Check Email | My Account | Contact Us

Search for on the web shopping
Mon, 17 Jun, 2024
contact us
education frontpage
a-z of references
general knowledge
plants & animals

Top links
- Sudoku
- Collectibles
Republic of South Africa
Republiek van Suid-Afrika
Flag of South Africa Coat of arms of South Africa
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: !ke e: ǀxarra ǁke ( /Xam: Unity In Diversity or literally, Diverse People Unite)
Anthem: National anthem of South Africa
Location of South Africa
Capital Cape Town (legislative)
Pretoria (Administrative)
Bloemfontein (Judicial)
33°55′ S 18°25′ E
Largest city Johannesburg
Official language(s) Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, Ndebele, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda
Parliamentary democracy
Thabo Mbeki
From Great Britain
May 31, 1910
• Total

• Water (%)

1,219,912 km² ( 25th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2005 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

44,344,136 ( 26th)

36/km² ( 136th)
• Total
• Per capita
2005 estimate
7,400,000,000 ( 24th)
,900 ( 76th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.658 ( 120th) – medium
Currency Rand ( ZAR)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC+2)
( UTC+2)
Internet TLD .za
Calling code +27
This article is about the country in Africa. For the region, see Southern Africa. For the former country in the Transvaal, see South African Republic.
The Republic of South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of the African continent. It borders the countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. Lesotho is an enclave entirely surrounded by South African territory.South Africa has experienced a significantly different evolution than other nations in Africa arising primarily from two facts: immigration from Europe reached levels not experienced in other African communities and a level of mineralogical wealth that made the country extremely important to Western interests particularly during the Cold War. As a result of the former, South Africa is a very racially diverse nation. It has the largest population of people of Coloured (i.e., mixed racial background), European, and Indian communities in Africa. Black South Africans account for roughly 75% of the population.Racial strife between the white minority and the black majority have played a large part in the country's history and politics, culminating in apartheid which was instituted in 1948 by the National Party. The laws that defined apartheid began to be repealed or abolished in 1990 after a long and violent struggle by the black majority, as well as some White, Coloured, and Indian South Africans.The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'état, and regular elections - albeit, for a small minority of the population -have been held for almost a century; black South Africans were only enfranchised in 1994. The economy of South Africa is the largest and best developed on the continent, with modern infrastructure common throughout the country.South Africa is often referred to as The Rainbow Nation - a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later elaborated upon by then-President Nelson Mandela as a metaphor to describe the country's newly-developing multicultural diversity in the wake of separatist Apartheidist ideology.

Jump to Page Contents

Pay as you go
No monthly charges. Access for the price of a phone call Go>


Flat rate dialup access from only 4.99 a month Go>

Surf faster from just 13.99 a month Go>

Save Even More
Combine your phone and internet, and save on your phone calls
More Info>

