South Africa -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of South Africa
Capital City: Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Tsonga
Official Currency: Rand
Religions: Christianity (79.7%), Islam (1.5%), Hinduism (1.3%), others
Population: 43,786,115 (2008)
Land Area: 1,219,912 sq km
Landforms: Various landforms: big internal plateau, surrounded by rocky mountains and narrow coastline
Land Divisions: 9 provinces
Republic of South Africa is situated at the southernmost part of Africa. On the Northwest it is bordered by Namibia, on the North by Botswana and Zimbabwe, on the Northeast by Mozambique, by The Indian Ocean on the Southeast and The Atlantic Ocean on the Southwest. Totally surrounded by the teritory of South Africa are Swaziland to the East and the Kingdom of Lesotho to the South.
South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own legislature, premier and executive council - and distinctive landscape, population, economy and climate. They are:
• The Western Cape (capital: Cape Town )
• The Northern Cape (capital: Kimberley)
• The Eastern Cape (capital: Bisho)
• KwaZulu-Natal (capital: Pietermaritzburg)
• The Free State (capital: Bloemfontein)
• North West (capital: Mafikeng)
• Gauteng (capital: Johannesburg)
• Mpumalanga (capital: Nelspruit)
• Limpopo (capital: Polokwane)
Cities have grown, much land has been given over to farming, hunting has wiped out entire herds, and the times when a herd of springbok could take days to pass through a Karoo town are long past.
Yet, thanks to the foresight of conservationists past and present, South Africa remains blessed with abundant wildlife.
• The Big Five: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Not that giraffe, hippo or whale are small ...
• The big cats: the lion, sadly remaining almost exclusively in conservation areas; the beautiful leopard surviving in a larger area, including much of the southern Cape and far north of the country; the cheetah whose population is comparatively small and confined mostly to the far north.
• Lesser known wildlife: tsessebe (a relative of the wildebeest), suni (Livingstone's antelope), elephant shrew.
• Over 200 mammal species
• Marine mammals and fish: the blue whale, which can grow to 33 metres in length; the southern right whale; many dolphins and fish species.
• The crocodile ... and other reptiles
• Birdlife…if you have been wondering where “South” is, you now know that South Africa annualy hosts birds from the Arctic, Europe, Central Asia, China and Antarctica. Apart from them, the country is home to spectacular birds like the cranes, kingfishers, bee-eaters, sunbirds, the exquisite lilacbreasted roller and countless others…
Although the country is classified as semi-arid, it has considerable variation in climate as well as topography.
The great inland Karoo plateau, where rocky hills and mountains rise from sparsely populated scrubland, is very dry, and gets more so as it shades in the north-west towards the Kalahari desert. Extremely hot in summer, it can be icy in winter.
In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well watered. The southern coast is rather less tropical but also green, as is the Cape of Good Hope - the latter especially in winter. This south-western corner of the country has a Mediterranean climate, with wet winters and hot, dry summers. Its most famous climatic characteristic is its wind, which blows intermittently virtually all year round, either from the south-east or the north-west.
The highest point of the country is Njesuthi – 3 408 m.
South Africa -- History --
Khoikhoi, San and Bantu-speaking peoples lived in South Africa when European colonisation began in the 17th century. The first outsiders were the Dutch, who began settling the Cape of Good Hope in the 1650s. The British arrived in 1795, took possession of the cape in 1806 and gained formal control of it with the settlement of the Napoleonic wars after 1814, pushing some Dutch settlers north and east in “the Great Trek”, where they later established two independent republics. In the early 19th century, Shaka forged various chiefdoms into the Zulu kingdom, southern Africa’s greatest African power.
Africans and Europeans struggled over land through the 19th century. Competition for pasture was the biggest factor, but the discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) intensified the conflicts. The descendants of Dutch colonists, known as Boers or Afrikaners, opposed British attempts to take over the Afrikaner republics. Years of clashes culminated in the South African (Boer) War of 1899-1902. The British won, but the two groups together drafted a constitution in 1908-1909, and the British parliament’s South Africa Act of 1910 gave the country its independence.
