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South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the
southernmost The most southerly geographical features of various types are listed here. Cities and settlements Geography Islands Berkner Island is further south than any of these, but its bedrock lies entirely below sea level, with only its ice cov ...
country in
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area ...
. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the
South Atlantic The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five oceans, with an area of about . It covers approximately 20% of Earth's surface and about 29% of its water surface area. It is known to separate the " Old World" of Africa, Europe an ...
and
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five oceanic divisions, covering or ~19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia to the east. To the south it is bounded by t ...
s; to the north by the neighbouring countries of
Namibia Namibia (, ), officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and ea ...
,
Botswana Botswana (, ), officially the Republic of Botswana ( tn, Lefatshe la Botswana, label= Setswana, ), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Botswana is topographically flat, with approximately 70 percent of its territory being the Kalaha ...
, and
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and ...
; and to the east and northeast by
Mozambique Mozambique (), officially the Republic of Mozambique ( pt, Moçambique or , ; ny, Mozambiki; sw, Msumbiji; ts, Muzambhiki), is a country located in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi ...
and Eswatini. It also completely
enclaves An enclave is a territory (or a small territory apart of a larger one) that is entirely surrounded by the territory of one other state or entity. Enclaves may also exist within territorial waters. ''Enclave'' is sometimes used improperly to deno ...
the country Lesotho. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World, and the second-most populous country located entirely south of the equator, after Tanzania. South Africa is a
biodiversity hotspot A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity that is threatened by human habitation. Norman Myers wrote about the concept in two articles in ''The Environmentalist'' in 1988 and 1990, after which the c ...
, with unique biomes, plant and animal life. With over 60 million people, the country is the world's 24th-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital cities, with the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government based in
Pretoria Pretoria () is South Africa's administrative capital, serving as the seat of the executive branch of government, and as the host to all foreign embassies to South Africa. Pretoria straddles the Apies River and extends eastward into the foot ...
,
Bloemfontein Bloemfontein, ( ; , "fountain of flowers") also known as Bloem, is one of South Africa's three capital cities and the capital of the Free State province. It serves as the country's judicial capital, along with legislative capital Cape To ...
, and
Cape Town Cape Town ( af, Kaapstad; , xh, iKapa) is one of South Africa's three capital cities, serving as the seat of the Parliament of South Africa. It is the legislative capital of the country, the oldest city in the country, and the second largest ...
respectively. The largest city is
Johannesburg Johannesburg ( , , ; Zulu and xh, eGoli ), colloquially known as Jozi, Joburg, or "The City of Gold", is the largest city in South Africa, classified as a megacity, and is one of the 100 largest urban areas in the world. According to Dem ...
. About 80% of the population are Black South Africans. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European ( White South Africans), Asian (
Indian South Africans Indian South Africans are South Africans who descend from indentured labourers and free migrants who arrived from British India during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The majority live in and around the city of Durban, making it one of the l ...
and
Chinese South Africans Chinese South Africans () are Overseas Chinese who reside in South Africa, including those whose ancestors came to South Africa in the early 20th century until Chinese immigration was banned under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1904. Chinese indu ...
), and multiracial ( Coloured South Africans) ancestry. South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the
constitution A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. When these princ ...
's recognition of 11 official languages, the fourth-highest number in the world. According to the 2011 census, the two most spoken first languages are Zulu (22.7%) and
Xhosa Xhosa may refer to: * Xhosa people, a nation, and ethnic group, who live in south-central and southeasterly region of South Africa * Xhosa language, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, principally spoken by the Xhosa people See als ...
(16.0%). The two next ones are of European origin:
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language that evolved in the Dutch Cape Colony from the Dutch vernacular of Holland proper (i.e., the Hollandic dialect) used by Dutch, French, and German settlers and their enslaved people. Afrikaans gra ...
(13.5%) developed from
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () Dutch may also refer to: Places * Dutch, West Virginia, a community in the United States * Pennsylvania Dutch Country People E ...
and serves as the first language of most Coloured and White South Africans; English (9.6%) reflects the legacy of British colonialism and is commonly used in public and commercial life. The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for 'stroke of state'), also known as a coup or overthrow, is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal seizure of power by a political faction, politician, cult, rebel group, m ...
, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. However, the vast majority of Black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to claim more rights from the dominant white minority, which played a large role in the country's recent
history History (derived ) is the systematic study and the documentation of the human activity. The time period of event before the invention of writing systems is considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term comprising past events as well ...
and politics. The National Party imposed
apartheid Apartheid (, especially South African English: , ; , "aparthood") was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 to the early 1990s. Apartheid was ...
in 1948, institutionalising previous
racial segregation Racial segregation is the systematic separation of people into race (human classification), racial or other Ethnicity, ethnic groups in daily life. Racial segregation can amount to the international crime of apartheid and a crimes against hum ...
. After a long and sometimes violent struggle by the
African National Congress The African National Congress (ANC) is a social-democratic political party in South Africa. A liberation movement known for its opposition to apartheid, it has governed the country since 1994, when the first post-apartheid election install ...
and other anti-apartheid activists both inside and outside the country, the repeal of discriminatory laws began in the mid-1980s. Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have held political representation in the country's
liberal democracy Liberal democracy is the combination of a liberal political ideology that operates under an indirect democratic form of government. It is characterized by elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into ...
, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the "
rainbow nation Rainbow Nation is a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa after South Africa's first fully democratic election in 1994. The phrase was elaborated upon by President Nelson Mandela in his first month of ...
" to describe the country's multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid. South Africa is a
middle power In international relations, a middle power is a sovereign state that is not a great power nor a superpower, but still has large or moderate influence and international recognition. The concept of the "middle power" dates back to the origin ...
in international affairs; it maintains significant regional influence and is a member of both the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the ...
and the
G20 The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigatio ...
. It is a developing country, ranking 109th on the
Human Development Index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the education system), and per capita income indicators, wh ...
, the 2nd highest in Africa. It has been classified by the
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. The World Bank is the collective name for the Inte ...
as a newly industrialised country and has the third-largest economy in Africa and the most industrialized, technologically advanced economy in Africa overall as well as the 39th-largest in the world. South Africa has the most
UNESCO World Heritage Sites A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ...
in Africa. Since the end of apartheid, government accountability and quality of life have substantially improved. However,
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in Ca ...
, poverty and
inequality Inequality may refer to: Economics * Attention inequality, unequal distribution of attention across users, groups of people, issues in etc. in attention economy * Economic inequality, difference in economic well-being between population groups * ...
remain widespread, with about two-fifths of the total population being unemployed , while some three-fifths of the population lived under the poverty line in 2014 and a quarter under $2.15 a day.


Etymology

The name "South Africa" is derived from the country's geographic location at the southern tip of Africa. Upon formation, the country was named the
Union of South Africa The Union of South Africa ( nl, Unie van Zuid-Afrika; af, Unie van Suid-Afrika; ) was the historical predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into existence on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the Cape, Natal, Tran ...
in English and in
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () Dutch may also refer to: Places * Dutch, West Virginia, a community in the United States * Pennsylvania Dutch Country People E ...
, reflecting its origin from the unification of four formerly separate British colonies. Since 1961, the long formal name in English has been the "Republic of South Africa" and in
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language that evolved in the Dutch Cape Colony from the Dutch vernacular of Holland proper (i.e., the Hollandic dialect) used by Dutch, French, and German settlers and their enslaved people. Afrikaans gra ...
. Since 1994, the country has had an official name in each of its 11 official languages. Mzansi, derived from the
Xhosa Xhosa may refer to: * Xhosa people, a nation, and ethnic group, who live in south-central and southeasterly region of South Africa * Xhosa language, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, principally spoken by the Xhosa people See als ...
noun meaning "south", is a
colloquial name Colloquialism (), also called colloquial language, everyday language or general parlance, is the linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom normally employed in conversa ...
for South Africa, while some
Pan-Africanist Pan-Africanism is a worldwide movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all Indigenous and diaspora peoples of African ancestry. Based on a common goal dating back to the Atlantic slave trade, the movement ext ...
political parties prefer the term "
Azania Azania ( grc, Ἀζανία) is a name that has been applied to various parts of southeastern tropical Africa. In the Roman period and perhaps earlier, the toponym referred to a portion of the Southeast Africa coast extending from northern Keny ...
".


History


Prehistoric archaeology

South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological and human-fossil sites in the world. Archaeologists have recovered extensive fossil remains from a series of caves in
Gauteng Gauteng ( ) is one of the nine provinces of South Africa. The name in Sotho-Tswana languages means 'place of gold'. Situated on the Highveld, Gauteng is the smallest province by land area in South Africa. Although Gauteng accounts for only ...
Province. The area, a
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture. It ...
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for h ...
, has been branded "the Cradle of Humankind". The sites include Sterkfontein, one of the richest sites for
hominin The Hominini form a taxonomic tribe of the subfamily Homininae ("hominines"). Hominini includes the extant genera ''Homo'' (humans) and '' Pan'' (chimpanzees and bonobos) and in standard usage excludes the genus ''Gorilla'' (gorillas). The ...
fossils in the world, as well as
Swartkrans Swartkrans is a fossil-bearing cave designated as a South African National Heritage Site, located about from Johannesburg. It is located in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and is notable for being extremely rich in archaeological ma ...
, Gondolin Cave, Kromdraai,
Cooper's Cave Cooper's Cave is a series of fossil-bearing breccia filled cavities. The cave is located almost exactly between the well known South African hominid-bearing sites of Sterkfontein and Kromdraai and about northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa a ...
and Malapa. Raymond Dart identified the first hominin fossil discovered in Africa, the
Taung Child The Taung Child (or Taung Baby) is the fossilised skull of a young '' Australopithecus africanus''. It was discovered in 1924 by quarrymen working for the Northern Lime Company in Taung, South Africa. Raymond Dart described it as a new specie ...
(found near
Taung Taung is a small town situated in the North West Province of South Africa. The name means ''place of the lion'' and was named after Tau, the King of the Barolong. ''Tau'' is the Tswana word for lion. Education High,Secondary and Middle Schools ...
) in 1924. Other hominin remains have come from the sites of
Makapansgat Makapansgat () (or Makapan Valley World Heritage Site) is an archaeological location within the Makapansgat and Zwartkrans Valleys, northeast of Mokopane in Limpopo province, South Africa. It is an important palaeontological site, with the local ...
in
Limpopo Limpopo is the northernmost province of South Africa. It is named after the Limpopo River, which forms the province's western and northern borders. The capital and largest city in the province is Polokwane, while the provincial legislature is ...
Province; Cornelia and
Florisbad Florisbad is a health resort 45 km northwest of Bloemfontein and 47 km south-west of Brandfort Brandfort, officially renamed Winnie Mandela in 2021, is a small agricultural town in the central Free State province of South Africa, about ...
in
Free State Province The Free State, known as Orange Free State until the 28th of June 1995 when its name was changed, is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bloemfontein, which is also South Africa's judicial capital. Its historical origins lie in the Boer ...
;
Border Cave Border Cave is a rock shelter on the western scarp of the Lebombo Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal near the border between South Africa and Eswatini. Border Cave has a remarkably continuous stratigraphic record of occupation spanning about 200 ka. ...
in KwaZulu-Natal Province;
Klasies River Caves The Klasies River Caves are a series of caves located to the east of the Klasies River mouth on the Tsitsikamma coast in the Humansdorp district of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. The three main caves and two shelters at the base of a high ...
in Eastern Cape Province; and
Pinnacle Point Pinnacle Point a small promontory immediately south of Mossel Bay, a town on the southern coast of South Africa. Excavations since the year 2000 of a series of caves at Pinnacle Point have revealed occupation by Middle Stone Age people between ...
, Elandsfontein and Die Kelders Cave in
Western Cape The Western Cape is a province of South Africa, situated on the south-western coast of the country. It is the fourth largest of the nine provinces with an area of , and the third most populous, with an estimated 7 million inhabitants in 2020 ...
Province. These finds suggest that various hominid species existed in South Africa from about three million years ago, starting with '' Australopithecus africanus,'' followed by '' Australopithecus sediba'', ''
Homo ergaster ''Homo ergaster'' is an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans who lived in Africa in the Early Pleistocene. Whether ''H. ergaster'' constitutes a species of its own or should be subsumed into '' H. erectus'' is an ongoing and unresol ...
'', '' Homo erectus'', ''
Homo rhodesiensis ''Homo rhodesiensis'' is the species name proposed by Arthur Smith Woodward (1921) to classify Kabwe 1 (the "Kabwe skull" or "Broken Hill skull", also "Rhodesian Man"), a Middle Stone Age fossil recovered from a cave at Broken Hill, or Kabwe, No ...
'', '' Homo helmei'', ''
Homo naledi '' Homo naledi'' is an extinct species of archaic human discovered in 2013 in the Rising Star Cave, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa dating to the Middle Pleistocene 335,000–236,000 years ago. The initial discovery comprises 1,550 specimens ...
'' and modern
human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedalism and exceptional cognitive skills due to a large and complex brain. This has enabled the development of advanced tools, cultu ...
s (''Homo sapiens''). Modern humans have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 170,000 years. Various researchers have located pebble tools within the
Vaal River The Vaal River ( ; Khoemana: ) is the largest tributary of the Orange River in South Africa. The river has its source near Breyten in Mpumalanga province, east of Johannesburg and about north of Ermelo and only about from the Indian Ocean. ...
valley.