This weeks hot offer
24: Series 5 24: Series 5

In association with 26.97


Flora and fauna
International rankings

History - Contents

Painting of an account of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck.
Painting of an account of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck.
Boer women and children in British concentration camps.
Boer women and children in British concentration camps.
South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological sites in Africa. Extensive fossil remains at the Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat caves suggest that various australopithecines existed in South Africa from about three million years ago. These were succeeded by various species of Homo, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus and modern man, Homo sapiens. Bantu iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen moved south of the Limpopo River into modern-day South Africa by the 4th or 5th century (the Bantu expansion). They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southermost group was the Xhosa people, reaching the Fish River, in today's Eastern Cape Province. These Iron Age populations displaced earlier hunter-gatherer peoples as they migrated.The written history of South Africa began on April 6, 1652, when a victualing station was established at the Cape of Good Hope by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the 17th and 18th centuries, the slowly expanding settlement was a Dutch possession. The Dutch settlers eventually met the South-Westerly expanding Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called Cape Frontier Wars, ensued, mainly caused by conflicting land and live-stock interests. To ease Cape labour shortages slaves were imported from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India. Descendants of these slaves, who often married with Dutch settlers, were later classified together with the remnants of the Khoikhoi as Cape Coloureds and " Cape Malays", constituting roughly 50% of the population in the Western Cape Province. Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1797 during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. The Dutch declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1805. The British continued the frontier wars against the AmaXhosa, pushing the eastern frontier eastward through a line of forts established along the Fish River and consolidating it by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament first stopped its global slave trade in 1806, then abolished slavery in all its colonies in 1833.The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886 encouraged economic growth and immigration, intensifying the subjugation of the natives. The Boers successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) basing their tactics much better on local conditions. For example, the Boers wore khaki clothing, which was the same colour as the earth, whereas the British wore bright red uniforms, making them easy targets for Boer sharpshooters. The British returned in greater numbers without their red jackets in the Second Boer War (1899–1902), which was largely opposed by the Liberal Party in the British Parliament. The Boers' attempt to ally themselves with German South West Africa provided the British with yet another excuse to take control of the Boer Republics.The Boers resisted fiercely, but the British eventually overwhelmed the Boer forces, using their superior numbers and external supply chains, as well as the controversial scorched earth tactic. The Treaty of Vereeniging specified full British sovereignty over the South African republics, and the British government agreed to assume the £3,000,000 war debt owed by the Afrikaner governments. One of the main provisions of the treaty ending the war was that blacks would not be allowed to vote, except in the Cape Colony.After four years of negotiations, the Union of South Africa was created from the colonies of Cape Colony, Natal Colony, and the republics of Orange Free State, and Transvaal on May 31, 1910, exactly eight years after the end of the Second Boer War. The newly-created Union of South Africa was a dominion. In 1934 the South African Party and National Parties merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking whites, but split in 1939 over the Union's entry in World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom. The right-wing National Party sympathised with Nazi Germany during the war, and sought greater racial segregation, or apartheid after it.After World War II, by the National Party's takeover in 1948, the white minority were able to maintain their powergrip by implementing the policies that would become known collectively as apartheid, a series of harsh racist laws segregating the country along racial lines. Apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread sanctions and divestment abroad and growing unrest and oppression within South Africa. (See also special section on History of South Africa in the apartheid era.) A long period of harsh supression by the government, and resistance, strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage, by various anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress(ANC) followed. In 1990 National Party government took the first step towards negotiating itself out of power when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other left-wing political organisations, and released Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years. Apartheid legislation was gradually removed from the statute books, and the first multi-racial elections were held in 1994. The ANC won by an overwhelming majority, and has been in power ever since. South Africa is the first, and to date only, country to build nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantle its entire nuclear weapons programme.Despite the end of apartheid, millions of South Africans, mostly black, continue to live in poverty. The reason for this is attributed to the legacy of the apartheid regime and increasingly, what many see as the failure of the current government to tackle social issues. However, the ANC's social housing policy has produced some improvement in living conditions in many areas.

Politics - Contents

The central area of Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa.
The central area of Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa.
South Africa has a bicameral Parliament, comprising the National Council of Provinces (or upper house) with 90 members, and a National Assembly (or lower house) with 400 members. Members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation: half of the members are elected from national lists and half are elected from provincial lists. Ten members are elected to represent each province in the National Council of Provinces, regardless of the population of the province. Elections for both chambers are held every five years. The government is formed in the lower house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President.Current South African politics is dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), which received 69.7% of the vote during the 2004 general election. The main challenger to the ANC's rule is the Democratic Alliance party, which received only 12.4% of the vote. The formerly dominant New National Party, who introduced apartheid through its predecessor, the National Party, has suffered increasing humiliation at election polls since 1994, and finally voted to disband on 9 April 2005.

