Cross Cultural Perspectives In South Africa Cultural Studies Essay

LaToya Isley

SOC 315 Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Instructor:  Sharon Methvin

February 25, 2013

South Africa’s Culture

South Africa today is made up of "79% black African, 9.6% white colored, 8.9% colored, and 2.5% Indian/Asian. This country has eleven official languages in South Africa. They are English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Sepedi, Xhosa, Venda, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Zulu, Swazi and Tsonga. (CIA, 2013) It has been occupied by three native cultures in the past. "South African politics and culture is heavily influenced by the country’s past. Its colonial legacy, nationalism, the Apartheid state, and its slow development all influence how South Africans think and behave politically in the current era." (Mislan & Sarkisian, 2012) This paper will discuss its culture’s political system, the problem of violence and HIV in their culture, and explain how the political system and culture affect solutions need for these problems.

South Africa was settled by the English and Dutch in the seventeenth century.  "The finding of diamonds in these lands around 1900 lead to an English attack which started the Boer War. Succeeding liberation from England, an apprehensive power-sharing between the two groups held command until the 1940's, when the Afrikaner National Party was able to gain a strong majority. Strategists in the National Party invented apartheid as a means to strengthen their control over the economic and social system. The enactment of apartheid laws in 1948, racial discrimination was institutionalized." (Hentz, 2005) "Apartheid was a state-enforced, wide-ranging segregation of people according to race. Black Africans and other people of color (mostly Indian immigrants) were required to live in Townships, a cluster of slums separated from South African cities. They were stripped of political rights, turned down for work opportunities, and deprived of basic human rights." (Mislan & Sarkisian, 2012) Race laws included every phase of social life. There was an exclusion of marriage between non-whites and whites, and the sanctioning of ``white-only'' jobs. "In 1950, the Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be racially categorized into one of three categories: white, black (African), or colored (of mixed decent). The colored category included major subgroups of Indians and Asians. Classification into these categories was based on appearance, social acceptance, and descent. " (Hentz, 2005)

"In 1948 the Nationalist Party (NP) rose to power. South Africa was then a democracy within the British Empire, ruled entirely by Whites and based on a nationalist ideology. A political party founded by black Africans known as the South African Native National Congress was formed on 8 January 1912 to surge the rights of the black South African population. " (Mislan & Sarkisian, 2012) "On April 1994, political power in South Africa moved from the white minority government to one elected by all South Africans. This peaceful conversion of power was the direct result of political negotiation between the apartheid government and the former national liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC)" (Albertyn, 2003)

Today the political system is South Africa is a "constitutional democracy with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary. The national, provincial and local levels of government all have legislative and executive authorities in their own spheres, and are defined in the Constitution as "distinctive, interdependent and interrelated". (Hawker, 2000) The president is both the chief of state and head of government. The legislative branch is "bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Council of Provinces (90 seats; 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms)" (CIA, 2013) The South African Parliament is accountable for creating and amending the countries laws in accordance with the Constitution. It consists of two parts, "the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The National Assembly consists of 400 elected representatives who meet at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town, to discussion issues and create legislation. The National Council of Provinces consists of 54 permanent members and 36 special delegates representing the nine provinces. The NCOP represents provincial interests in the national sphere of government." (CIA, 2013) The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was written in 1996 and came into effect on 4 February 1997. This is the highest law in the country and no other law or government action can overrule this Constitution or be in conflict with it. South Africa's Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and is based on the values of dignity, equality and freedom.

The HIV epidemic in South Africa is huge. HIV first appeared in South Africa in the early 1980s, but it didn’t start to spread greatly until the early 1990s. "South Africa has the highest number of people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in the world (5.3 million as of the end of 2003) and is one of the countries hardest hit by the epidemic. Women account for over half (57%) of adults estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa (Jennifer, 2005) The women had to fight for their rights even when they were supposed to be living in a free country. It was people like South Africa’s president Nelson Mandela who wasn’t afraid to address this issue. He stated that "South Africa would not be completely free until "women have been liberated from all forms of oppression." (Albertyn, 2003) Now these women are fighting new battles to live with HIV or to not get infected. "In South Africa, the particular vulnerability of African women is also linked to an apartheid past in which separate development and migrant labor policies damaged the social fabric of African families and communities, and in which social and economic policies of exclusion and dispossession created and reinforced racial poverty and inequality." (Albertyn, 2003) It is very likely that these women's lack of power over their bodies and their sexual lives, reinforced by their social and economic inequality makes them so prone to contracting HIV/AIDS. As a result "it is believed that there are already 420,000 orphans due to HIV/ AIDS in South Africa." (Outwater, Abrahams, & Campbell, 2005)

The lack of economic breaks within those areas forced many Africans to work as migrant laborers. The homelands are occupied by women, children, and old and sickly men who have returned from the mines. Urban townships are where young men and women migrate seeking better opportunities. "In both the homelands and the urban townships, unemployment is high and its ramifications (including crime, illegal firearms, and alcohol abuse) are widespread." (Outwater, Abrahams, & Campbell, 2005) In the South African society violence has become an accepted form of conflict resolution. One of the penalties of decades of apartheid state-sponsored violence and reactive community insurrection is that for many people, physical violence has become a first line strategy for resolving conflict and gaining control. The use of certain forms of violence by men to control and punish women is not uncommon in South Africa. In specific circumstances is observed as socially tolerable to all ages of both sexes. A lot of these women don’t retaliate back to the violence they endure.

Rape plays a big part in the type of violence the women go through. This is a large part of why amount of women with HIV is so high. The women choose to stay and take violent treatment from male partners. Since a lot of them have poor education, the deficiency of job prospects, and financial dependence on men who can provide. This society’s teenage girls are known to have sex early whether it’s agreed by both parties or not. The young women are smiled upon for becoming pregnant by their partners to exhibit love, fertility, and womanhood. The females usually live with a male partner. The males look at some of their relationships as casual and feel its ok to have multiple sex partners. To the males the number of girlfriends was important in reaching a position and status among peers. To them having multiple girl-friends is a suggestion of successful manhood. Even though the women know this some are afraid to ask the males to use condoms and feel they don’t have the right to refuse sex.

Well it’s a good think the political system has changed a lot from the previous years. Otherwise it would be no help for those who weren’t white." Laws in South Africa today are made within an institution that is politically accountable to the black majority." (James, 2004) In the case of the HIV the community and government are looking for ways to inform the people about the epidemic. There need to be some changes in the way the women are being protected from domestic violence. The "new Family Violence Act of 1993 was passed and then implemented as the Domestic Violence Act 1 16 in December 1999. The new Bill on Sexual Offences will ensure that South Africa has one of the most progressive laws regarding violence against women in the world. A network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) addresses domestic violence, including providing shelters for abused women in the major cities and important community-level prevention initiatives." (Outwater, Abrahams, & Campbell, 2005)

South Africa continues to struggle with development issues. The quality of education and public health offered is among the worst in the world. "They still lead the world in gold and diamond exports, although the mines and exporters are mostly foreign-owned entities and take the profits outside the country." (Mislan & Sarkisian, 2012) As you have read above South Africa had come a long ways from apartheid laws being enforced. They have gone through different changes in their political system for the better. It’s not perfect and the country still struggles with things like HIV, violence, and gender inequality. As long they continue to look for ways to improve the people of this country living a solution for the other issues may be found. The making and enforcing new laws is a good step in the right direction.