Bantu expansion

Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were present south of the
Limpopo River The Limpopo River rises in South Africa and flows generally eastward through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean. The term Limpopo is derived from Rivombo (Livombo/Lebombo), a group of Tsonga settlers led by Hosi Rivombo who settled in the mountain ...
(now the northern border with
Botswana Botswana (, ), officially the Republic of Botswana ( tn, Lefatshe la Botswana, label= Setswana, ), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Botswana is topographically flat, with approximately 70 percent of its territory being the Kalaha ...
and
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and ...
) by the 4th or 5th century CE. They displaced, conquered, and absorbed the original Khoisan,
Khoikhoi Khoekhoen (singular Khoekhoe) (or Khoikhoi in the former orthography; formerly also '' Hottentots''"Hottentot, n. and adj." ''OED Online'', Oxford University Press, March 2018, www.oed.com/view/Entry/88829. Accessed 13 May 2018. Citing G. S. ...
and San peoples. The Bantu slowly moved south. The earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the
Xhosa people The Xhosa people, or Xhosa-speaking people (; ) are African people who are direct kinsmen of Tswana people, Sotho people and Twa people, yet are narrowly sub grouped by European as Nguni ethnic group whose traditional homeland is primarily t ...
, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoisan people. The Xhosa reached the Great Fish River, in today's Eastern Cape Province. As they migrated, these larger
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Stone Age ( Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic) and the Bronze Age ( Chalcolithic). The concept has been mostl ...
populations displaced or assimilated earlier peoples. In Mpumalanga Province, several stone circles have been found along with a stone arrangement that has been named Adam's Calendar, and the ruins are thought to be created by the Bakone, a
Northern Sotho Northern Sotho, or as an endonym, is a Sotho-Tswana language spoken in the northeastern provinces of South Africa. It is sometimes referred to as or , its main dialect, through synecdoche. According to the South African National Census o ...
people.


Portuguese exploration

In 1487, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias led the first European voyage to land in southern Africa. On 4 December, he landed at Walfisch Bay (now known as
Walvis Bay Walvis Bay ( en, lit. Whale Bay; af, Walvisbaai; ger, Walfischbucht or Walfischbai) is a city in Namibia and the name of the bay on which it lies. It is the second largest city in Namibia and the largest coastal city in the country. The ci ...
in present-day Namibia). This was south of the furthest point reached in 1485 by his predecessor, the Portuguese navigator
Diogo Cão Diogo Cão (; -1486), anglicised as Diogo Cam and also known as Diego Cam, was a Portuguese explorer and one of the most notable navigators of the Age of Discovery. He made two voyages sailing along the west coast of Africa in the 1480s, explori ...
( Cape Cross, north of the bay). Dias continued down the western coast of southern Africa. After 8 January 1488, prevented by storms from proceeding along the coast, he sailed out of sight of land and passed the southernmost point of Africa without seeing it. He reached as far up the eastern coast of Africa as, what he called, , probably the present-day Groot River, in May 1488. On his return he saw the cape, which he named ('Cape of Storms'). King
John II John II may refer to: People * John Cicero, Elector of Brandenburg (1455–1499) * John II Casimir Vasa of Poland (1609–1672) * John II Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (died 1302) * John II Doukas of Thessaly (1303–1318) * John II Komnenos (1087–1 ...
renamed the point , or Cape of Good Hope, as it led to the riches of the
East Indies The East Indies (or simply the Indies), is a term used in historical narratives of the Age of Discovery. The Indies refers to various lands in the East or the Eastern hemisphere, particularly the islands and mainlands found in and around ...
. Dias' feat of navigation was immortalised in
Luís de Camões Luís Vaz de Camões (; sometimes rendered in English as Camoens or Camoëns, ; c. 1524 or 1525 – 10 June 1580) is considered Portugal's and the Portuguese language's greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespear ...
' 1572 epic poem ''
Os Lusíadas ''Os Lusíadas'' (), usually translated as ''The Lusiads'', is a Portuguese epic poem written by Luís Vaz de Camões ( – 1580) and first published in 1572. It is widely regarded as the most important work of Portuguese-language literature ...
''.


Dutch colonisation

By the early 17th century, Portugal's maritime power was starting to decline, and English and Dutch merchants competed to oust Portugal from its lucrative monopoly on the spice trade. Representatives of the British
East India Company The East India Company (EIC) was an English, and later British, joint-stock company founded in 1600 and dissolved in 1874. It was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with the East Indies (the Indian subcontinent and South ...
sporadically called at the cape in search of provisions as early as 1601 but later came to favour Ascension Island and Saint Helena as alternative ports of refuge. Dutch interest was aroused after 1647, when two employees of the
Dutch East India Company The United East India Company ( nl, Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, the VOC) was a chartered company established on the 20th March 1602 by the States General of the Netherlands amalgamating existing companies into the first joint-stock ...
were shipwrecked at the cape for several months. The sailors were able to survive by obtaining fresh water and meat from the natives. They also sowed vegetables in the fertile soil. Upon their return to Holland, they reported favourably on the cape's potential as a "warehouse and garden" for provisions to stock passing ships for long voyages. In 1652, a century and a half after the discovery of the cape sea route, Jan van Riebeeck established a station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become
Cape Town Cape Town ( af, Kaapstad; , xh, iKapa) is one of South Africa's three capital cities, serving as the seat of the Parliament of South Africa. It is the legislative capital of the country, the oldest city in the country, and the second largest ...
, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. In time, the cape became home to a large population of , also known as (), former company employees who stayed in Dutch territories overseas after serving their contracts. Dutch traders also brought thousands of
enslaved people Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave—someone forbidden to quit one's service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as property. Slavery typically involves slaves being made to perf ...
to the fledgling colony from Indonesia, Madagascar, and parts of eastern Africa. Some of the earliest mixed race communities in the country were formed between , enslaved people, and indigenous peoples. This led to the development of a new ethnic group, the
Cape Coloureds Cape Coloureds () are a South African ethnic group consisted primarily of persons of mixed race and Khoisan descent. Although Coloureds form a minority group within South Africa, they are the predominant population group in the Western Cape. ...
, most of whom adopted the Dutch language and Christian faith. The eastward expansion of Dutch colonists ushered in a series of wars with the southwesterly migrating Xhosa tribe, known as the Xhosa Wars, as both sides competed for the pastureland near the Great Fish River, which the colonists desired for grazing cattle. ''Vrijburgers'' who became independent farmers on the frontier were known as ''
Boers Boers ( ; af, Boere ()) are the descendants of the Dutch-speaking Free Burghers of the eastern Cape frontier in Southern Africa during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. From 1652 to 1795, the Dutch East India Company controlled this are ...
'', with some adopting semi-nomadic lifestyles being denoted as . The Boers formed loose
militia A militia () is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a country, or subjects of a state, who may perform military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of r ...
s, which they termed ''commandos'', and forged alliances with Khoisan peoples to repel Xhosa raids. Both sides launched bloody but inconclusive offensives, and sporadic violence, often accompanied by livestock theft, remained common for several decades.