Both English-speakers and Afrikaners worked fiercely to maintain white minority rule. The 1913 Natives Land Act allotted just 8% of the land for the huge African majority. Africans suffered under “pass laws” that restricted freedom of movement, and the few Africans on the ordinary voting rolls were struck off in 1936. (Mixed-race “Coloureds” were removed in 1951.) But only after the 1948 election victory of the right-wing National Party was the full legal system of apartheid (“separateness”) established. New laws forced blacks into townships and outlawed the major black opposition movement, the African National Congress (ANC), which had been formed in 1912.
For almost a half-century, the National Party held power, despite continued activism by the ANC and frequent clashes between black South Africans and police. But by the 1980s, racially based restrictions and international sanctions had crippled the economy, and South Africa had become an international pariah. In 1990 F. W. de Klerk, the last National Party president, arranged for the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, who after 27 years in jail became the head of the now-legal ANC. In 1994 South Africa saw its first fully democratic election bring Mr Mandela and the ANC to power. Mr Mandela soon created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to uncover the crimes committed under apartheid and bring a greater sense of unity to a nation with a long history of bitter divisions.
South Africa -- Economy --
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Growth has been robust since 2004, as South Africa has reaped the benefits of macroeconomic stability and a global commodities boom. However, unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth. At the end of 2007, South Africa began to experience an electricity crisis because state power supplier Eskom suffered supply problems with aged plants, necessitating "load-shedding" cuts to residents and businesses in the major cities. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative but pragmatic, focusing on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus, and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas as a means to increase job growth and household income.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $467.8 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $282.6 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 5.1% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $9,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 65.5% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 20.49 million economically active (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
services: 65% (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate: 24.3% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line: 50% (2000 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 65 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6.5% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 20.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
revenues: $83.47 billion
expenditures: $82.02 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 31.3% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
Industries: mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair
Industrial production growth rate: 4.4% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 264 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity - consumption: 241.4 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity - exports: 13.42 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 11.32 billion kWh (2007)
Oil - production: 200,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 519,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports: 217,700 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 319,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 15 million bbl (1 January 2007 est.)
Natural gas - production: 2.11 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 2.11 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 27.16 million cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$20.63 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $76.19 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Exports - partners: US 11.9%, Japan 11.1%, Germany 8%, UK 7.7%, China 6.6%, Netherlands 4.5% (2007)
Imports: $81.89 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs
Imports - partners: Germany 10.9%, China 10%, Spain 8.2%, US 7.2%, Japan 6.1%, UK 4.5%, Saudi Arabia 4.2% (2007)
Economic aid - recipient: $700 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $32.94 billion (31 December 2007)
Debt - external: $39.78 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $93.51 billion (2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $53.98 billion (2007 est.)
Currency (code): rand (ZAR)
Exchange rates: rand per US dollar – 7.05 (2007), 6.7649 (2006), 6.3593 (2005), 6.4597 (2004), 7.5648 (2003)
Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March
South Africa -- Culture --
Culture in South Africa is about as diverse as it can come. South Africa is a multiracial society and defining distinct subgroups by skin colour only will potentially get you into trouble. Those of Afrikaner and British descent won't be too happy to be confused with one another, and there are several major and many minor groupings in the traditional black cultures.
The country's black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished and simple lives. However, blacks are increasingly urbanised and westernised, and usually speak English or Afrikaans in addition to their native tongue, which may be one of nine Bantu languages with official status since 1994. These include the Nguni languages, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Swazi, and Tsonga, and the Sotho languages, which include Tswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Venda. Cultural differences between speakers from the two language groups are comparable to those between speakers of German and Italian. Many urban blacks speak several indigenous languages, with Zulu being a lingua franca in the Johannesburg area.
Most are Christian, with membership of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, although many still follow traditional beliefs, often consulting a sangoma (practitioner of herbal medicine, divination and counselling in traditional societies of Southern Africa -effectively an African shaman).
