South Africa

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The Republic of South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. It borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland, while a sixth country, Lesotho, is an enclave entirely surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa has experienced a significantly different evolution from other nations in Africa as a result of two facts. First, immigration from Europe reached levels not experienced in other African communities. Second, the strategic importance of the Cape Sea Route, as emphasised by the closure of the Suez Canal during the Six Day War, and mineralogical wealth 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' (mixed race) communities in Africa. Black South Africans account for slightly less than 80% of the population.

Racial strife between the white minority and the black majority has played a large part in the country's history and politics, culminating in apartheid, an official policy of 'separate development', which was instituted in 1948 by the National Party, although segregation existed prior to that date. The laws that defined apartheid began to be repealed or abolished by the National Party in 1990 after a long and sometimes violent struggle (including economic sanctions from the international community) by the black majority as well as many white, coloured, and Indian South Africans.

The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'état, and elections have been held regularly since its inception in 1910. However, the vast majority of black South Africans were not enfranchised until 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 sometimes referred to as the "Rainbow Nation," an appellation coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later elaborated upon by then-President Nelson Mandela as a metaphor for the country's emergent multicultural diversity in the wake of apartheid.

South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It was the first time the tournament was held in Africa.



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-speaking peoples (the term Bantu is a linguistic term not an ethnic one), 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) displacing the original Khoi and San speakers. They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoi and San 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 begins with the accounts of European navigators passing South Africa on the East Indies trade routes. Subsequent to the first circumnavigation of the Cape in 1488 by the Portuguese Explorer Bartolomeu Dias a number of shipwrecks occurred along the Southern African coast. Along with the accounts of the early navigators, the accounts of shipwreck survivors provide the earliest written accounts of Southern Africa. In the two centuries following 1488 a number of small fishing settlements were made along the coast by Portuguese sailors, but no written account of these settlements survives.


In 1652 a victualling 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 southwesterly 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 livestock interests.

To ease Cape labour shortages slaves were brought from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India. Furthermore, troublesome leaders, often of royal descent, were banished from Dutch colonies to South Africa. This group of slaves eventually gave rise to a population that now identifies themselves as Cape Malays. Cape Malays were traditionally accorded a higher social status by the European colonists - many became wealthy landowners, but became increasingly dispossessed as apartheid developed. Cape Malay mosques in District Six were spared, and now serve as monuments for the destruction that occurred around them.

Most of the descendants of these slaves, who often married with Dutch settlers, were later classified together with the remnants of the Khoikhoi as Cape Coloureds. Further intermingling within the Coloured population itself, as well as with Xhosa and other South African people, now means that they constitute roughly 50% of the population in the Western Cape Province.

British annexation and the Great Trek (1805-1867)

Great Britain seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1797 during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. The Dutch East India Company 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 from abolitionist societies in Britain, Britain stopped its global slave trade through an act of Parliament in 1806 and abolished slavery in all its colonies in 1833. In the Cape in particular, the colonial government's Ordinance 50 of 1828 overrode existing labor mobility controls on the local Coloured population. In reaction to these and other liberalizing policies, thousands of Afrikaners initiated the Great Trek, a mass migration from the Cape Colony. The trekkers first stop was the coastal strip of land to the Cape Colony's east, where they established their first independent polity, Natalia Republiek (Natalia Republic). The British quickly annexed it as the Colony of Natal, however, and the trekkers moved on into the Cape's interior hinterland. There they established two new Boer Republics: The South African Republic, also known as the Transvaal, and the Orange Free State.

(PD) Photo: Library of Congress
British troops during the Second Anglo-Boer War, 1900. The UK eventually won the war, and absorbed the two Boer republics into the empire.

The mineral revolution and the Anglo-Boer Wars (1867-1902)

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 Anglo-Boer War (1880–1881) using tactics much better suited to 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 Anglo-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 and concentration camps 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 treaty's main provisions was that Africans would not be allowed to vote, except in the Cape Colony.

Reconstruction and Unification (1902-1910)

After four years of negotiations, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as 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.

The segregation era (1911-1948)

The general election of 1910 resulted in the formation of the South African Party (SAP), which sought to promote the national unity of Afrikaans- and English-speakers. Within just a few years, however, J.B.M. Hertzog broke with the SAP government to form the National Party (NP), which countered the SAP's one-stream policy of multicultural integration with a two-stream policy to protect Afrikaner national integrity.