British colonisation and the Great Trek

Great Britain occupied Cape Town between 1795 and 1803 to prevent it from falling under the control of the French First Republic, which had invaded the
Low Countries The term Low Countries, also known as the Low Lands ( nl, de Lage Landen, french: les Pays-Bas, lb, déi Niddereg Lännereien) and historically called the Netherlands ( nl, de Nederlanden), Flanders, or Belgica, is a coastal lowland region in N ...
. After briefly returning to Dutch rule under the Batavian Republic in 1803, the cape was occupied again by the British in 1806. Following the end of the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major global conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European states formed into various coalitions. It produced a period of Fren ...
, it was formally ceded to Great Britain and became an integral part of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It began with the overseas possessions and trading posts e ...
. British emigration to South Africa began around 1818, subsequently culminating in the arrival of the
1820 Settlers The 1820 Settlers were several groups of British colonists from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, settled by the government of the United Kingdom and the Cape Colony authorities in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1820. Origins After ...
. The new colonists were induced to settle for a variety of reasons, namely to increase the size of the European workforce and to bolster frontier regions against Xhosa incursions. In the first two decades of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and expanded their territory under their leader,
Shaka Shaka kaSenzangakhona ( – 22 September 1828), also known as Shaka Zulu () and Sigidi kaSenzangakhona, was the king of the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828. One of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu, he ordered wide-reaching reforms that ...
. Shaka's warfare indirectly led to the ('crushing'), in which one to two million people were killed and the inland plateau was devastated and depopulated in the early 1820s. An offshoot of the Zulu, the Matabele people created a larger empire that included large parts of the
highveld The Highveld (Afrikaans: ''Hoëveld'', where ''veld'' means "field") is the portion of the South African inland plateau which has an altitude above roughly 1500 m, but below 2100 m, thus excluding the Lesotho mountain regions to the south-east of ...
under their king
Mzilikazi Mzilikazi Moselekatse, Khumalo ( 1790 – 9 September 1868) was a Southern African king who founded the Mthwakazi Kingdom now known as Matebeleland, in Zimbabwe. His name means "the great river of blood". He was born the son of Mashobane kaMan ...
. During the early 19th century, many Dutch settlers departed from the
Cape Colony The Cape Colony ( nl, Kaapkolonie), also known as the Cape of Good Hope, was a British colony in present-day South Africa named after the Cape of Good Hope, which existed from 1795 to 1802, and again from 1806 to 1910, when it united with t ...
, where they had been subjected to British control, in a series of migrant groups who came to be known as , meaning "pathfinders" or "pioneers". They migrated to the future
Natal NATAL or Natal may refer to: Places * Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, a city in Brazil * Natal, South Africa (disambiguation), a region in South Africa ** Natalia Republic, a former country (1839–1843) ** Colony of Natal, a former British colony ( ...
, Free State, and Transvaal regions. The Boers founded the Boer republics: the
South African Republic The South African Republic ( nl, Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, abbreviated ZAR; af, Suid-Afrikaanse Republiek), also known as the Transvaal Republic, was an independent Boer Republic in Southern Africa which existed from 1852 to 1902, when it ...
, the
Natalia Republic The Natalia Republic was a short-lived Boer republic founded in 1839 after a Voortrekker victory against the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River. The area was previously named ''Natália'' by Portuguese sailors, due to its discovery on Christm ...
, and the
Orange Free State The Orange Free State ( nl, Oranje Vrijstaat; af, Oranje-Vrystaat;) was an independent Boer sovereign republic under British suzerainty in Southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century, which ceased to exist after it was defeat ...
. The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the
Mineral Revolution The Mineral Revolution is a term used by historians to refer to the rapid industrialisation and economic changes which occurred in South Africa from the 1860s onwards. The Mineral Revolution was largely driven by the need to create a permanen ...
and increased economic growth and immigration. This intensified British efforts to gain control over the indigenous peoples. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British. On 16 May 1876, President
Thomas François Burgers Thomas François Burgers (15 April 18349 December 1881) was a South African politician and minister who served as the 4th president of the South African Republic from 1872 to 1877. He was the youngest child of Barend and Elizabeth Burger of the ...
of the South African Republic declared war against the
Pedi people The Pedi or (also known as the Northern Sotho or and the Marota or ) – are a southern African ethnic group that speak Pedi or ''Sepedi'', a dialect belonging to the Sotho-Tswana enthnolinguistic group. Northern Sotho is a term used to ...
. King Sekhukhune managed to defeat the army on 1 August 1876. Another attack by the Lydenburg Volunteer Corps was also repulsed. On 16 February 1877, the two parties signed a peace treaty at
Botshabelo Botshabelo, meaning "a place of refuge", is a large township set up in 1979 by the then apartheid government. It is located 45 km east of Bloemfontein in the present-day Free State province of South Africa. Botshabelo is now the largest ...
. The Boers' inability to subdue the Pedi led to the departure of Burgers in favour of
Paul Kruger Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (; 10 October 1825 – 14 July 1904) was a South African politician. He was one of the dominant political and military figures in 19th-century South African Republic, South Africa, and President of the So ...
and the British annexation of the South African Republic. In 1878 and 1879 three British attacks were successfully repelled until
Garnet Wolseley Field Marshal Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, (4 June 183325 March 1913), was an Anglo-Irish officer in the British Army. He became one of the most influential and admired British generals after a series of successes in Canada, W ...
defeated Sekhukhune in November 1879 with an army of 2,000 British soldiers, Boers and 10,000 Swazis. The
Anglo-Zulu War The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. Following the passing of the British North America Act of 1867 forming a federation in Canada, Lord Carnarvon thought that a similar political effort, cou ...
was fought in 1879 between the British and the Zulu Kingdom. Following
Lord Carnarvon Earl of Carnarvon is a title that has been created three times in British history. The current holder is George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. The town and county in Wales to which the title refers are historically spelled ''Caernarfon,'' havi ...
's successful introduction of federation in Canada, it was thought that similar political effort, coupled with military campaigns, might succeed with the African kingdoms, tribal areas and Boer republics in South Africa. In 1874, Henry Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa as the British High Commissioner to bring such plans into being. Among the obstacles were the presence of the independent states of the Boers, and the Zululand army. The Zulu nation defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. Eventually, though, Zululand lost the war, resulting in the termination of the Zulu nation's independence.


Boer Wars

The Boer republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the
First Boer War The First Boer War ( af, Eerste Vryheidsoorlog, literally "First Freedom War"), 1880–1881, also known as the First Anglo–Boer War, the Transvaal War or the Transvaal Rebellion, was fought from 16 December 1880 until 23 March 1881 betwee ...
(1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well-suited to local conditions. The British returned with greater numbers, more experience, and new strategy in the
Second Boer War The Second Boer War ( af, Tweede Vryheidsoorlog, , 11 October 189931 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, the Anglo–Boer War, or the South African War, was a conflict fought between the British Empire and the two Boer Republics (the South ...
(1899–1902) and, although they suffered heavy casualties through
attrition Attrition may refer to *Attrition warfare, the military strategy of wearing down the enemy by continual losses in personnel and material **War of Attrition, fought between Egypt and Israel from 1968 to 1970 **War of attrition (game), a model of agg ...
, they were ultimately successful. Over 27,000 Boer women and children died in the
British concentration camps During the Second Anglo-Boer War which lasted from 1899–1902, the British operated concentration camps in South Africa: the term "concentration camp" grew in prominence during that period. The camps had originally been set up by the British Arm ...
. South Africa's urban population grew rapidly from the end of the 19th century onward. After the devastation of the wars, Dutch-descendant Boer farmers fled into cities from the devastated Transvaal and Orange Free State territories to become the class of the white urban poor.


Independence

Anti-British policies among white South Africans focused on independence. During the Dutch and British colonial years,
racial segregation Racial segregation is the systematic separation of people into race (human classification), racial or other Ethnicity, ethnic groups in daily life. Racial segregation can amount to the international crime of apartheid and a crimes against hum ...
was mostly informal, though some legislation was enacted to control the settlement and movement of indigenous people, including the
Native Location Act of 1879 The ''Native Location Act of 1879'' was an act of racial segregation in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stre ...
and the system of
pass laws In South Africa, pass laws were a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population, manage urbanization and allocate migrant labor. Also known as the natives' law, pass laws severely limited the movements of not only black ...
. Eight years after the end of the Second Boer War and after four years of negotiation, the
South Africa Act 1909 The South Africa Act 1909 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which created the Union of South Africa from the British Cape Colony, Colony of Natal, Orange River Colony, and Transvaal Colony. The Act also made provisions for p ...
granted nominal independence while creating the
Union of South Africa The Union of South Africa ( nl, Unie van Zuid-Afrika; af, Unie van Suid-Afrika; ) was the historical predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into existence on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the Cape, Natal, Tran ...
on 31 May 1910. The union was a
dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State at the 192 ...
that included the former territories of the Cape, Transvaal and Natal colonies, as well as the Orange Free State republic. The Natives' Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by blacks; at that stage they controlled only 7% of the country. The amount of land reserved for indigenous peoples was later marginally increased. In 1931, the union became fully sovereign from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which abolished the last powers of the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It meets at the Palace of Westminster, London. It alone possesses legislative suprema ...
to legislate on the country. Only three other African countries—Liberia, Ethiopia, and Egypt—had been independent prior to that point. In 1934, the
South African Party nl, Zuidafrikaanse Partij , leader1_title = Leader (s) , leader1_name = Louis Botha,Jan Smuts, Barry Hertzog , foundation = , dissolution = , merger = Het Volk South African PartyAfrikaner BondOrangia Unie , merged ...
and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking whites. In 1939, the party split over the entry of the union into
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposing ...
as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party followers strongly opposed.


Beginning of apartheid

In 1948, the National Party was elected to power. It strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule. Taking Canada's Indian Act as a framework, the
nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a group of people), Smith, Anthony. ''Nationalism: Th ...
government classified all peoples into three races (''Whites, Blacks, Indians and Coloured people (people of mixed race)'') and developed rights and limitations for each. The white minority (less than 20%) controlled the vastly larger black majority. The legally institutionalised segregation became known as ''
apartheid Apartheid (, especially South African English: , ; , "aparthood") was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 to the early 1990s. Apartheid was ...
''. While whites enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, comparable to First World Western nations, the black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. The Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955 by the
Congress Alliance The Congress Alliance was an anti-apartheid political coalition formed in South Africa in the 1950s. Led by the African National Congress, the CA was multi-racial in makeup and committed to the principle of majority rule. Congress of the People ...
, demanded a non-racial society and an end to discrimination.


Republic

On 31 May 1961, the country became a republic following a referendum (only open to white voters) which narrowly passed; the British-dominated Natal province largely voted against the proposal.
Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; 21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022) was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 6 February 1952 until her death in 2022. She was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states during ...
lost the title
Queen of South Africa From 1910 to 1961, the Union of South Africa was a self-governing country that shared a monarch with the United Kingdom and the other Dominions of the British Empire. The monarch's constitutional roles were mostly delegated to the governor-gene ...
, and the last Governor-General, Charles Robberts Swart, became state president. As a concession to the Westminster system, the appointment of the president remained an appointment by parliament and was virtually powerless until
P. W. Botha Pieter Willem Botha, (; 12 January 1916 – 31 October 2006), commonly known as P. W. and af, Die Groot Krokodil (The Big Crocodile), was a South African politician. He served as the last prime minister of South Africa from 1978 to 1984 and ...
's Constitution Act of 1983, which eliminated the office of
prime minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system. Under those systems, a prime minister i ...
and instated a unique "strong presidency" responsible to parliament. Pressured by other
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the ...
countries, South Africa withdrew from the organisation in 1961 and rejoined it in 1994. Despite opposition to apartheid both within and outside the country, the government legislated for a continuation of apartheid. The security forces cracked down on internal dissent, and violence became widespread, with anti-apartheid organisations such as the
African National Congress The African National Congress (ANC) is a social-democratic political party in South Africa. A liberation movement known for its opposition to apartheid, it has governed the country since 1994, when the first post-apartheid election install ...
(ANC), the
Azanian People's Organisation The Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO) is a South African liberation movement and political party. The organisation's two student wings are the Azanian Students' Movement (AZASM) for high school learners and the other being for university leve ...
, and the Pan-Africanist Congress carrying out guerrilla warfare and urban sabotage. The three rival resistance movements also engaged in occasional inter-factional clashes as they jockeyed for domestic influence. Apartheid became increasingly controversial, and several countries began to boycott business with the South African government because of its racial policies. These measures were later extended to international sanctions and the divestment of holdings by foreign investors.