Provinces - Contents

When apartheid ended in 1994, the South African government had to integrate the formerly independent and semi-independent Bantustans into the political structure of South Africa. To this end, it abolished the four former provinces of South Africa ( Cape Province, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal) and replaced them with nine fully integrated provinces. The new provinces are usually much smaller than the former provinces, which theoretically is in order to give local governments more resources to distribute over smaller areas. The new provinces are:
Province Former Homelands and Provinces Capital Area (km²) Area (mi²) Population (2001)
Eastern Cape Cape Province, Transkei, Ciskei Bisho 169,580 65,475 6,436,761
Free State Orange Free State. QwaQwa Bloemfontein 129,480 49,992 2,706,776
Gauteng Transvaal Johannesburg 17,010 6,568 8,837,172
KwaZulu-Natal Natal. KwaZulu Pietermaritzburg 92,100 35,560 9,426,018
Mpumalanga Transvaal, KwaNdebele, KaNgwane. Bophuthatswana, Lebowa Nelspruit 79,490 30,691 3,122,994
Limpopo Transvaal, Venda. Lebowa, Gazankulu Polokwane 123,900 47,838 5,273,637
Northern Cape Cape Province Kimberley 361,830 139,703 822,726
North West Transvaal, Cape Province, Bophuthatswana Mafikeng 116,320 44,911 3,669,349
Western Cape Cape Province Cape Town 129,370 49,950 4,524,335

Geography - Contents

Map of South Africa
Map of South Africa
South Africa is located at the extreme south of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2,500 kilometres (1,550 mi) and across two oceans (the Atlantic and the Indian). South Africa has a great variety of climate zones, from the extreme desert of the Kalahari near Namibia to lush subtropical climate along the border with Mozambique. It quickly rises over a mountainous escarpment towards the interior plateau known as the Highveld. Even though South Africa is classified as semi-arid, there is considerable variation in climate as well as topography.The interior of South Africa is a giant, mountainous, and sparsely populated scrubland Karoo plateau, which is drier towards the north-west along the Kalahari desert. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well-watered which produces a climate similar to the tropics. The extreme south west has a climate remarkably similar to that of the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers. This area also produces much of South Africa's wine. This region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around the Cape of Good Hope particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east on the country's south coast rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. This area is popularly known as the Garden Route.The Free State is particularly flat due to the fact that the eastern region of the Highveld does not extend as far north as the western region. North the Vaal River, the Highveld becomes better watered and does not experience subtropical extremes of heat. Johannesburg, in the centre of the Highveld, is at 1,740 metres (5,709 ft) and receives an annual rainfall of 760 millimetres (30 in). Winters in this region are cold, although snow is rare.To the north and east of Johannesburg, the altitude drops beyond the Highveld's escarpment, and turns into the Lowveld. The Lowveld has particularly high temperatures, and is also the location of traditional South African Bushveld. The high Drakensberg mountains, which form the eastern escarpment of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities in winter. The coldest place in South Africa is Sutherland in the western Roggeveld Mountains, where midwinter temperatures can reach as low as –15 degrees Celsius (5 ° F). The deep interior has the hottest temperatures: A temperature of 51.7 °C (125 °F) was recorded in 1948 in the Northern Cape Kalahari near Upington. [1]South Africa also has one possession, the small sub-antarctic archipelago of the Prince Edward Islands, consisting of Marion Island (290 km²/112 mi²) and Prince Edward Island (45 km²/17.3 mi²; not to be confused with the Canadian province of the same name).