In addition to the emergence of South Africa's first party system, the 1910s also marked the start of the pre-apartheid segregation era. Two pieces of legislation passed by the SAP government were especially central to the codification of racial discrimination on a nationwide basis: the Mines and Work Act of 1911, which established a legal "color bar" in several employment sectors and the Natives Land Act of 1913, which devised a territorial segregation scheme in which Africans were excluded from white residential areas and relegated to live in designated "Natives Reserves."

In response to the new racial policies, the South African Natives National Congress (which was soon renamed the African National Congress) was founded in Bloemfontein in 1912.

In 1934 the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking whites, but split in 1939 over the Union's entry into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom.

The apartheid era (1948-1990)

(GNU) Photo: Ulrich Stelzner
Apartheid era sign at a public beach, 1985.

In 1948, the National Party was unexpectedly elected to power and began implementing apartheid. It began with the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, which set the stage for a subsequent series of laws requiring the classification of all South Africans into one of four racial groups and banning their admixture. Other apartheid legislation sought to extend the job color bar and controls on African labor that had been enacted during the segregation era, close loopholes in the whites-only suffrage system, and require the racial segregation of all public amenities.

Not surprisingly, apartheid bore implications for the wealth acquired during rapid industrialization of the 1950s and 1960s. While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, often comparable to "First World" western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. However, the average income and life expectancy of a black, 'Indian' or 'colored' South African compared favorably to many other African states, such as Ghana and Tanzania.

Apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread sanctions and divestment abroad and growing unrest and oppression within South Africa. A long period of harsh suppression by the government, and resistance, strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage, by various anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress (ANC), followed.

In 1987 the SADF go in Angola to help the UNITA, but in Battle of Cuito Cuanavale South Africa and UNITA are defeated by Cuba and Angola[1]. A few months later, 1988, Cuba defeated the SADF again in Calueque, wining the Bush War, so called Border War or Angola War[2]. Then South Africa ask for the peace and accept several conditions never accepted before[3].

In 1989 elections are summoned in Namibia with every parties, included SWAPO. In 1990 Namibia is independent.

The democratic transition and the "New South Africa" (1990-present)

In 1990 the 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.

Despite the end of apartheid, millions of South Africans, mostly black, continue to live in poverty. 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, coupled with the monetary and fiscal discipline of the current government to ensure both redistribution of wealth and economic growth. However, the ANC's social housing policy has produced some improvement in living conditions in many areas by redirecting fiscal spending and improving the efficiency of the tax collection system.


South Africa has a bicameral Parliament consisting of a 90-member National Council of Provinces and a 400-member National Assembly. Members of the National Assembly are elected on a proportional representation basis. 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.

Currently, South African politics is dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), which received 69.7% of the vote during the 2004 general election and 66.3% of the vote in the 2006 municipal election.

The main challenger to the ANC's rule is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. The leader of this party is Tony Leon. The formerly dominant New National Party, which introduced apartheid through its predecessor, the National Party, has suffered increasing humiliation at election polls since 1994, and finally voted to disband. It chose to merge with the ANC on 9 April 2005. Other major political parties represented in Parliament are the Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters, and the Independent Democrats, who took 6.97% and 1.7% of the vote respectively in the 2004 election.

Administrative divisions

At its 1910 founding, South Africa comprised four provinces: Cape, Transvaal, Orange Free State, and Natal. During the apartheid era, the "native reserves" that had existed within the provinces since the Land Act of 1913 became the basis for nominally independent "homelands" (or Bantustans) for the African population. When apartheid ended in 1994, the South African government had to integrate the "homelands" into the political structure of South Africa. To this end, it abolished the original provinces and replaced them with nine fully integrated provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Northwest, and Western Cape.

The nine provinces are further sub-divided into 52 districts, including 6 metropolitan and 46 district municipalities. The 46 district municipalities are further subdivided into 231 local municipalities. The district municipalities also contain 20 district management areas (mostly game parks) which are directly governed by the district municipalities. The six metropolitan municipalities perform the functions of both district and local municipalities.