End of apartheid

The
Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith The Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith was a statement of core principles laid down by South African political leaders Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Harry Schwarz on 4 January 1974. It was signed in Mahlabatini, KwaZulu-Natal, hence its name. Its purpo ...
, signed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Harry Schwarz in 1974, enshrined the principles of
peaceful transition of power A peaceful transition or transfer of power is a concept important to democratic governments in which the leadership of a government peacefully hands over control of government to a newly-elected leadership. This may be after elections or during t ...
and equality for all, the first of such agreements by black and white political leaders in South Africa. Ultimately, F.W. de Klerk opened bilateral discussions with Nelson Mandela in 1993 for a transition of policies and government. In 1990, the National Party government took the first step towards dismantling discrimination when it lifted the ban on the ANC and other political organisations. It released Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years of serving a sentence for sabotage. A negotiation process followed. With approval from the white electorate in a 1992 referendum, the government continued negotiations to end apartheid. South Africa held its first universal elections in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since. The country rejoined the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the ...
and became a member of the
Southern African Development Community The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana. Its goal is to further regional socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security coopera ...
. In post-apartheid South Africa, unemployment remained high. While many blacks have risen to middle or upper classes, the overall unemployment rate of black people worsened between 1994 and 2003 by official metrics but declined significantly using expanded definitions. Poverty among whites, which was previously rare, increased. The government struggled to achieve the monetary and fiscal discipline to ensure both redistribution of wealth and economic growth. The United Nations
Human Development Index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the education system), and per capita income indicators, wh ...
rose steadily until the mid-1990s then fell from 1995 to 2005 before recovering its 1995 peak in 2013. The fall is in large part attributable to the South African HIV/AIDS pandemic which saw South African life expectancy fall from a high point of 62 years in 1992 to a low of 53 in 2005, and the failure of the government to take steps to address the pandemic in its early years. In May 2008, riots left over 60 people dead. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions estimated that over 100,000 people were driven from their homes. The targets were mainly
legal Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
and illegal migrants, and refugees seeking asylum, but a third of the victims were South African citizens. In a 2006 survey, the South African Migration Project concluded that South Africans are more opposed to immigration than any other national group. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2008 reported over 200,000 refugees applied for asylum in South Africa, almost four times as many as the year before. These people were mainly from
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and ...
, though many also come from Burundi,
Democratic Republic of the Congo The Democratic Republic of the Congo (french: République démocratique du Congo (RDC), colloquially "La RDC" ), informally Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DRC, the DROC, or the Congo, and formerly and also colloquially Zaire, is a country in ...
, Rwanda, Eritrea,
Ethiopia Ethiopia, , om, Itiyoophiyaa, so, Itoobiya, ti, ኢትዮጵያ, Ítiyop'iya, aa, Itiyoppiya officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the ...
and
Somalia Somalia, , Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constituti ...
. Competition over jobs, business opportunities, public services and housing has led to tension between refugees and host communities. While
xenophobia in South Africa Prior to 1994, immigrants from elsewhere faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa. After majority rule in 1994, contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased. Between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people died ...
is still a problem, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2011 reported that recent violence had not been as widespread as initially feared. Nevertheless, as South Africa continues to grapple with racial issues, one of the proposed solutions has been to pass legislation, such as the pending Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, to uphold South Africa's ban on racism and commitment to equality. By 2020, numerous warnings have been issued that South Africa is heading towards failed state status with unsustainable government spending, high unemployment, high crime rates, corruption, failing government owned enterprises and collapsing infrastructure. In 2022, The World Economic Forum said that South Africa risks state collapse and identified five major risks facing the country. The Director-General of the South African Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, has said that, "SA is showing the signs of a failing state more common in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia". Former minister Jay Naidoo has said that South Africa is in serious trouble and is showing signs of a failed state, with record unemployment levels and the fact that many young people will not find a job in their lifetime. Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said the country is in deep trouble, “South Africans have been getting poorer for a decade". He said he is very concerned because 32 million people get an income from the state. The state cannot afford this anymore". Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, said that crime is out of control, with ‘mafia-style shakedowns’ for procurement contracts becoming the norm. “Government leadership has created this problem and they are doing nothing. The government can’t deal with it because it goes against their ideology". Professor Eddy Maloka, from the Institute of Risk Management, “The ANC has left us in a mess. They’ve turned their crisis into ours... Government has collapsed in areas across the country. We are seeing inner-cities collapse and degenerate”. Professor David Himbara said that "South Africa is a classic case of a de facto one-party state with mismanaged institutions and endemic crime and corruption".


Geography

South Africa is in southernmost Africa, with a coastline that stretches more than and along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian). At , South Africa is the 24th-largest country in the world. Excluding the
Prince Edward Islands The Prince Edward Islands are two small uninhabited islands in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean that are part of South Africa. The islands are named Marion Island (named after Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, 1724–1772) and Prince Edward Island ...
, the country lies between latitudes 22° and 35°S, and longitudes 16° and 33°E. The interior of South Africa consists of a large, in most places almost flat plateau with an altitude of between and , highest in the east and sloping gently downwards towards the west and north, and slightly so to the south and south-west. This plateau is surrounded by the Great EscarpmentAtlas of Southern Africa. (1984). p. 13. Reader's Digest Association, Cape Town whose eastern, and highest, stretch is known as the
Drakensberg The Drakensberg (Afrikaans: Drakensberge, Zulu: uKhahlambha, Sotho: Maluti) is the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment, which encloses the central Southern African plateau. The Great Escarpment reaches its greatest elevation – within t ...
.
Mafadi Mafadi is a peak on the border of South Africa and Lesotho. At a height of , it is the highest mountain in the nation of South Africa, but is lower than Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest peak in Lesotho which is, at , the highest point in Souther ...
in the Drakensberg at is the highest peak. The KwaZulu-Natal–Lesotho international border is formed by the highest portion of the Great Escarpment which reaches an altitude of over . The south and south-western parts of the plateau (at approximately 1,1001,800m above sea level) and the adjoining plain below (at approximately 700800m above sea levelsee map on the right) is known as the
Great Karoo The Karoo ( ; from the Afrikaans borrowing of the South Khoekhoe !Orakobab or Khoemana word ''ǃ’Aukarob'' "Hardveld") is a semi-desert natural region of South Africa. No exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo is available, so its ext ...
, which consists of sparsely populated shrubland. To the north, the Great Karoo fades into the more arid Bushmanland, which eventually becomes the
Kalahari Desert The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid sandy savanna in Southern Africa extending for , covering much of Botswana, and parts of Namibia and South Africa. It is not to be confused with the Angolan, Namibian, and South African Namib coastal d ...
in the north-west of the country. The mid-eastern and highest part of the plateau is known as the
Highveld The Highveld (Afrikaans: ''Hoëveld'', where ''veld'' means "field") is the portion of the South African inland plateau which has an altitude above roughly 1500 m, but below 2100 m, thus excluding the Lesotho mountain regions to the south-east of ...
. This relatively well-watered area is home to a great proportion of the country's commercial farmlands and contains its largest conurbation (Gauteng). To the north of Highveld, from about the 25°30'S line of latitude, the plateau slopes downwards into the
Bushveld The Bushveld (from af, bosveld, af, bos 'bush' and af, veld) is a tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands, sub-tropical woodland ecoregion of Southern Africa. It encompasses most of Limpopo Province and a small part of ...
, which ultimately gives way to the Limpopo River lowlands or Lowveld. The coastal belt, below the Great Escarpment, moving clockwise from the northeast, consists of the Limpopo Lowveld, which merges into the Mpumalanga Lowveld, below the Mpumalanga Drakensberg (the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment). This is hotter, drier and less intensely cultivated than the Highveld above the escarpment. The Kruger National Park, located in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa, occupies a large portion of the Lowveld covering 19,633 square kilometres (7,580 sq mi.) The coastal belt below the south and south-western stretches of the Great Escarpment contains several ranges of
Cape Fold Mountains The Cape Fold Belt is a fold and thrust belt of late Paleozoic age, which affected the sequence of Sedimentary rock, sedimentary rock layers of the Cape Supergroup in the southwestern corner of South Africa. It was originally continuous with t ...
which run parallel to the coast, separating the Great Escarpment from the ocean.Geological map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (1970). Council for Geoscience, Geological Survey of South Africa. (These parallel ranges of fold mountains are shown on the map, above left. Note the course of the Great Escarpment to the north of these mountain ranges.) The land between the Outeniqua and
Langeberg The Langeberg Range is a mountain range in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Its highest peak is Keeromsberg at 2,075 m that lies 15 km northeast of the town of Worcester. Some of the highest peaks of the range are located just to ...
ranges to the south and the
Swartberg The Swartberg mountains (''black mountain'' in Afrikaans) are a mountain range in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is composed of two main mountain chains running roughly east–west along the northern edge of the semi-arid Little ...
range to the north is known as the
Little Karoo The Karoo ( ; from the Afrikaans borrowing of the South Khoekhoe !Orakobab or Khoemana word ''ǃ’Aukarob'' "Hard veld") is a semi- desert natural region of South Africa. No exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo is available, so its ...
, which consists of semi-desert shrubland similar to that of the Great Karoo, except that its northern strip along the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains has a somewhat higher rainfall and is, therefore, more cultivated than the Great Karoo. The Little Karoo is famous for its ostrich farming around
Oudtshoorn Oudtshoorn (, ), the "ostrich capital of the world", is a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa, located between the Swartberg mountains to the north and the Outeniqua Mountains to the south. Two ostrich-feather booms, during 1865– ...
. The lowland area to the north of the Swartberg range up to the Great Escarpment is the lowland part of the Great Karoo, which is climatically and botanically almost indistinguishable from the Karoo above the Great Escarpment. The narrow coastal strip between the Outeniqua and Langeberg ranges and the ocean has a moderately high year-round rainfall, which is known as the
Garden Route The Garden Route (Afrikaans: ''Tuinroete'') is a stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa which extends from Witsand in the Western Cape Province, Western Cape to the border of Tsitsikamma Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The name com ...
. It is famous for the most extensive areas of forests in South Africa (a generally forest-poor country). In the south-west corner of the country, the
Cape Peninsula The Cape Peninsula ( af, Kaapse Skiereiland) is a generally mountainous peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean at the south-western extremity of the African continent. At the southern end of the peninsula are Cape Point and the Cape ...
forms the southernmost tip of the coastal strip which borders the Atlantic Ocean and ultimately terminates at the country's border with Namibia at the
Orange River The Orange River (from Afrikaans/Dutch: ''Oranjerivier'') is a river in Southern Africa. It is the longest river in South Africa. With a total length of , the Orange River Basin extends from Lesotho into South Africa and Namibia to the north ...
. The Cape Peninsula has a
Mediterranean climate A Mediterranean climate (also called a dry summer temperate climate ''Cs'') is a temperate climate sub-type, generally characterized by warm, dry summers and mild, fairly wet winters; these weather conditions are typically experienced in the ...
, making it and its immediate surrounds the only portion of Sub-Saharan Africa which receives most of its rainfall in winter.Atlas of Southern Africa. (1984). p. 19. Reader's Digest Association, Cape Town The coastal belt to the north of the Cape Peninsula is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and the first row of north–south running Cape Fold Mountains to the east. The Cape Fold Mountains peter out at about the 32°S line of latitude, after which the Great Escarpment bounds the coastal plain. The most southerly portion of this coastal belt is known as the
Swartland The Swartland is a region of Western Cape Province that begins some north of Cape Town and consists of the area between the towns of Malmesbury in the south, Darling in the west, Piketberg in the north, Moorreesburg in the middle and the Riebee ...
and Malmesbury Plain, which is an important wheat growing region, relying on winter rains. The region further north is known as
Namaqualand Namaqualand (khoekhoe: "Nama-kwa" meaning Nama Khoe people's land) is an arid region of Namibia and South Africa, extending along the west coast over and covering a total area of . It is divided by the lower course of the Orange River into ...
, which becomes more arid near the Orange River. The little rain that falls tends to fall in winter, which results in one of the world's most spectacular displays of flowers carpeting huge stretches of
veld Veld ( or ), also spelled veldt, is a type of wide open rural landscape in :Southern Africa. Particularly, it is a flat area covered in grass or low scrub, especially in the countries of South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Bot ...
in spring (AugustSeptember). South Africa also has one offshore possession, the small
sub-Antarctic The sub-Antarctic zone is a region in the Southern Hemisphere, located immediately north of the Antarctic region. This translates roughly to a latitude of between 46° and 60° south of the Equator. The subantarctic region includes many islands ...
archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster, or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands. Examples of archipelagos include: the Indonesian Arc ...
of the Prince Edward Islands, consisting of Marion Island () and Prince Edward Island () (not to be confused with the Canadian province of the same name).