Flora and fauna - Contents

Fynbos, a floral kingdom unique to South Africa, is found near Cape Town.
Fynbos, a floral kingdom unique to South Africa, is found near Cape Town.
South Africa has more than 20,000 different plants, or about 10% of all the known species of plants on Earth, making it particularly rich in plant biodiversity.South Africa's most prevalent biome is grassland, particularly on the Highveld, where the plant cover is dominated by different grasses, low shrubs, and acacia trees, mainly camel-thorn and whitethorn. Vegetation becomes even more sparse towards the northwest due to low rainfall. There are several species of water-storing succulents like aloes and euphorbias in the very hot and dry Namaqualand area. The grass and thorn savannah turns slowly into a bush savannah towards the northeast of the country, with more dense growth. There are significant numbers of baobab trees in this area, near the northern end of Kruger National Park. [2]The Fynbos Biome, one of the six floral kingdoms, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9,000 of those species, making it among the richest regions on earth in terms of floral biodiversity. The majority of the plants are evergreen hard-leaf plants with fine, needle-like leaves, such as the sclerophyllous plants. Another uniquely South African plant is the protea genus of flowering plants. There are around 130 different species of protea in South Africa.While South Africa has a great wealth of flowering plants, it has few forests. Only 1% of South Africa is forest, almost exclusively in the humid coastal plain along the Indian Ocean in KwaZulu-Natal. There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach of fire, known as montane forests. Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native eucalyptus and pine. South Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to invasion by alien species with many e.g. Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Hakea, Lantana and Jacaranda posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity and the already scarce water resources. The original temperate forest that met the first European settlers to South Africa was exploited ruthlessly until only small patches remained. Currently, South African hardwood trees like Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius), stinkwood (Ocotea bullata), and South African Black Ironwood (Olea laurifolia) are under government protection.

Wildlife - Contents

South Africa has many thousands of species of Wildlife.The Kruger National Park is South Africa's largest game reserve and contains a checklist for the following (indigenous) mammalsAardvark, Aardwolf, Antelope (Roan), Antelope (Sable), Baboon (Chacma), Badger Honey, Buffalo, Bushbaby, Bushbuck, Bushpig, Caracal, Cat (African Wild), Cheetah, Civet, Dassie, Dog Wild, Duiker (Common and Red), Eland, Elephant (African), Fox (Bat-earer Genet), Giraffe, Grysbok Sharpe's, Hartebeest, Hyena (Spotted), Hippopotamus, Jackal, Impala, Klipspringer, Kudu, Leopard, Lion, Mongoose (various), Monkey (Samango), Nyala, Reedbuck, Rhinoceros, Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Warthog, Zebra

Economy - Contents

Durban, a famous resort city on the Indian Ocean coast and site of Africa's largest commercial port.
Durban, a famous resort city on the Indian Ocean coast and site of Africa's largest commercial port.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background. Cape Town has become an important retail and tourism centre for the country, and attracts the largest number of foreign visitors in South Africa.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background. Cape Town has become an important retail and tourism centre for the country, and attracts the largest number of foreign visitors in South Africa.
South Africa is a middle-income country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange (the JSE Securities Exchange), that ranks among the 10 largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centres throughout the region. South Africa's per capita GDP, corrected for purchasing power parity, positions the country as one of the 50 wealthiest in the world. In many respects, South Africa is developed; however, this development is significantly localised around 4 areas, namely: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria-Johannesburg. Beyond these 4 economic centres, development is marginal and poverty still reigns despite Government strategies. Large income gaps and a dual economy designate South Africa as developing. Only Brazil and India show a greater divide between its country's wealthy and poor residents. Consecutive growth rates in the last ten years are helping lower unemployment, however, the economy still has ways to go, and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially the problems of poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. Other problems are crime, corruption, and HIV/AIDS. At the start of 2000, President Thabo Mbeki vowed to promote economic growth and foreign investment by relaxing restrictive labour laws, stepping up the pace of privatisation, and cutting unneeded governmental spending. His policies face strong opposition from organised labour. It is estimated that South Africa accounts for up to 30% of the gross domestic product of the entire African continent. South Africa is also the continent's largest energy producer and consumer.The rand, the world's most actively traded emerging market currency, has joined an elite club of 15 currencies - the Continuous linked settlement (CLS) - where forex transactions are settled immediately, lowering the risks of transacting across time zone. The South African Rand (ZAR) was the best performing currency against the US Dollar between 2002 and 2005, according to the Bloomberg Currency Scorecard. The volatility of the rand has affected economic activity, with the rand falling sharply during 2001, hitting an historic low of R13.85 to the United States dollar, raising fears of inflation, and causing the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates. The rand has since dramatically recovered, trading at R5.99 to the dollar as of January 2006 while the South African Reserve Bank's policy of inflation targeting has brought inflation under control. The stronger rand has however put exporters under considerable pressure, with many calling for government to intervene in the exchange rate to help soften the rand, and many others dismissing staff.21.5% of the adult South African population have been estimated to be HIV positive in 2004. The government has recently, after much delay, devoted substantial resources to fighting the epidemic. A recent study from the African Journal of AIDS Research by Thomas Rehle and Olive Shisana showed the infection rate starting to level off, from 4.2% to 1.7% infection rate for 15-49 year olds, and AIDS deaths peaking at 487,320 in 2008.Refugees from poorer neighbouring countries abound with immigrants from the DRC, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and many others representing a large portion of the informal sector. With high unemployment levels amongst poorer South Africans, xenophobia is a very real fear and many people born in South Africa feel resentful of immigrants who are seen to be depriving the native population of jobs, a feeling which has been given credibility by the fact that many South African employers have employed migrants from other countries for lower pay than South African citizens, especially in the construction, tourism, agriculture and domestic service industries. Illegal immigrants are also heavily involved in informal trading. [3] However, many immigrants to South Africa continue to live in poor conditions, and the South African immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive since 1994 [4].

