political achievements, as is explained by Thompson and Prior. By the 1980s, English-speaking whites also held important positions in universities and the media, and in a few areas of government.

In the early 1990s, these political and power elites were evolving, as is demonstrated in the authoritative survey of elites, Who's Who in South African Politics , by the South African writer Shelagh Gastrow. Gastrow divided South Africa's dominant political leaders into four major categories: political leaders within the Afrikaner community, most associated with the NP; an older generation of black opposition leaders, most within the ANC; a younger generation of leaders emerging from the Black Consciousness Movement; and a new group of labor leaders who had risen to prominence as the trade union movement strengthened during the 1970s and 1980s. A fifth category might be added--according to South African political scientist Roger Southall, who reviewed Gastrow's book--the small number of white political leaders who attempted to reshape white politics along nonracial, democratic lines.

A subsequent revised edition of Gastrow's book identified 118 individuals--110 men and only eight women--as constituting South Africa's evolving political elite in 1992. Among the obvious changes occurring at that time was the emergence of formerly imprisoned, exiled, or banned opposition leaders, who had been released from prison or had been legally recognized since early 1990. They could then be legally quoted in the country's media, and their ideas were being widely disseminated. In addition, new challengers arose to replace formerly entrenched leaders, especially conservative blacks, coloureds, and Indians who had gained office through various forms of state patronage in the black homelands or in other institutions of government.

Changes were also occurring within the senior ranks of the organizations from which the country's new leaders had emerged. As the ANC, for example, was forced to cooperate with former opponents, especially the NP, in pursuing national goals, new alliances and friendships were formed, shaped in part by a pragmatic appraisal of the political realities of the time. In addition, former opposition groups--especially the ANC--began to revise their rhetoric from that of guerrilla opponents of government, or "states in exile," to adapt to their new positions of responsibility. The ANC's best educated, skilled technocrats, capable of managing governmental and other bureaucracies, were gaining particular prominence.

At the same time, a greater distance was developing between these educated elites and the less educated rank-and-file within their own organizations. In particular, there was a growing distance between the ANC and its radical youth wing in late 1994 and 1995. There was also a growing distance between the ANC leadership and their former ally, the South African Communist Party (SACP). Ties between these two organizations had not only been close in the past; their membership and leadership rolls had overlapped.

In some cases, the new elites appeared to have more in common with members of rival political organizations than with their organization's own members. Several new government leaders, for example, were drawn from traditional African elites--royal families, chiefs, and influential clans. President Mandela, while a university-trained lawyer, is also a descendant of a leading family among the Thembu (Tembu), a Xhosa subgroup. Like Mandela, the prominent Zulu leader and minister of home affairs, Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi, is university-educated and the product of aristocratic origins. Buthelezi, a member of the Zulu royal family, is also a chief within the Buthelezi sub-group (also, "tribe") of the Zulu.

Other members of South Africa's new government also represent ethnic elites. For example, the minister of public enterprises in 1995, Stella Sigcau, is the daughter of a well-known Pondo paramount chief, Botha Sigcau. Stella Sigcau also had served as chief minister in the Transkei government during the early 1980s.

Many former ANC officials who were in government office in the mid-1990s had worked to overcome factional differences based on ethnicity during the apartheid era. Although the ANC is often stereotyped as "Xhosa-dominated," and a number of its officers are Xhosa, several ethnic groups have been represented in the ANC's senior ranks. Thomas Nkobi, treasurer general from 1973 through the early 1990s, represents a subgroup within the Zimbabwe-based Shona people. Former Secretary General Cyril Ramaphosa and National Working Committee member Sydney Mufamadi are Venda (VaVenda--see Ethnic Groups and Language, ch. 2). Ramaphosa's former deputy, Jacob Zuma, is one of several Zulu leaders who rose to prominence within the ANC. The ANC's former security and intelligence specialist, Patrick "Terror" Lekota, and former MK leader Joe Modise are Sotho (BaSotho). Several popular regional leaders are Tswana (BaTswana). In general, these leaders have rejected arguments that favored the use of ethnicity to define political factions.

Age differences appeared more divisive than ethnicity within the ANC during the early and the mid-1990s. There were heated debates over questions of political succession, as the ANC's aging leaders--many over the age of seventy--faced challenges from the generations below them. Nelson Mandela was seventy-five years old when he was elected president in 1994, and several other ANC leaders were more than seventy years of age. Their most likely successors--especially Mbeki, Ramaphosa, Zuma, and the ANC's former director of intelligence, "Mac" Maharaj--were roughly two decades younger. Some of the ANC's younger militants threatened revolt against senior party figures in the early months of the new government, as their demands for jobs, homes, and improved living standards continued to be unmet. Criticism of the "older generation" was fueled in late 1994 and early 1995, when the president's former wife, Winnie Mandela, clashed with the government and was ousted as a deputy minister, as she championed the grievances of the ANC's militant youth.