Climate

South Africa has a generally
temperate climate In geography, the temperate climates of Earth occur in the middle latitudes (23.5° to 66.5° N/S of Equator), which span between the tropics and the polar regions of Earth. These zones generally have wider temperature ranges throughout ...
because it is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, because it is located in the climatically milder Southern Hemisphere, and because its average elevation rises steadily toward the north (toward the equator) and further inland. This varied topography and oceanic influence result in a great variety of climatic zones. The climatic zones range from the extreme desert of the southern
Namib The Namib ( ; pt, Namibe) is a coastal desert in Southern Africa. The name is of Khoekhoegowab origin and means "vast place". According to the broadest definition, the Namib stretches for more than along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Nami ...
in the farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the border with Mozambique and the Indian Ocean. Winters in South Africa occur between June and August. The extreme southwest has a climate similar to that of the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa ...
with wet winters and hot, dry summers, hosting the famous fynbos
biome A biome () is a biogeographical unit consisting of a biological community that has formed in response to the physical environment in which they are found and a shared regional climate. Biomes may span more than one continent. Biome is a broader ...
of shrubland and
thicket A thicket is a very dense stand of trees or tall shrubs, often dominated by only one or a few species, to the exclusion of all others. They may be formed by species that shed large numbers of highly viable seeds that are able to germinate in t ...
. This area produces much of the wine in South Africa and is known for its wind, which blows intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around the Cape of Good Hope is particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east on the south coast, rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. The annual rainfall increases south of the Lowveld, especially near the coast, which is subtropical. The Free State is particularly flat because it lies centrally on the high plateau. North of the
Vaal River The Vaal River ( ; Khoemana: ) is the largest tributary of the Orange River in South Africa. The river has its source near Breyten in Mpumalanga province, east of Johannesburg and about north of Ermelo and only about from the Indian Ocean. ...
, the Highveld becomes better watered and does not experience subtropical extremes of heat. Johannesburg, in the centre of the Highveld, is at above sea level and receives an annual rainfall of . Winters in this region are cold, although snow is rare. The coldest place on mainland South Africa is Buffelsfontein in the Eastern Cape, where a temperature of was recorded in 2013. The Prince Edward Islands have colder average annual temperatures, but Buffelsfontein has colder extremes. The deep interior of mainland South Africa has the hottest temperatures: a temperature of was recorded in 1948 in the Northern Cape Kalahari near
Upington Upington ( Nama: //Khara hais) is a town founded in 1873 and located in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, on the banks of the Orange River. The town was originally called Olijvenhoutsdrift ('Olive wood drift'), due to the abundance of ...
, but this temperature is unofficial and was not recorded with standard equipment; the official highest temperature is at
Vioolsdrif Vioolsdrif is a village on the Orange River in the north-western Namaqualand area of South Africa. Origin of name The name in Afrikaans means 'the ford (shallow river crossing) of the violin'. It is reportedly named after Jan Viool ("John Violi ...
in January 1993.
Climate change in South Africa Climate change in South Africa is leading to increased temperatures and rainfall variability. Evidence shows that extreme weather events are becoming more prominent due to climate change.Republic of South Africa, National Climate Change Adaptation ...
is leading to increased temperatures and rainfall variability.
Extreme weather Extreme weather or extreme climate events includes unexpected, unusual, severe, or unseasonal weather; weather at the extremes of the historical distribution—the range that has been seen in the past. Often, extreme events are based on a loca ...
events are becoming more prominent.Republic of South Africa,
National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS)
,'' Version UE10, 13 November 2019.
This is a critical concern for South Africans as climate change will affect the overall status and wellbeing of the country, for example with regards to water resources. Speedy environmental changes are resulting in clear effects on the community and environmental level in different ways and aspects, starting with air quality, to temperature and weather patterns, reaching out to food security and disease burden. South Africa contributes considerable
carbon dioxide emissions Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities strengthen the greenhouse effect, contributing to climate change. Most is carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. The largest emitters include coal in China and la ...
, being the 14th largest emitter of carbon dioxide, primarily from its heavy reliance on coal and oil for energy production. As part of its international commitments, South Africa has pledged to peak emissions between 2020 and 2025.


Biodiversity

South Africa signed the Rio
Convention on Biological Diversity The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty. The Convention has three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); the sustainable use of its ...
on 4 June 1994 and became a party to the convention on 2 November 1995. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 7 June 2006. The country is ranked sixth out of the world's seventeen megadiverse countries.
Ecotourism in South Africa Ecotourism is the concept of responsible trips and travel to areas that might be protected and especially fragile. The intent is to create as little detrimental impact on the environment as possible. South Africa has used ecotourism to sustain an ...
has become more prevalent in recent years, as a possible method of maintaining and improving biodiversity. Numerous mammals are found in the Bushveld including lions,
African leopard The African leopard (''Panthera pardus pardus'') is the nominate subspecies of the leopard, native to many countries in Africa. It is widely distributed in most of sub-Saharan Africa, but the historical range has been fragmented in the course of ...
s, South African cheetahs, southern white rhinos,
blue wildebeest The blue wildebeest (''Connochaetes taurinus''), also called the common wildebeest, white-bearded gnu or brindled gnu, is a large antelope and one of the two species of wildebeest. It is placed in the genus '' Connochaetes'' and family Bovidae, a ...
,
kudu The kudus are two species of antelope of the genus '' Tragelaphus'': * Lesser kudu, ''Tragelaphus imberbis'', of eastern Africa * Greater kudu, ''Tragelaphus strepsiceros'', of eastern and southern Africa The two species look similar, th ...
s, impalas, hyenas,
hippopotamus The hippopotamus ( ; : hippopotamuses or hippopotami; ''Hippopotamus amphibius''), also called the hippo, common hippopotamus, or river hippopotamus, is a large semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two extan ...
es and
South African giraffe The South African giraffe or Cape giraffe (''Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa'') is a subspecies of giraffe found in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It has rounded or blotched spots, some with star-like extensions on a lig ...
s. A significant extent of the Bushveld exists in the north-east including Kruger National Park and the
Sabi Sand Game Reserve Sabi Sand Game Reserve is located adjacent to the Kruger National Park in the Lowveld of Mpumalanga, South Africa. Officially named Sabi Sand Wildtuin, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve consists of a group of private game reserves. The Newington Ga ...
, as well as in the far north in the
Waterberg Biosphere The Waterberg ( nso, Thaba Meetse) is a mountainous massif of approximately in north Limpopo Province, South Africa. The average height of the mountain range is 600 m with a few peaks rising up to 2000 m above sea level. Vaalwater town is l ...
. South Africa houses many
endemic species Endemism is the state of a species being found in a single defined geographic location, such as an island, state, nation, country or other defined zone; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsew ...
, among them the critically endangered riverine rabbit (''Bunolagus monticullaris'') in the Karoo. Up to 1945, more than 4,900 species of
fungi A fungus ( : fungi or funguses) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, separately from ...
(including lichen-forming species) had been recorded. In 2006, the number of fungi in South Africa was estimated at 200,000 species but did not take into account fungi associated with insects. If correct, then the number of South African fungi dwarfs that of its plants. In at least some major South African ecosystems, an exceptionally high percentage of fungi are highly specific in terms of the plants with which they occur. The country's Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan does not mention fungi (including lichen-forming fungi). With more than 22,000 different
vascular plant Vascular plants (), also called tracheophytes () or collectively Tracheophyta (), form a large group of land plants ( accepted known species) that have lignified tissues (the xylem) for conducting water and minerals throughout the plant. They ...
s, or about 9% of all the known species of plants on Earth, South Africa is particularly rich in plant diversity. The most prevalent biome is the
grassland A grassland is an area where the vegetation is dominated by grasses ( Poaceae). However, sedge ( Cyperaceae) and rush ( Juncaceae) can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other herbs. Grasslands occur na ...
, particularly on the Highveld, where the plant cover is dominated by different
grasses Poaceae () or Gramineae () is a large and nearly ubiquitous family of monocotyledonous flowering plants commonly known as grasses. It includes the cereal grasses, bamboos and the grasses of natural grassland and species cultivated in lawns ...
, low shrubs, and acacia, mainly camel-thorn (''
Vachellia erioloba ''Vachellia erioloba'', the camel thorn, giraffe thorn, or Kameeldoring in Afrikaans, still more commonly known as ''Acacia erioloba'', is a tree of southern Africa in the family Fabaceae. Its preferred habitat is the deep dry sandy soils in pa ...
''). Vegetation is sparse towards the north-west because of low rainfall. There are numerous species of water-storing succulents, like aloes and
euphorbia ''Euphorbia'' is a very large and diverse genus of flowering plants, commonly called spurge, in the family Euphorbiaceae. "Euphorbia" is sometimes used in ordinary English to collectively refer to all members of Euphorbiaceae (in deference to t ...
s, in the very hot and dry Namaqualand area (According to the
World Wildlife Fund The World Wide Fund for Nature Inc. (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment. It was formerly named the Wo ...
, South Africa is home to around a third of all succulent species). The grass and thorn
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland- grassland (i.e. grassy woodland) ecosystem characterised by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to ...
turns slowly into a bush savanna towards the north-east of the country, with denser growth. There are significant numbers of baobab trees in this area, near the northern end of Kruger National Park. The fynbos biome, which makes up the majority of the area and plant life in the Cape Floristic Region, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9,000 of those species, or three times more plant species than found in the Amazon rainforest, making it among the richest regions on earth in terms of plant diversity. Most of the plants are
evergreen In botany, an evergreen is a plant which has foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season. This also pertains to plants that retain their foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with deciduous plants, whic ...
hard-leaf plants with fine, needle-like leaves, such as the
sclerophyll Sclerophyll is a type of vegetation that is adapted to long periods of dryness and heat. The plants feature hard leaves, short internodes (the distance between leaves along the stem) and leaf orientation which is parallel or oblique to direct ...
ous plants. Another uniquely South African flowering plant group is the genus ''
Protea ''Protea'' () is a genus of South African flowering plants, also called sugarbushes (Afrikaans: ''suikerbos''). Etymology The genus ''Protea'' was named in 1735 by Carl Linnaeus, possibly after the Greek god Proteus, who could change his form a ...
'', with around 130 different species. While South Africa has a great wealth of flowering plants, only 1% of the land is forest, almost exclusively in the humid coastal plain of KwaZulu-Natal, where there are also areas of
Southern Africa mangroves The Southern Africa mangroves are mangrove ecoregion on the Mozambique's southernmost coast and the eastern coast of South Africa. Location and description These mangroves grow in the mouths of rivers on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa, w ...
in river mouths. Even smaller reserves of forests are out of the reach of fire, known as
montane forests Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountains. The alpine climate in these regions strongly affects the ecosystem because temperatures fall as elevation increases, causing the ecosystem to stratify. This stratification is a crucial f ...
. Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native
eucalyptus ''Eucalyptus'' () is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Along with several other genera in the tribe Eucalypteae, including '' Corymbia'', they are commonly known as e ...
and pine.