Agriculture - Contents

Women agricultural workers, 1989
Women agricultural workers, 1989
South Africa has a large agricultural sector, and is a net exporter of farming products. There are almost a thousand agricultural cooperatives and agribusinesses throughout the country, and agricultural exports constitute eight per cent of South Africa's total exports for the past five years. The agricultural industry contributes to around 30% of formal employment, relatively low compared to other parts of Africa, as well as providing work for casual labourers and contributing towards around 2.6% of GDP for the nation. However, due to the aridity of the land, only 15% can be used for crop production. [5] Although the commercial farming sector is relatively well developed, people in some rural areas still survive on subsistence farming. It is the eighth largest wine producer in the world, and the eleventh largest producer of sunflower seed. South Africa is a net exporter of agricultural products and foodstuffs, the largest number of exported items being sugar, grapes, citrus, nectarines, wine and deciduous fruit. The largest locally produced crop is maize, and it has been estimated that 9 million tons is produced every year, with 7.4 million tons being consumed. Livestock are also popular on South African farms, with the country producing 85% of all meat consumed. The dairy industry consists of around 4300 milk producers providing employment for 60 000 farm workers and contributing to the livelihoods of around 40 000 others.In recent years, the agricultural sector has introduced several reforms, some of which are controversial, such as land reform and the deregulation of the market for agricultural products. Land reform has been criticised both by farmers' groups and by landless workers, the latter alleging that the pace of change has not been fast enough, [6] and the former alleging racist treatment (many commercial farmers are white) and expressing concerns that a similar situation to Robert Mugabe's land reform policy may develop, a fear exacerbated by comments made by the country's deputy president [7]. The sector continues to face problems with increased foreign competition and crime being two of the major challenges for the industry.Crime against commercial farmers is often, although not always, racially motivated as many South African commercial farmers are white. The rural farmer population has shouldered a great increase in attacks and harassment and has suffered as many as 1,700 farm murders since the end of apartheid in 1994, and this has caused many commercial farmers, who are often white, to flee the countryside for the protection of the gated communities of the cities and that offered by other nations. The government has been accused of not devoting enough time and money to tackle the problem as opposed to other forms of violent crime, or simply inefficiency and incompetence.Another issue which continues to affect South African agriculture is environmental damage caused by misuse of the land. To reverse the damage caused by land mismanagement, the government have supported a scheme which promotes sustainable development and the use of natural resources. [8]