(CC) Photo: Paul Watson
Dawn on Robben Island looking towards Cape Town.

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). At 470,979 mi² (1,219,912 km²[1]), South Africa is the world's 25th-largest country (after Mali). It is comparable in size to Colombia, and is nearly twice the size of the US state of Texas.

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 northwest along the Kalahari desert. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well-watered, which produces a climate similar to the tropics. The extreme southwest 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 of 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. Many people think that 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). In fact, the coldest place is actually Buffelsfontein, which is in the Molteno district of the Eastern Cape. Buffelsfontein recorded a low of –18.6 degrees Celsius. 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.[4]

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

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.[5]

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 has lost extensive acreage of natural habitat in the last four decades, primarily due to overpopulation and sprawling development patterns. 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.

Numerous mammals are found in the bushveld habitats including lion, leopard, White Rhino, Blue Wildebeest, kudu, impala and giraffe. There is a significant extent of the bushveld habitat in the northeast including Kruger National Park and the Mala Mala Reserve, as well as in the far north in the Waterberg Biosphere.


PD Image
The Big Hole, a huge open-pit diamond mine in Kimberley, 463 meters wide and 215 meters deep.

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 four areas: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria-Johannesburg. Beyond these four economic centres, development is marginal and poverty still reigns despite government strategies. However, key marginal areas are experiencing rapid growth recently. Such areas include: Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay; Rustenburg area; Nelspruit area; Bloemfontein; Cape West Coast; KZN North Coast amongst others. Large income gaps and a dual economy designate South Africa as developing; South Africa has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Consecutive growth rates in the last ten years are helping lower unemployment; however, the economy still has a way to go, and daunting economic problems remain. 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 GDP 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 zones. 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 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 2003.[6] 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.

In 2000 President Mbeki publicly questioned the importance of HIV in causing AIDS, controversially suggesting that the main cause was "poverty".[7] In 2001 the government appointed a panel of scientists, including a number of AIDS dissidents (who question the mainstream view on HIV), to report back on the issue. Following their report, the government stated that it continues to base its policy on the premise that the cause of AIDS is indeed HIV.[8] The controversy has not abated, and organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign continue to mount political and legal challenges to what they claim is the government's slow response to the epidemic.

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.[9] However, many immigrants to South Africa continue to live in poor conditions, and the South African immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive since 1994.[10]


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 have constituted 8% of South Africa's total exports for the past five years. The agricultural industry contributes around 10% of formal employment, relatively low compared to other parts of Africa, as well as providing work for casual labourers and contributing around 2.6% of GDP for the nation.[11] However, due to the aridity of the land, only 13.5% can be used for crop production, and only 3% is considered high potential land.[12]

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(corn), and it has been estimated that 9 million tons are 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 4,300 milk producers providing employment for 60,000 farm workers and contributing to the livelihoods of around 40,000 others.[13]

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, and the former alleging racist treatment and expressing concerns that a similar situation to Robert Mugabe's land reform policy may develop [14], a fear exacerbated by comments made by the country's deputy president.[15][16] The sector continues to face problems with increased foreign competition and crime being two of the major challenges for the industry.

Crime against the farming community continues to be a problem. The rural farm population has shouldered a great increase in attacks and harassment and has suffered as many as 2000 farm murders since 1994, and this has caused many commercial farmers 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.[17]

Another issue which affects South African agriculture is environmental damage caused by misuse of the land and global climate change. South Africa is unusually vulnerable to climate change and resultant diminution of surface waters. Some predictions shows surface water supply could decrease by 60 percent by the year 2070 in parts of the Western Cape.[18] To reverse the damage caused by land mismanagement, the government has supported a scheme which promotes sustainable development and the use of natural resources.[19]


South Africa is a nation of over 47 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and beliefs. The 2005 Statistics South Africa census provided five racial categories by which people could classify themselves, the last of which, "unspecified/other" drew negligible responses, and these results were omitted.[20] Results for the other categories were black African at 79.4%, white at 9.3%, coloured at 8.8%, and Indian or Asian at 2.5%.

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. Culturally and linguistically, they are divided into the Afrikaners, who speak Afrikaans, and English-speaking groups, many of whom originated from British immigrants (see Anglo African). 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 and British settlers) as well as an admixture of Javanese, Malay, Indian, Malagasy and other European (such as Portuguese) and Asian blood (such as 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).