Conservation issues

South Africa has lost a large area of natural habitat in the last four decades, primarily because of overpopulation, sprawling development patterns, and deforestation during the 19th century. The country had a 2019
Forest Landscape Integrity Index The Forest Landscape Integrity Index (FLII) is an annual global index of forest condition measured by degree of anthropogenic modification. Created by a team of 48 scientists, the FLII, in its measurement of 300m pixels of forest across the globe ...
mean score of 4.94/10, ranking it 112th globally out of 172 countries. South Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to invasion by
alien species An introduced species, alien species, exotic species, adventive species, immigrant species, foreign species, non-indigenous species, or non-native species is a species living outside its native distributional range, but which has arrived there ...
with many (e.g.,
black wattle Black wattle is the common name for a number of species of trees that are native to Australia, as listed below: *''Acacia aulacocarpa'' *''Acacia auriculiformis'', also known as Darwin Black Wattle or northern black wattle; *''Acacia concurrens ...
, Port Jackson willow, ''
Hakea ''Hakea'' ( ) is a genus of about 150 species of plants in the Family ''Proteaceae'', endemic to Australia. They are shrubs or small trees with leaves that are sometimes flat, otherwise circular in cross section in which case they are sometimes d ...
'', ''
Lantana ''Lantana'' () is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the verbena family, Verbenaceae. They are native to tropical regions of the Americas and Africa but exist as an introduced species in numerous areas, especially in ...
'' and ''
Jacaranda ''Jacaranda'' is a genus of 49 species of flowering plants in the family Bignoniaceae, native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. The generic name is also used as the common name. The species ''Jacaranda mimosifolia'' has achie ...
'') posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity and the already scarce water resources. The original
temperate forest A temperate forest is a forest found between the tropical and boreal regions, located in the temperate zone. It is the second largest biome on our planet, covering 25% of the world's forest area, only behind the boreal forest, which covers abou ...
found by the first European settlers was exploited until only small patches remained. Currently, South African hardwood trees like
real yellowwood ''Podocarpus latifolius'' (broad-leaved yellowwood or real yellowwood, af, Opregte-geelhout, nso, Mogôbagôba, xh, Umcheya, zu, Umkhoba) is a large evergreen tree up to 35 m high and 3 m trunk diameter, in the conifer family Podoca ...
(''
Podocarpus latifolius ''Podocarpus latifolius'' (broad-leaved yellowwood or real yellowwood, af, Opregte-geelhout, nso, Mogôbagôba, xh, Umcheya, zu, Umkhoba) is a large evergreen tree up to 35 m high and 3 m trunk diameter, in the conifer family Podoc ...
''), stinkwood (''
Ocotea bullata ''Ocotea bullata'', (stinkwood or black stinkwood, af, Stinkhout, xh, Umhlungulu, zu, Umnukane) is a species of flowering tree native to South Africa. It produces very fine and valuable timber which was formerly much sought after to make fur ...
''), and South African black ironwood (''
Olea capensis ''Olea capensis'', the black ironwood, is an African tree species in the olive family Oleaceae. It is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa: from the east in Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, south to the tip of South Africa, and west to Cameroon, Sierra ...
'') are under government protection. Statistics from the Department of Environmental Affairs show a record 1,215 rhinos were killed in 2014. Because South Africa is home to a third of all succulent species, many endemic to the Karoo, it makes it a hotspot for plant poaching, leading to many species to be threatened with extinction. Climate change is expected to bring considerable warming and drying to much of this already semi-arid region, with greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, flooding and drought. According to computer-generated climate modelling produced by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, parts of southern Africa will see an increase in temperature by about along the coast to more than in the already hot
hinterland Hinterland is a German word meaning "the land behind" (a city, a port, or similar). Its use in English was first documented by the geographer George Chisholm in his ''Handbook of Commercial Geography'' (1888). Originally the term was associated ...
such as the Northern Cape in late spring and summertime by 2050. The Cape Floral Region is predicted to be hit very hard by climate change. Drought, increased intensity and frequency of fire, and climbing temperatures are expected to push many rare species towards extinction. South Africa has published two national climate change reports in 2011 and 2016.


Demographics

South Africa is a nation of about 60 million (as of 2021) people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and religions. The last
census A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring, recording and calculating information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses in ...
was held in 2011, with estimates produced on an annual basis. South Africa is home to an estimated five million
illegal immigrants Illegal immigration is the migration of people into a country in violation of the immigration laws of that country or the continued residence without the legal right to live in that country. Illegal immigration tends to be financially upwa ...
, including some three million Zimbabweans. A series of anti-immigrant riots occurred beginning in May 2008. Statistics South Africa asks people to describe themselves in the census in terms of five racial population groups. The 2011 census figures for these groups were:
Black African Black is a Racialization, racialized classification of people, usually a Politics, political and Human skin color, skin color-based category for specific populations with a mid to dark brown complexion. Not all people considered "black" have ...
at 79.2%,
White White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue). It is the color of objects such as snow, chalk, and milk, and is the opposite of black. White objects fully reflect and scatter all the visible wavelengths of light. White o ...
at 8.9%, Coloured at 8.9%, Indian or Asian at 2.5%, and Other/Unspecified at 0.5%. The first census in 1911 showed that whites made up 22% of the population; this had declined to 16% by 1980. South Africa hosts a sizeable refugee and asylum seeker population. According to the ''World Refugee Survey 2008'', published by the
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) was established "To protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and support their transition to a dignified life." History The history of t ...
, this population numbered approximately 144,700 in 2007. Groups of refugees and asylum seekers numbering over 10,000 included people from Zimbabwe (48,400), the DRC (24,800), and Somalia (12,900). These populations mainly lived in Johannesburg, Pretoria,
Durban Durban ( ) ( zu, eThekwini, from meaning 'the port' also called zu, eZibubulungwini for the mountain range that terminates in the area), nicknamed ''Durbs'',Ishani ChettyCity nicknames in SA and across the worldArticle on ''news24.com'' from ...
, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth.


Languages

South Africa has 11 official languages: Zulu,
Xhosa Xhosa may refer to: * Xhosa people, a nation, and ethnic group, who live in south-central and southeasterly region of South Africa * Xhosa language, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, principally spoken by the Xhosa people See als ...
,
Afrikaans Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language that evolved in the Dutch Cape Colony from the Dutch vernacular of Holland proper (i.e., the Hollandic dialect) used by Dutch, French, and German settlers and their enslaved people. Afrikaans gra ...
, English, Pedi,
Tswana Tswana may refer to: * Tswana people, the Bantu speaking people in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other Southern Africa regions * Tswana language, the language spoken by the (Ba)Tswana people * Bophuthatswana, the former ba ...
, Southern Sotho, Tsonga,
Swazi Swazi may refer to: * Swazi people, a people of southeastern Africa * Swazi language * Eswatini Eswatini ( ; ss, eSwatini ), officially the Kingdom of Eswatini and formerly named Swaziland ( ; officially renamed in 2018), is a landlocked coun ...
,
Venda Venda () was a Bantustan in northern South Africa, which is fairly close to the South African border with Zimbabwe to the north, while to the south and east, it shared a long border with another black homeland, Gazankulu. It is now part of the ...
, and Southern Ndebele (in order of first language speakers). In this regard it is fourth only to Bolivia,
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the so ...
, and
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe (), officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and ...
in number. While all the languages are formally equal, some languages are spoken more than others. According to the 2011 census, the three most spoken first languages are Zulu (22.7%), Xhosa (16.0%), and Afrikaans (13.5%). Although English is recognised as the language of commerce and science, it is only the fourth most common home language, that of only 9.6% of South Africans in 2011; nevertheless, it has become the de facto lingua franca of the nation. Estimates based on the 1991 census suggest just under half of South Africans can speak English. It is the second most commonly spoken language outside of the household, after Zulu. The country also recognises several unofficial languages, including Fanagalo, Khoe, Lobedu, Nama, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, and
South African Sign Language South African Sign Language (SASL, af, Suid-Afrikaanse Gebaretaal) is the primary sign language used by deaf people in South Africa. The South African government added a National Language Unit for South African Sign Language in 2001. SASL is n ...
. These unofficial languages may be used in certain official uses in limited areas where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent. Many of the unofficial languages of the San and Khoekhoe peoples contain regional dialects stretching northwards into Namibia and Botswana, and elsewhere. These people, who are a physically distinct population from the Bantu people who make up most of the Black Africans in South Africa, have their own cultural identity based on their hunter-gatherer societies. They have been marginalised to a great extent, and the remainder of their languages are in danger of becoming extinct. White South Africans may also speak European languages, including Italian, Portuguese (also spoken by black Angolans and Mozambicans), Dutch, German, and Greek, while some Indian South Africans speak Indian languages, such as Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. French is spoken by migrants from Francophone Africa.


