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Civics Academy - South Africa

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Aiming to inform and to strengthen democratic values and responsible citizenship. Civics Academy covers educational content related to democracy, governance, elections, political parties, the justice system, the Constitution, economics, civil society, human rights and the environment.


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Why do we have the Separation of Powers?
Democratic government is characterised by the separation of powers.There are ‘checks and balances’ within our political system that limit the power of each branch in order to prevent the abuse of power. This system divides the state into three branches – the legislative, executive and judicial branch – and gives each the power to fulfill different tasks. These branches are also known as the ‘organs of government’. Tasks are assigned to the different branches and their institutions in such a way that each of them can check the exercise of powers by the others. As a result, no one branch or institution can become so powerful as to control the system completely.The separation of powers is important because it provides a vital system of ‘checks and balances’: Firstly, it ensures that the different branches control each other. This is intended to make them accountable to each other – these are the ‘checks’; Secondly, the separation of powers divides power between the different branches of government – these are the ‘balances’. Balance aims to ensure that no individual or group of people in government is ‘all powerful’. Power is shared and not concentrated in one branch.That is why we also often refer to the ‘separation and balance of powers’. The main purpose of the separation of powers is therefore to prevent the abuse of power.
What is the Legislature?
The legislature (Parliament) is the representative of the people of South Africa. It consists of two Houses: the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Parliament creates, amends or repeals laws, and monitors the executive.The 400 plus 90 representatives are given their mandates through elections, and vote on issues of national importance in Parliament. The proportional representation of different political parties in Parliament ensures that a diversity of opinions and interests can be represented.Parliament is responsible for passing laws and for holding the executive branch of government accountable. The power of Parliament is limited by the Constitution, and a two-thirds majority of votes in the National Assembly is needed for a constitutional amendment.Through its work, the Parliament is tasked to make sure that the interests of the people of South Africa are represented in all its diversity.
What are free and fair elections?
Elections are a central feature of democracy. For elections to express the will of the electorate, they must be ‘free and fair’.‘Free’ means that all those entitled to vote have the right to be registered and to vote and must be free to make their choice. In South Africa every citizen over the age of 18 is entitled to vote. An election is considered ‘free’ when you can decide whether or not to vote and vote freely for the candidate or party of your choice without fear or intimidation. A ‘free’ election is also one where you are confident that who you vote for remains your secret.‘Fair’ means that all registered political parties have an equal right to contest the elections, campaign for voter support and hold meetings and rallies. This gives them a fair chance to convince voters to vote for them. A fair election is also one in which all voters have an equal opportunity to register, where all votes are counted, and where the announced results reflect the actual vote totals.

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    Podcast Details
    Feb 5th, 2018
    Latest Episode
    Feb 5th, 2018
    No. of Episodes
    Avg. Episode Length
    7 minutes

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