Demographics - Contents

Main article: Demographics of South Africa
South Africa is a nation of 44.8 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and beliefs. The 2001 Statistics South Africa census [9] provided five racial categories by which people could classify themselves, the last of which, "unspecified/other" drew negligible responses, and these results were omitted. Results for the other categories were: By far the major part of the population classified itself as African or black, but it is not culturally or linguistically homogenous. Major ethnic groups include the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho (South Sotho), Bapedi (North Sotho), Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele. Some, such as the Zulu, Xhosa, Bapedi and Venda groups, are unique to South Africa.Other groups are distributed across the borders with South Africa's neighbours: The Basotho group is also the major ethnic group in Lesotho. The Tswana ethnic group constitute the majority of the population of Botswana. The Swazi ethnic group is the major ethnic group in Swaziland. The Ndebele ethnic group is also found in Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, where they are known as the Matabele. These Ndebele people are however in effect Zulu people because the language they speak is Zulu and they are the descendants of the Warrior Mzilikazi who escaped persecution from Shaka to settle in that part of the World. The Tsonga ethnic group is also found in southern Mozambique, where they are known as the Shangaan.The white population descends largely from colonial immigrants: Dutch, German, French Huguenot, and British. Linguistically, it is divided into Afrikaans- and English-speaking groups, although many small communities immigrating over the last century retain the use of other languages. The white population is on the decrease due to a low birth rate and emigration; as a factor in their decision to emigrate, many cite the high crime rate and the government's affirmative action policies.The term " Coloured" is still largely used for the people of mixed race descended from slaves brought in from East and Central Africa, the indigenous Khoisan who lived in the Cape at the time, indigenous African Blacks, Whites (mostly the Dutch/ Afrikaner settlers and the English) as well as an admixture of Javanese, Malay, Indian, Malagasy and other European and Asian blood (such as Portuguese and Burmese). The majority speak Afrikaans. Khoisan is a term used to describe two separate groups, physically similar in that they were light-skinned and small in stature. The Khoikhoi, who were called Hottentots by the Europeans, were pastoralists and were effectively annihilated; the San, called Bushmen by the Europeans, were hunter-gatherers. Within what is known as the Coloured community, you will also find some more recent immigrants - Coloureds from the old Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Namibia, as well as immigrants of mixed descent from India and Burma ( Anglo-Indians/ Anglo-Burmese) who were welcomed to the Cape when India and Burma received their Independence.The major part of the Asian population of the country is Indian in origin, many of them descended from indentured workers brought in the 19th century to work on the sugar plantations of the eastern coastal area then known as Natal. There is also a significant group of Chinese South Africans (approximately 100 000 individuals).

Education - Contents

Education is in a state of flux. Under the apartheid system schools were segregated, and the quantity and quality of education varied significantly across racial groups. Although the laws governing this segregation have been abolished, the long and arduous process of restructuring the country's educational system is just beginning. The challenge is to create a single nondiscriminatory, nonracial system that offers the same standards of education to all people.