Religion

According to the 2001 census, Christians accounted for 79.8% of the population, with a majority of them being members of various
Protestant Protestantism is a branch of Christianity that follows the theological tenets of the Protestant Reformation, a movement that began seeking to reform the Catholic Church from within in the 16th century against what its followers perceived to b ...
denominations (broadly defined to include
syncretic Syncretism () is the practice of combining different beliefs and various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thu ...
African-initiated church An African-initiated church (AIC) is a Christian church independently started in Africa by Africans rather than chiefly by missionaries from another continent. Nomenclature A variety of overlapping terms exist for these forms of Christianity: A ...
es) and a minority of Roman Catholics and other Christians. Christian category includes Zion Christian (11.1%),
Pentecostal Pentecostalism or classical Pentecostalism is a Protestant Charismatic Christian movement
( Charismatic) (8.2%),
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy * Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD * Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *'' Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a let ...
(7.1%),
Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity whose origins, doctrine and practice derive from the life and teachings of John Wesley. George Whitefield and John's ...
(6.8%),
Dutch Reformed The Dutch Reformed Church (, abbreviated NHK) was the largest Christian denomination in the Netherlands from the onset of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century until 1930. It was the original denomination of the Dutch Royal Family and ...
(6.7%), and Anglican (3.8%). Members of remaining Christian churches accounted for another 36% of the population.
Muslims Muslims ( ar, المسلمون, , ) are people who adhere to Islam, a monotheistic religion belonging to the Abrahamic tradition. They consider the Quran, the foundational religious text of Islam, to be the verbatim word of the God of Abrah ...
accounted for 1.5% of the population,
Hindus Hindus (; ) are people who religiously adhere to Hinduism. Jeffery D. Long (2007), A Vision for Hinduism, IB Tauris, , pages 35–37 Historically, the term has also been used as a geographical, cultural, and later religious identifier for ...
1.2%,
traditional African religions The traditional beliefs and practices of African people are highly diverse beliefs that include various ethnic religions.Encyclopedia of African Religion (Sage, 2009) Molefi Kete Asante Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptura ...
0.3% and Judaism 0.2%. 15.1% had no religious affiliation, 0.6% were "other" and 1.4% were "unspecified." African-initiated churches formed the largest of the Christian groups. It was believed that many of the persons who claimed no affiliation with any organised religion adhered to a traditional African religion. There are an estimated 200,000 traditional healers, and up to 60% of South Africans consult these healers, generally called ('diviner') or ('herbalist'). These healers use a combination of ancestral spiritual beliefs and a belief in the spiritual and medicinal properties of local fauna and flora, commonly known as ('medicine'), to facilitate healing in clients. Many peoples have syncretic religious practices combining Christian and indigenous influences. South African Muslims comprise mainly Coloureds and Indians. They have been joined by black or white South African converts as well as those from other parts of Africa. South African Muslims describe their faith as the fastest-growing religion of conversion in the country, with the number of black Muslims growing sixfold, from 12,000 in 1991 to 74,700 in 2004. There is a substantial
Jewish population As of 2020, the world's "core" Jewish population (those identifying as Jews above all else) was estimated at 15 million, 0.2% of the 8 billion worldwide population. This number rises to 18 million with the addition of the "connected" Jewish pop ...
, descended from
European Jews The history of the Jews in Europe spans a period of over two thousand years. Some Jews, a Judaean tribe from the Levant, Natural History 102:11 (November 1993): 12–19. migrated to Europe just before the rise of the Roman Empire. A notable e ...
who arrived as a minority among other European settlers. This population peaked in the 1970s at 120,000, though only around 67,000 remain today, the rest having emigrated, mostly to Israel. Even so, these numbers make the Jewish community in South Africa the twelfth largest in the world.


Education

The adult
literacy Literacy in its broadest sense describes "particular ways of thinking about and doing reading and writing" with the purpose of understanding or expressing thoughts or ideas in written form in some specific context of use. In other words, hum ...
rate in 2007 was 88.7%. South Africa has a three-tier system of education starting with primary school, followed by high school, and tertiary education in the form of (academic) universities and universities of technology. Learners have twelve years of formal schooling, from grade 1 to 12. Grade R, or grade 0, is a pre-primary foundation year. Primary schools span the first seven years of schooling. High school education spans a further five years. The
National Senior Certificate In South Africa, matriculation (or matric) is the final year of high school and the qualification received on graduating from high school, and the minimum university entrance requirements. The first formal examination was conducted in South Africa ...
examination takes place at the end of grade 12 and is necessary for tertiary studies at a South African university. Public universities are divided into three types: traditional universities, which offer theoretically oriented university degrees; universities of technology (formerly called ''
technikon A technikon was a post-secondary institute of technology (polytech) in South Africa. It focused on career-oriented vocational training. There were 15 technikons in the 1990s, but they were merged or restructured as universities (especially universi ...
s''), which offer vocationally-oriented diplomas and degrees; and comprehensive universities, which offer both types of qualification. There are 23 public universities in South Africa: 11 traditional universities, 6 universities of technology, and 6 comprehensive universities. Under apartheid, schools for black people were subject to discrimination through inadequate funding and a separate syllabus called '' Bantu Education'' which only taught skills sufficient to work as labourers. In 2004, South Africa started reforming its tertiary education system, merging and incorporating small universities into larger institutions, and renaming all tertiary education institutions "university". By 2015, 1.4 million students in higher education have benefited from a financial aid scheme which was promulgated in 1999.


Health

According to the
South African Institute of Race Relations Established in 1929,http://www.sairr.org.za/profile/ the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) is a research and policy organisation in South Africa. The institute is "one of the oldest liberal institutions in the country". The in ...
, the life expectancy in 2009 was 71 years for a white South African and 48 years for a black South African. The healthcare spending in the country is about 9% of GDP. About 84% of the population depends on the public healthcare system, which is beset with chronic human resource shortages and limited resources. About 20% of the population use private healthcare. Only 16% of the population are covered by medical aid schemes; The rest pay for private care out-of-pocket or through in-hospital-only plans. The three dominant hospital groups, Mediclinic, Life Healthcare and
Netcare Netcare Limited is a South African private healthcare company. It operates through a number of subsidiaries and employs just over 21 000 people. The group offers a range of medical services across the healthcare spectrum and operates South ...
, together control 75% of the private hospital market.


HIV/AIDS

According to the 2015
UNAIDS The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) (, ONUSIDA) is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The mission of UNAIDS is to lead, strengthen and support an ...
medical report, South Africa has an estimated seven million people that are living with HIV – more than any other country in the world. In 2018, HIV prevalence—the percentage of people living with HIV—among adults (15–49 years) was 20.4%, and in the same year 71,000 people died from an AIDS-related illness. A 2008 study revealed that HIV/AIDS infection is distinctly divided along racial lines: 13.6% of blacks are HIV-positive, whereas only 0.3% of whites have the virus. Most deaths are experienced by economically active individuals, resulting in many
AIDS orphan An AIDS orphan is a child who became an orphan because one or both parents died from AIDS. In statistics from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UN ...
s who in many cases depend on the state for care and financial support. It is estimated that there are 1,200,000 orphans in South Africa. The link between HIV, a virus spread primarily by sexual contact, and AIDS was long denied by President
Thabo Mbeki Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki KStJ (; born 18 June 1942) is a South African politician who was the second president of South Africa from 14 June 1999 to 24 September 2008, when he resigned at the request of his party, the African National Congress (ANC ...
and his health minister
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang Mantombazana "Manto" Edmie Tshabalala-Msimang (née Mali; 9 October 1940 – 16 December 2009) was a South African politician. She was Deputy Minister of Justice from 1996 to 1999 and served as Minister of Health from 1999 to 2008 under Preside ...
, who insisted that the many deaths in the country are caused by
malnutrition Malnutrition occurs when an organism gets too few or too many nutrients, resulting in health problems. Specifically, it is "a deficiency, excess, or imbalance of energy, protein and other nutrients" which adversely affects the body's tissues ...
, and hence poverty, and not HIV. In 2007, in response to international pressure, the government made efforts to fight AIDS. After the 2009 general elections, President Jacob Zuma appointed Aaron Motsoaledi as the health minister and committed his government to increasing funding for and widening the scope of HIV treatment, and by 2015, South Africa had made significant progress, with the widespread availability of antiretroviral drugs resulted in an increase in life expectancy from 52.1 years to 62.5 years.


Urbanization

One online database lists South Africa having more than 12,600 cities and towns. The following are the largest cities and towns in South Africa.


Politics

South Africa is a parliamentary republic, but unlike most such republics, the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) * President (education), a leader of a college or university * President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese ...
is both
head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state Foakes, pp. 110–11 " he head of statebeing an embodiment of the State itself or representatitve of its international persona." in its unity and l ...
and
head of government The head of government is the highest or the second-highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, autonomous region, or other government who often presides over a cabinet, ...
and depends for his tenure on the
confidence Confidence is a state of being clear-headed either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. Confidence comes from a Latin word 'fidere' which means "to trust"; therefore, having ...
of
Parliament In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries. Th ...
. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the
Constitution of South Africa The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme law of the Republic of South Africa. It provides the legal foundation for the existence of the republic, it sets out the rights and duties of its citizens, and defines the structure of the Gover ...
, and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional. The
National Assembly In politics, a national assembly is either a unicameral legislature, the lower house of a bicameral legislature, or both houses of a bicameral legislature together. In the English language it generally means "an assembly composed of the rep ...
, the lower house of Parliament, consists of 400 members and is elected every five years by a system of
party-list proportional representation Party-list proportional representation (list-PR) is a subset of proportional representation electoral systems in which multiple candidates are elected (e.g., elections to parliament) through their position on an electoral list. They can also be us ...
. The
National Council of Provinces The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) is the upper house of the Parliament of South Africa under the (post-apartheid) constitution which came into full effect in 1997. It replaced the former Senate, but is very similar to that body, and to ...
, the upper house, consists of ninety members, with each of the nine provincial legislatures electing ten members. After each parliamentary election, the National Assembly elects one of its members as president; hence the president serves a term of office the same as that of the Assembly, normally five years. No president may serve more than two terms in office. The president appoints a deputy president and ministers (each representing a department) who form the cabinet. The National Assembly may remove the president and the cabinet by a
motion of no confidence A motion of no confidence, also variously called a vote of no confidence, no-confidence motion, motion of confidence, or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility like in government or m ...
. In the most recent election, held on 8 May 2019, the ANC won 58% of the vote and 230 seats, while the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, won 21% of the vote and 84 seats. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded by Julius Malema, former president of the
ANC Youth League The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) is the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC). As set out in its constitution, the ANC Youth League is led by a National Executive Committee (NEC) and a National Working Committee (NW ...
who was later expelled from the ANC, won 11% of the vote and 44 seats. The ANC has been the governing political party in South Africa since the end of apartheid. South Africa has no legally defined capital city. The fourth chapter of the constitution states "The seat of Parliament is Cape Town, but an Act of Parliament enacted in accordance with section 76(1) and (5) may determine that the seat of Parliament is elsewhere." The country's three branches of government are split over different cities. Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria, as the seat of the president and cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein is the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, is the judicial capital; while the Constitutional Court of South Africa sits in Johannesburg. Most foreign embassies are located in Pretoria. Since 2004, South Africa has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the "most protest-rich country in the world". There have been numerous incidents of political repression as well as threats of future repression in violation of the constitution, leading some analysts and
civil society Civil society can be understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government and business, and including the family and the private sphere.Ibrahim Index of African Governance The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), established in 2007, provides an annual assessment of the quality of governance in African countries. Compiled by combining over 100 variables from more than 30 independent African and global instit ...
. South Africa scored well in the categories of Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption, and
Participation Participation or Participant may refer to: Politics *Participation (decision making), mechanisms for people to participate in social decisions *Civic participation, engagement by the citizens in government *e-participation, citizen participation ...
and Human Rights, but score low in Safety and Security. In 2006, South Africa became the first and only African country to legalise
same-sex marriage Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage, is the marriage of two people of the same sex or gender. marriage between same-sex couples is legally performed and recognized in 33 countries, with the most recent being Mexico, constituting ...
. The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme rule of law in the country. The primary sources of
South African law South Africa has a 'hybrid' or legal pluralism, 'mixed' legal system, formed by the interweaving of a number of distinct legal traditions: a civil law (legal system), civil law system inherited from Dutch Empire, the Dutch, a common law system ...
are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law and
English Common law English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures. Principal elements of English law Although the common law has, historically, be ...
, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European-based law in South Africa was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law, both common and
statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made by le ...
. After unification in 1910, South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies. The judicial system consists of the
magistrates' courts A magistrates' court is a lower court where, in several jurisdictions, all criminal proceedings start. Also some civil matters may be dealt with here, such as family proceedings. Courts * Magistrates' court (England and Wales) * Magistrate's Cour ...
, which hear lesser criminal cases and smaller civil cases; the High Court, which has divisions that serve as the courts of
general jurisdiction {{Globalize, article, USA, 2name=the United States, date=December 2010 A court of general jurisdiction is a court with authority to hear cases of all kinds – criminal, civil, family, probate, and so forth. United States All federal courts ar ...
for specific areas; the Supreme Court of Appeal; and the Constitutional Court, which is the highest court.