As the apartheid system was being dismantled, some members of the Afrikaner elite in government, the civil service, and the security services reacted with impressive flexibility. By adapting quickly to the new environment, many of them not only retained their valued positions in the bureaucracy but also won new respect from former adversaries. As the ANC assumed responsibility for the security establishment, the police, and the intelligence services, ANC leaders were often able to work closely and cooperatively with Afrikaners who had once been so effective in excluding blacks from the political process.

The shift in power and influence among the country's political elites had begun well before the April 1994 elections. An important arena in which this power shift occurred was that of the political negotiations concerning the interim constitution of 1993. During those negotiations, as difficult and unpromising as they sometimes appeared, then-governing whites began, some for the first time, to view their black counterparts as legitimate partners in the decision-making process. At the same time, many black leaders adjusted smoothly to the new climate of political tolerance.

Data as of May 1996



BackgroundDutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races - which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa's prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime's eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI resigned, and Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party's General-Secretary, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in April 2009.
LocationSouthern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Area(sq km)total: 1,219,090 sq km
land: 1,214,470 sq km
water: 4,620 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
Geographic coordinates29 00 S, 24 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km

Coastline(km)2,798 km

Climatemostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resourcesgold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use(%)arable land: 12.1%
permanent crops: 0.79%
other: 87.11% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)14,980 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)50 cu km (1990)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 12.5 cu km/yr (31%/6%/63%)
per capita: 264 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsprolonged droughts
Environment - current issueslack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteSouth Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
Population49,052,489
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 28.9% (male 7,093,328/female 7,061,579)
15-64 years: 65.8% (male 16,275,424/female 15,984,181)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 1,075,117/female 1,562,860) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 24.4 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 24.8 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)0.281% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)19.93 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)16.99 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: there is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 61% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.4% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 44.42 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 48.66 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 40.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 48.98 years
male: 49.81 years
female: 48.13 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.38 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: South African(s)
adjective: South African
Ethnic groups(%)black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2001 census)

Religions(%)Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)
Languages(%)IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, other 7.2% (2001 census)

Country nameconventional long form: Republic of South Africa
conventional short form: South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA
Government typerepublic
Capitalname: Pretoria (administrative capital)
geographic coordinates: 25 42 S, 28 13 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
Administrative divisions9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West, Western Cape
Constitution10 December 1996; note - certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996; was signed by then President MANDELA on 10 December 1996; and entered into effect on 4 February 1997

Legal systembased on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Executive Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE (since 11 May 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Executive Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE (since 11 May 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 6 May 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
election results: Jacob ZUMA elected president; National Assembly vote - Jacob ZUMA 277, Mvume DANDALA 47, other 76

Legislative branchbicameral Parliament consisting of the National Council of Provinces (90 seats, 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities) and the National Assembly (400 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms); note - following the implementation of the new constitution on 4 February 1997, the former Senate was disbanded and replaced by the National Council of Provinces with essentially no change in membership and party affiliations, although the new institution's responsibilities have been changed somewhat by the new constitution
elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held on 22 April 2009 (next to be held in April 2014)
election results: National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 65.9%, DA 16.7%, COPE 7.4%, IFP 4.6%, other 5.4%; seats by party - ANC 264, DA 67, COPE 30, IFP 18, other 21

Judicial branchConstitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts

Political pressure groups and leadersCongress of South African Trade Unions or COSATU [Zwelinzima VAVI, general secretary]; South African Communist Party or SACP [Blade NZIMANDE, general secretary]; South African National Civics Organization or SANCO [Mlungisi HLONGWANE, national president]
note: note - COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the ANC
International organization participationACP, AfDB, AU, BIS, C, FAO, G-20, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MONUC, NAM, NSG, OPCW, Paris Club (associate), PCA, SACU, SADC, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Flag descriptiontwo equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band that splits into a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side; the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green band and its arms by narrow white stripes

