Final Paper: South Africa
South Africa is a country that has seen both major setbacks and major improvements over the years. To look at and compare the past legal system to the current, a history of arpatheid, how human rights laws have evolved, we will see how these things have effected and changed business in South Africa.
South Africa was declared an independent state in 1934 by the parliament. A few years later, in the 1940s, South Africa began to go through the period of apartheid. Apartheid is basically racism that was institutionalized due to apartheid laws being passed, including the prohibition of bi-racial marriages and various segregating and discriminating laws. There were even such laws that determined jobs as a “white person job”. This led to whites dominating business in South Africa. An article states, “In 1994, the giant, mining-based Anglo American controlled 44% of the entire capitalisation of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, whilst the top five corporate groups together controlled 84% (Natrass & Seekings).” Poverty and unequal income distribution were also a direct result of apartheid.
Although the period of apartheid ended in 1994, the consequences of it still remain. Specifically, in the business and economic aspect, the inequality that was so intense during the period of apartheid can still be seen today. Such institutionalized racism has left the country divided. Nonwhites were deprived of educations and well-paying jobs for nearly 46 years. This has left the country economically divided.
After hearing about apartheid laws, one may now think they can make an assumption of which legal system South Africa follows. As a country, South Africa does not follow only common law or only civil law. They follow what is called a mixed legal system. This legal systems combines both the codified way of civil law, and the people-based common law.
In 1994, with Nelson Mandel’s election and South Africa’s transition into a democracy, the period of apartheid ended. It was at this time also that South Africa’s human rights improved as well. An article states, “It was only when South Africa became a constitutional democracy in 1994 that those human rights of all South Africans, as expressed in the Freedom Charter, finally received protection in our Bill of Rights ().” The Freedom Charter is a document formed by the African National Party that outlines human rights that had been previously violated. This later became the Bill of Rights.
Although there has been major improvements in South Africa, especially since the end of apartheid, their economy is still relatively unstable. Poverty remains an issue for South Africa. Discrimination, classism, and racism are still alive and well in South Africa today. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president from 1999-2008 paints the picture of South Africa as a divided country, “One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal… The second and larger nation… is black and poor, with the worst-affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general, and the disabled.”
My opinion is that the country of South Africa will continue to suffer the blows from such a devastating and impactful period such as apartheid for years and years to come. Conducting business and investing in South Africa right now would not be a smart move. It is a country that is growing up, therefore the business climate is murky. Growth in business and investment will become apparent once human rights and equality are better attained for the country of South Africa.