Culture - Contents

Prison Buildings on Robben Island, the holding place of several anti-apartheid fighters including Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned there for 27 years. Robben Island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Prison Buildings on Robben Island, the holding place of several anti-apartheid fighters including Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned there for 27 years. Robben Island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Decorated houses, Drakensberg Mountains
Decorated houses, Drakensberg Mountains
It may be argued that there is no "single" culture in South Africa because of its ethnic diversity. Today, the diversity in foods from many cultures are enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine. In addition to food, music and dance feature prominently. South African cuisine is heavily meat-based and has spawned the distinctively South African social gathering known as a braai. South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer, with some of the best vineyards in the world lying in valleys around Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl and Barrydale.There is great diversity in music from South Africa. Many black musicians who sang in Afrikaans or English during apartheid have since begun to sing in traditional African languages, and have developed a unique style called Kwaito. Of note is Brenda Fassie, who launched to fame with her song "Weekend Special", which was sung in English. More famous traditional musicians include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, while the Soweto String Quartet performs classic music with an African flavour. White and Coloured South African singers tend to avoid traditional African musical themes, instead preferring more European musical styles. There is a thriving market for Afrikaans music, covering all the genres of Western music.The country's black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives. It is among these people, however, that traditional dance and music survive; as blacks have become increasingly urbanised and westernised, aspects of traditional culture have declined. Urban blacks usually speak English or Afrikaans in addition to their native tongue. There are smaller but still significant groups of speakers of Khoisan languages which are not official languages, but are one of the eight officially recognised languages. There are small groups of speakers of endangered languages, most of which are from the Khoi-San family, that receive no official status; however, some groups within South Africa are attempting to promote their use and revival.The white minority lead lifestyles similar in many respects to whites found in Western Europe, North America and Australasia.Despite considerable discrimination under apartheid, Coloureds tend to relate more to white South African culture rather than black South African culture, especially Afrikaans-speaking Coloured people whose language and religious beliefs are similar or identical to white Afrikaners. A small minority of Coloureds, known as Cape Malays, are Muslim. Asians, predominantly of Indian origin, preserve their own cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs, being either Hindu or Sunni Muslim, and speaking English, with Indian languages like Tamil or Gujarati being spoken less frequently. Most Indians arrived on the famous Truro ship as indentured labourers in Natal to work the Sugar Cane Fields. There is a much smaller Chinese community in South Africa, although its numbers have increased due to immigration from Taiwan. Since the Taiwanese were classified as White, rather than Asian, under apartheid, they tend to be more culturally similar to whites in many ways than they are to other Asians.

South Africa has 11 official languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Swati, Ndebele, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa. In this regard it is second only to India in number. As a result, there are many official names for the country.The country also recognises eight non-official languages: Fanagalo, Lobedu, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, South African Sign Language, Khoe, Nama and San. These non-official languages may be used in certain official uses in limited areas where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent. Nevertheless, their populations are not such that they require nationwide recognition.Many of the "unofficial languages" of the San and Khoikhoi people contain regional dialects stretching northward into Namibia and Botswana, and elsewhere. These people, who are a physically distinct population from other Africans, have their own cultural identity based on their hunter-gatherer societies. They have been marginalised to a great extent, and many of their languages are in danger of becoming extinct.Many white South Africans also speak other European languages, such as Portuguese, German, and Greek, while many Asians and Indians in South Africa speak South Asian languages, such as Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil.There are 11 official names for South Africa, one for each of the official national languages. While each language is technically equal to every other, English has emerged recently as the chief-among-peers as it is the most widely spoken language across racial barriers as well as globally, even though it is not the most widely spoken language by population. Afrikaans has been downgraded in order to accommodate other official languages. The South African passport currently has only French and English on the front cover and lists the other official names of South Africa on an inner page.

Crime - Contents

Crime has been a major problem in South Africa since the end of the Apartheid. According to a survey for the period 1998 - 2000 compiled by the United Nations, South Africa was ranked first for murder by firearm (both absolute and per capita) and rape per capita. It was also number two for assault and murder (by all means) per capita. On the positive side, total crime per capita is 10th out of the 60 countries in the data set. Nevertheless, crime has had a pronounced effect on society: many wealthier South Africans moved into gated communities, abandoning the central business districts of some cities for the relative security of suburbs. This effect is most pronounced in Johannesburg, although the trend is noticeable in other cities as well. Many emigrants from South Africa also state that crime was a big motivator for them to leave. Crime against commercial farmers has continued to be a major problem in the country, and has resulted in thousands either emigrating or giving up the profession. South Africa also has a bad record for car hijackings.However, violent crimes such as murder and robberies have decreased in recent years, with the year 2004 seeing a drop of 4.6% and 5.3% respectively for these two offences. The rape rate, however, showed no signs of such a slowdown. [10] Recently the government has had a widely-publicised gun amnesty programme to recall the many weapons still in circulation from the apartheid era violence and wars in neighbouring countries like Mozambique. In addition, it adopted the National Crime Prevention Strategy in 1996, which aimed to prevent crime through reinforcing community structures and helping individuals back into work. [11]The government is criticised for doing too little to stop crime. Some question the effectiveness of the South African Police Service, which is known to make use of private security firms to protect its police stations. It must be pointed out, however, that due to the high crime rate in South Africa, many private individuals also make use of these systems.