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 is 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 including such western metal bands such as Seether. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr and the punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar.

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.

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: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. In this regard it is second only to India in number. While each language is technically equal to every other, English has emerged 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. There are 11 official names for South Africa, one for each of the official national languages.

The country also recognises eight non-official languages: Fanagalo, Khoe, Lobedu, Nama, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, San and South African Sign Language. 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 (also spoken by Angolan and Mozambican blacks), German, and Greek, while many Asians and Indians in South Africa speak South Asian languages, such as Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil.


Crime has been a major problem in South Africa. According to a survey for the period 1998 - 2000 compiled by the United Nations, South Africa was ranked second for assault and murder (by all means) per capita.[21] 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 the farming community has continued to be a major problem in the country.


South Africa's armed forces, known as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), was created in 1994. Previously known simply as the South African Defence Force (SADF), the new force consists of the forces of the old SADF, as well as the military forces of the organisations fighting for liberation, namely Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), and the former homeland defence forces. The SANDF is subdivided into four branches, the South African Army, the South African Air Force, the South African Navy, and the South African Military Health Services.

In recent years, the SANDF has become a major peacekeeping force in Africa, and has been involved in operations in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi, amongst others. It has also participated as a part of multi-national UN peacekeeping forces.

South Africa undertook a nuclear weapons program in the 70s and may have conducted a nuclear test over the Atlantic in 1979, but has since renounced its nuclear program and signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1991 after destroying its small nuclear arsenal. It is the only African country to have successfully developed nuclear weapons, and to date is the only country in the world to have voluntarily dismantled its entire nuclear weapons arsenal.

It has a strong military manufacturing sector. Especially strong conventional products include the G-series howitzers, combat engineering equipment, and light armored fighting vehicles. There has been significant co-development with Israel.


South Africa has a large, free, and active press that regularly challenges the government, a habit formed during the apartheid era when the press was the medium 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 (then) 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 1970s 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 radio stations and former Bantustan stations privatised and sold to companies and consortiums that were majority owned by black people. Three SABC television channels are in place at present.

An African language channel was introduced to the SABC in 1981 (during apartheid) 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. is allowed to operate an independent television news service. The SABC broadcasts news and entertainment channels Africa-wide via satellite.


  1. André Kisalu Kiala, Le drame angolais, L'Hamattan, París, 2005, ISBN 2-7475-9485-8
  2. Olivier Languetin, Cuba la fallite d'une utopie, Folio Le Monde Actuel, París, 2007, ISBN 978-2-07034598-4
  3. Ross, Robert, Historia de Sudáfrica, Ediciones AKAL, Madrid, 2006, ISBN 978-84-460-2295-4
  4. South Africa's geography
  5. South Africa Online Travel Guide: Plants and Vegetation in South Africa
  6. CIA World Factbook, "South Africa"
  7. BBC News: Controversy dogs Aids forum
  8. BBC News: South African split over Aids
  9. African Security Review Vol 5 No 4, 1996: Strategic Perspectives on Illegal Immigration into South Africa
  10. Queens College: The Brain Gain: Skilled Migrants and Immigration Policy in Post-Apartheid South Africa
  11. Human Rights Watch, 2001. Unequal Protection: The State Response to Violent Crime on South African Farms ISBN 1-56432-263-7
  12. Mohamed, Najma. 2000. Greening Land and Agrarian Reform: A Case for Sustainable Agriculture. In At the Crossroads: Land and Agrarian Reform in South Africa into the 21st Century. Ed. Cousins, Ben. Bellville, School of Government, University of the Western Cape. ISBN 1-86808-467-1
  13. South Africa Online: Agriculture. Retrieved on 2006-07-17.
  14. South Africa's bitter harvest
  15. BBC News: South Africans' long wait for land
  16. BBC News: SA 'to learn from' land seizures
  17. The Sunday Times Magazine: Farms of Fear
  18. Reuters Alertnet: "Climate change to create African 'water refugees' - scientists", accessed Sept 21 2006
  19. Department of Agriculture South Africa
  20. Statistics South Africa: Census 2001
  21. NationMaster: South African Crime Statistics