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South Africa: Current Issues and U.S. Relations

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Congressional rept.

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Over a decade after the South African majority gained its independence from white minority rule under apartheid, the Republic of South Africa is firmly established as a regional superpower and is considered to be one of the United States two strategic partners on the continent, along with Nigeria. With Africas largest Gross Domestic Product GDP and a government eager to play an active role in the promotion of regional peace and stability, South Africa is poised to have a substantial impact on the economic and political future of Africa. South Africa, twice the size of Texas, has a population of 44 million, of which about 79 is African and 10 white, and a diverse economy. The South African political system is regarded as stable, but it faces serious long-term challenges arising from poverty, unemployment, and the AIDS epidemic. The September 2008 resignation of President Thabo Mbeki, replaced by interim President Kgalema Motlanthe, is not expected to result in major policy changes prior to the 2009 elections. The African National Congress ANC, which led the struggle against apartheid, continues to dominate the political scene, controlling the presidency, over two-thirds of the National Assembly, all nine provinces, and five of the nations six largest cities. The Congress of South African Trade Unions COSATU and the South African Communist Party, key ANC partners, have been critical of the Mbeki government, arguing that its policies have increased unemployment and failed to respond adequately to the HIVAIDS epidemic. U.S. relations with South Africa are cordial, and South Africa has benefited from export opportunities offered under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. However, the U.S. and South African administrations have expressed differences with respect to the situations in Zimbabwe, Iran, and Iraq, and over South African positions while it served on the UN Security Council.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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