Military - Contents

South Africa's armed forces, known as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), was created in 1994 following South Africa's first post-apartheid national elections and the adoption of a new constitution. Previously known simply as the South African Defence Force (SADF), the new force consists of the old SADF, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), APLA and the TBVC state's defence forces.The SANDF is subdivided into four branches, namely:
  • The South African Army
  • The South African Air Force
  • The South African Navy
  • The South African Military Health Services
In recent years the SANDF has become a major stabilising force in Africa, involved in peacekeeping operations in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi amongst others, and participating as part of multi-national UN peacekeeping forces.South Africa spent an estimated US.172bn (or 1.5% of GDP) in 2004, according to the CIA World Factbook, placing the country 108th in the world in military spending as percentage of GDP.According to Nation Master, an Internet based statistics site, the SANDF had roughly 73,440 personnel in 2001, distributed as follows:
  • Army - 54,300
  • Air force - 11,140
  • Navy - 8,000
Though the numbers are bound to be inaccurate as they come from a variety of sources and do not account for medical personnel.South Africa is the only country ever to develop nuclear weapons and then give them up. See South Africa and weapons of mass destruction.

Media - Contents

South Africa also has a large, free, and active press that regularly challenges the government, a habit formed during the apartheid era when the press was the media least controlled by the government. Major scandals have erupted when the press reported charges of corruption that were proven to be true in cases such as that of Schabir Shaik, in which deputy president Jacob Zuma was implicated, and the corruption allegations that led to the dismissal of Winnie Mandela from parliament. The government's stance on the 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections and AIDS have also attracted plenty of coverage.Even though South Africa now has the most sophisticated media network in Africa, it was one of the last countries in the world to allow television, with colour TV broadcasts commencing in 1975. By the end of apartheid in 1994, television networks covered all urban areas and some less populated areas, while radio networks covered almost all of the country.During the Apartheid era the majority of commercial and all public-service radio stations and all of the television channels were operated by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and were subject to strict control and censorship by the government, with a few independent regional stations allowed. The creation of the independent black homelands (or Bantustans) in the 1970's allowed for the establishment of TV and radio stations outside of the control of the apartheid Government. Following the demise of Apartheid, the broadcasting industry was de-regulated with many of the commercial regional SABC stations and former Bantustan stations privatised and sold to companies and consortiums that were majority owned by blacks.An African language channel was introduced to the SABC in 1981 with a second African language channel added later in the decade. The SABC's television monopoly was eventually challenged in 1986 when a new privately owned subscription television network, M-Net, was launched. M-Net was forbidden to operate a news service.South Africa currently has two terrestrial free-to-air television networks (SABC and, one subscription based terrestrial network (M-Net), as well as has access to satellite television ( DStv) which is operated by M-Net's owners, Multichoice. e. TV is allowed to operate an independent television news service. The SABC broadcasts news and entertainment channels Africa-wide via satellite.

International rankings - Contents

Organisation Survey Ranking
A.T. Kearney/ Foreign Policy Magazine Globalization Index 2005 48 out of 62
Heritage Foundation/ The Wall Street Journal 2006 Index of Economic Freedom 50 out of 157
IMD International World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005 46 out of 60
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index (2004) 26 out of 167
Save the Children Children's Index Rank 2005 65 out of 110
The Economist Worldwide Quality-of-Life Index 2005 92 out of 111
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2004 44 out of 146
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2005 120 out of 177
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2004-2005 41 out of 104
Change Text Size:
[A] [default] [A]

go back print page email to a friend make us your home page

about | terms of use | contact us
© 2024