Economy - overviewSouth Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Growth was robust from 2004 to 2008 as South Africa reaped the benefits of macroeconomic stability and a global commodities boom, but began to slow in the second half of 2008 due to the global financial crisis' impact on commodity prices and demand. However, unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth. At the end of 2007, South Africa began to experience an electricity crisis because state power supplier Eskom suffered supply problems with aged plants, necessitating "load-shedding" cuts to residents and businesses in the major cities. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative but pragmatic, focusing on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus, and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas as a means to increase job growth and household income.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$492.2 billion (2008 est.)
$477.4 billion (2007 est.)
$454.2 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$276.8 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)3.1% (2008 est.)
5.1% (2007 est.)
5.3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$10,100 (2008 est.)
$9,900 (2007 est.)
$9,500 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 3.3%
industry: 33.7%
services: 63% (2008 est.)
Labor force17.79 million economically active (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 9%
industry: 26%
services: 65% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)22.9% (2008 est.)
24.3% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)50% (2000 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 1.3%
highest 10%: 44.7% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index65 (2005)
59.3 (1994)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)23.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $77.43 billion
expenditures: $79.9 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)11.3% (2008 est.)
6.5% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$44.66 billion (31 December 2008)
$58.49 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$124.1 billion (31 December 2008)
$141.9 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$214.8 billion (31 December 2008)
$254.9 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$491.3 billion (31 December 2008)
$833.5 billion (31 December 2007)
$715 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$700 million (2005)

Public debt(% of GDP)31.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
45.9% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productscorn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
Industriesmining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair

Industrial production growth rate(%)1% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$20.98 billion (2008 est.)
-$20.78 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$86.12 billion (2008 est.)
$75.92 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Exports - partners(%)Japan 11.1%, US 11.1%, Germany 8%, UK 6.8%, China 6%, Netherlands 5.2% (2008)
Imports$90.57 billion (2008 est.)
$81.66 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs
Imports - partners(%)Germany 11.2%, China 11.1%, US 7.9%, Saudi Arabia 6.2%, Japan 5.5%, UK 4% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$34.07 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$32.94 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$71.81 billion (31 December 2008)
$75.28 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$120 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$110.4 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$63.57 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$65.88 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesrand (ZAR) per US dollar - 7.9576 (2008 est.), 7.05 (2007), 6.7649 (2006), 6.3593 (2005), 6.4597 (2004)

Currency (code)rand (ZAR)

Telephones - main lines in use4.425 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular45 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 110 telephones per 100 persons; consists of carrier-equipped open-wire lines, coaxial cables, microwave radio relay links, fiber-optic cable, radiotelephone communication stations, and wireless local loops; key centers are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria
international: country code - 27; the SAT-3/WASC and SAFE fiber optic cable systems connect South Africa to Europe and Asia; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean)
Internet country code.za
Internet users4.187 million (2008)
Airports607 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate 11 km; gas 908 km; oil 980 km; refined products 1,379 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 362,099 km
paved: 73,506 km (includes 239 km of expressways)
unpaved: 288,593 km (2002)

Ports and terminalsCape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay
Military branchesSouth African National Defense Force (SANDF): South African Army, South African Navy (SAN), South African Air Force (SAAF), Joint Operations Command, Military Intelligence, South African Military Health Services (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for voluntary military service; women are eligible to serve in noncombat roles; 2-year service obligation (2007)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 11,622,507
females age 16-49: 11,501,537 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 7,641,557
females age 16-49: 6,518,793 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 511,616
female: 510,540 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.7% of GDP (2006)
Military - notewith the end of apartheid and the establishment of majority rule, former military, black homelands forces, and ex-opposition forces were integrated into the South African National Defense Force (SANDF); as of 2003 the integration process was considered complete
Disputes - internationalSouth Africa has placed military along the border to apprehend the thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing economic dysfunction and political persecution; as of January 2007, South Africa also supports large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (33,000), Somalia (20,000), Burundi (6,500), and other states in Africa (26,000); managed dispute with Namibia over the location of the boundary in the Orange River; in 2006, Swazi king advocates resort to ICJ to claim parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from South Africa

Refugees and internally displaced personsrefugees (country of origin): 10,772 (Democratic Republic of Congo); 7,818 (Somalia); 5,759 (Angola) (2007)
Trafficking in personscurrent situation: South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation; women and girls are trafficked internally - and occasionally to European and Asian countries - for sexual exploitation; women from other African countries are trafficked to South Africa and, less frequently, onward to Europe for sexual exploitation; men and boys are trafficked from neighboring countries for forced agricultural labor; Asian and Eastern European women are trafficked to South Africa for debt-bonded sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - South Africa is on the Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year for its failure to show increasing efforts to address trafficking; the government provided inadequate data in 2007 on trafficking crimes investigated or prosecuted, or on resulting convictions or sentences; it also did not provide information on its efforts to protect victims of trafficking; the country continues to deport and/or prosecute suspected foreign victims without providing appropriate protective services (2008)
Electricity - production(kWh)240.3 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 93.5%
hydro: 1.1%
nuclear: 5.5%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)215.1 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)14.16 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)10.57 billion kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)195,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)583,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)128,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)490,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)15 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)3.25 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)6.45 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)27.16 million cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)18.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS5.7 million (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths350,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86.4%
male: 87%
female: 85.7% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2004)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)5.4% of GDP (2006)








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