The white minority lead lifestyles similar in many respects to whites found in Europe, North America and Australasia, with sport being immensely popular.
Religious beliefs are also strong, with most Afrikaners adhering to the Dutch Reformed Church. Most English-speaking whites are either Anglican or Roman Catholic. Perhaps 90,000 whites are Jewish, with a similar number being of Portuguese origin. There are some Greeks and Christian Lebanese.
Coloured (Mixed-Race) people
The mixed-race Coloureds are, culturally speaking, much closer to whites, especially Afrikaans speakers, whose language and religious beliefs they share, than they are to black South Africans, despite suffering considerable discrimination under apartheid. A small minority of Coloureds, known as Cape Malays are Muslim.
Asians (predominantly Indian origin) preserve their own cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs, being either Hindu or Muslim, and speaking English. Small Chinese, Japanese and Korean populations exist in South Africa as well. However, during recent decades, the number of Chinese have increased due to the influx of immigrants from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
South Africa demonstrates significant differences between the experiences of men and women. Cultural attitudes towards women tend to demonstrate inequality. The poorest and most disadvantaged people in South Africa remain black women, and women are disadvantaged in terms of their earning power, their access to education and their employment status. In addition, South African women face cultural chauvinism in other areas: for example, in some traditional southern African cultures, a woman cannot own property.
However, the South African Government is attempting to correct the long lasting gender discrimination, which has reigned for many years, through Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) projects, especially in subsidizing and favoring Black Woman Owned (BWO) companies. As well as requiring all business to have a BEE Rating. Basically meaning that all businesses are forced to have Black citizens in managerial positions, and have minimum quota systems for Black employees.
International cultural boycott
Many countries imposed cultural boycotts on the apartheid regime, meaning that South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games until 1992, as well as rugby union and cricket. The decision of the British rock group Queen to perform in the Sun City resort in the bantustan of Bophuthatswana provoked public outrage. Until the 1990s, the British actors' union, Equity, imposed a boycott on the sale of TV programmes to South Africa, although the state-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) happily bought U.S. programmes instead.
• soccer, with the national team being nicknamed Bafana Bafana (meaning 'The Boys'). South Africa will be hosting the 2010 World Cup Tournament, the first soccer World Cup to be held in Africa.
• Rugby union is one of the most popular sports in South Africa, especially among Afrikaners. The national rugby union team are known as the Springboks.
• Cricket is traditionally popular among whites though its popularity has grown markedly amongst other groups.
• The country has a number of disabled athletes, most notably the double amputee world record holder at 100 m, 200 m and 400 m - Oscar Pistorius, world wheelchair marathon champion Ernst van Dyk and swimmer Natalie du Toit.
• Surfing South Africa has a long coastline (East coast/ West coast) and also a large surfing population.
• braai or barbecue is widely popular, especially with whites
• Pastries such like koeksusters
• desserts like melktert (milk tart) are also universally popular
• vegetarianism is becoming widely accepted
• biltong - a form of dried meat usually made from beef or game, and often consumed while watching sporting events
• Indian food like curry is also popular
• bunny chow, which consists of a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with curry.
• Cape Malay dishes have their origins in Southeast Asia
• Bobotie is a popular dish (originating in Europe) which was adapted to suit the Cape Malay palate. It is made from curried lamb, fruit and bread, served with rice, and sosatie, a type of barbecued meat
• peri-peri chicken
TV and films
Television, which for political reasons was not introduced in South Africa until 1976, is also popular. Traditionally, U.S. programmes have dominated TV schedules. Programmes like The Bold and the Beautiful have been popular with South Africans of all races, but locally produced soap operas or 'soapies' now draw a large audience and are exported all over Africa.
While many foreign films have been produced about South Africa (usually involving race relations), few local productions are known outside South Africa itself. One exception was the film The Gods Must Be Crazy in 1980, set in the Kalahari. This is about how life in a traditional community of Bushmen is changed when a Coke bottle, thrown out of an aeroplane, suddenly lands from the sky.
Other notable exceptions are the film Tsotsi, which won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006 as well as U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha, which won the Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.