Foreign relations

As the Union of South Africa, the country was a founding member of the United Nations (UN), with Prime Minister
Jan Smuts Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts, (24 May 1870 11 September 1950) was a South African statesman, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various military and cabinet posts, he served as prime minister of the Union of South Af ...
writing the preamble to the UN Charter. South Africa is one of the founding members of the African Union (AU) and has the third largest economy of all the members. It is a founding member of the AU's
New Partnership for Africa's Development The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is an economic development program of the African Union. NEPAD was adopted at the 37th session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2001 in Lusaka, Zambia. NEPAD aims to ...
. After apartheid ended, South Africa was readmitted to the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the ...
. The country is a member of the Group of 77 and chaired the organisation in 2006. South Africa is also a member of the
Southern African Development Community The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana. Its goal is to further regional socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security coopera ...
,
South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone The South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone (abbreviations: ZPCAS or ZOPACAS; es, Zona de Paz y Cooperación del Atlántico Sur; pt, Zona de Paz e Cooperação do Atlântico Sul; also called the ''Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South A ...
,
Southern African Customs Union The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) is a customs union among five countries of Southern Africa: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa. Its headquarters are in the Namibian capital, Windhoek. It was established in 1910. His ...
, Antarctic Treaty System,
World Trade Organization The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization that regulates and facilitates international trade. With effective cooperation in the United Nations System, governments use the organization to establish, revise, and ...
, International Monetary Fund,
G20 The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigatio ...
,
G8+5 The Group of Eight (G8) was an inter-governmental political forum from 1997 until 2014. It had formed from incorporating Russia into the Group of Seven, or G7, and returned to its previous name after Russia left in 2014. The forum originated ...
, and the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa. South Africa has played a key role as a mediator in African conflicts over the last decade, such as in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Comoros, and Zimbabwe. President Jacob Zuma and Chinese President Hu Jintao upgraded bilateral ties between the two countries in 2010 when they signed the Beijing Agreement which elevated South Africa's earlier "strategic partnership" with China to the higher level of "comprehensive strategic partnership" in both economic and political affairs, including the strengthening of exchanges between their respective ruling parties and legislatures. In 2011, South Africa joined the Brazil-Russia-India-China (
BRICS BRICS is an acronym for five leading emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The first four were initially grouped as "BRIC" (or "the BRICs") in 2001 by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, who coined the ter ...
) grouping of countries, identified by Zuma as the country's largest trading partners and also the largest trading partners with Africa as a whole. Zuma asserted that BRICS member countries would also work with each other through the UN, G20, and the India, Brazil South Africa ( IBSA) forum.


Military

The
South African National Defence Force The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) comprises the armed forces of South Africa. The commander of the SANDF is appointed by the President of South Africa from one of the armed services. They are in turn accountable to the Minister ...
(SANDF) was created in 1994 as a
volunteer military A volunteer military system or all volunteer military system (AVMS) is a military service system that maintains the military only with applicants without compulsory conscription. A country may offer attractive pay and benefits through military re ...
composed of the former
South African Defence Force The South African Defence Force (SADF) (Afrikaans: ''Suid-Afrikaanse Weermag'') comprised the armed forces of South Africa from 1957 until 1994. Shortly before the state reconstituted itself as a republic in 1961, the former Union Defence F ...
, the forces of the African nationalist groups ( and
Azanian People's Liberation Army The Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), formerly known as Poqo, was the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress, an African nationalist movement in South Africa. In the Xhosa language, the word 'Poqo' means 'pure'. After attacks on ...
), and the former Bantustan defence forces. The SANDF is subdivided into four branches, the South African Army, the
South African Air Force "Through hardships to the stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = , mascot = , anniversaries = , equipment ...
, the South African Navy, and the South African Military Health Service. In recent years, the SANDF has become a major peacekeeping force in Africa, and has been involved in operations in Lesotho, the DRC, and Burundi, amongst others. It has also served in multinational
UN Peacekeeping forces Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a role held by the Department of Peace Operations as an "instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace". It is distinguished ...
such as the UN Force Intervention Brigade. According to global firepower South Africa is ranked the 26th strongest military in the world and the 2nd strongest in Africa. South Africa is the only African country to have successfully developed nuclear weapons. It became the first country (followed by Ukraine) with nuclear capability to voluntarily renounce and dismantle its programme and in the process signed the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation ...
in 1991. South Africa undertook a nuclear weapons programme in the 1970s According to President F.W. de Klerk, the decision to build a "nuclear deterrent" was taken "as early as 1974 against a backdrop of a Soviet expansionist threat." South Africa is alleged to have conducted a nuclear test over the Atlantic in 1979, although this is officially denied; de Klerk maintained that South Africa had "never conducted a clandestine nuclear test." Six nuclear devices were completed between 1980 and 1990 but all were dismantled by 1991. In 2017, South Africa signed the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


Law enforcement and crime

Law enforcement in South Africa is primarily the responsibility of the
South African Police Service The South African Police Service (SAPS) is the national police force of the Republic of South Africa. Its 1,154 police stations in South Africa are divided according to the provincial borders, and a Provincial Commissioner is appointed in ea ...
(SAPS), South Africa's national police force. SAPS is responsible for investigating crime and security throughout the country. From April 2017 to March 2018, on average 57 murders were committed each day in South Africa. In the year ended March 2017, there were 20,336 murders and the murder rate was 35.9 per 100,000 – over five times higher than the global average of 6.2 per 100,000. More than 526,000 South Africans were murdered from 1994 to 2019. Middle-class South Africans seek security in
gated communities A gated community (or walled community) is a form of residential community or housing estate containing strictly controlled entrances for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles, and often characterized by a closed perimeter of walls and fences. ...
. The
private security industry in South Africa The private security industry in South Africa is an industry providing guarding, monitoring, armed reaction, escorting, investigating and other security-related services to private individuals and companies in the country. Over the years there h ...
is the largest in the world, with nearly 9,000 registered companies and 400,000 registered active private security guards, more than the South African police and army combined. Many emigrants from South Africa state that crime was a major factor in their decision to leave. Crime against the farming community has continued to be a major problem. In an attempt to reduce crime rate, the police arrested over 500 undocumented foreigners in a raid in August 2019. South Africa has a high rape rate, with 43,195 rapes reported in 2014/15, and an unknown number of sexual assaults going unreported. A 2009 survey of 1,738 men in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape by the Medical Research Council found one in four men admitted to raping someone, and another survey of 4,000 women in Johannesburg by CIET Africa found one in three said they had been raped in the past year. Rape occurs most commonly within relationships, but many men and women say that rape cannot occur in relationships; however, one in four women reported having been abused by an intimate partner. Rapes are also perpetrated by children (some as young as ten). The incidence of child and infant rape is among the highest in the world, largely as a result of the
virgin cleansing myth The virgin cleansing myth (also referred to as the virgin cure myth, virgin rape myth, or simply virgin myth) is the belief that having sex with a virgin girl cures a man of HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. Anthropologist Suzan ...
, and a number of high-profile cases (sometimes as young as eight months) have outraged the nation. Between 1994 and 2018, there were more than 500
xenophobic Xenophobia () is the fear or dislike of anything which is perceived as being foreign or strange. It is an expression of perceived conflict between an in-group and out-group and may manifest in suspicion by the one of the other's activities, a ...
attacks against foreigners in South Africa. The
2019 Johannesburg riots The 2019 Johannesburg riots occurred in the South African city of Johannesburg from 1–5 September 2019, leading to the deaths of at least seven people. The riots were Xenophobia in South Africa, xenophobic in nature, targeting foreign national ...
were similar in nature and origin to the 2008 xenophobic riots that also occurred in Johannesburg.


Administrative divisions

Each of the nine provinces is governed by a
unicameral Unicameralism (from ''uni''- "one" + Latin ''camera'' "chamber") is a type of legislature, which consists of one house or assembly, that legislates and votes as one. Unicameral legislatures exist when there is no widely perceived need for multi ...
legislature A legislature is an assembly with the authority to make law Law is a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its p ...
, which is elected every five years by
party-list proportional representation Party-list proportional representation (list-PR) is a subset of proportional representation electoral systems in which multiple candidates are elected (e.g., elections to parliament) through their position on an electoral list. They can also be us ...
. The legislature elects a premier as head of government, and the premier appoints an Executive Council as a provincial cabinet. The powers of provincial governments are limited to topics listed in the constitution; these topics include such fields as health, education, public housing and transport. The provinces are in turn divided into 52 districts: 8 metropolitan and 44 district municipalities. The district municipalities are further subdivided into 205 local municipalities. The metropolitan municipalities, which govern the largest urban agglomerations, perform the functions of both district and local municipalities.


Economy

South Africa has a
mixed economy A mixed economy is variously defined as an economic system blending elements of a market economy with elements of a planned economy, markets with state interventionism, or private enterprise with public enterprise. Common to all mixed economie ...
, the third largest in Africa, after Nigeria and Egypt. It also has a relatively high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa (US$11,750 at purchasing power parity as of 2012). Despite this, South Africa is still burdened by a relatively high rate of poverty and unemployment and is ranked in the top ten countries in the world for
income inequality There are wide varieties of economic inequality, most notably income inequality measured using the distribution of income (the amount of money people are paid) and wealth inequality measured using the distribution of wealth (the amount of we ...
, measured by the Gini coefficient. In 2015, 71% of net wealth are held by 10% of the population, whereas 60% of the population held only 7% of the net wealth, and the Gini coefficient was 0.63, whereas in 1996 was 0.61. Unlike most of the world's poor countries, South Africa does not have a thriving informal economy. Only 15% of South African jobs are in the
informal sector An informal economy (informal sector or grey economy) is the part of any economy that is neither taxed nor monitored by any form of government. Although the informal sector makes up a significant portion of the economies in developing countrie ...
, compared with around half in
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At and with over 217 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area ...
and
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the so ...
and nearly three-quarters in
Indonesia Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of over 17,000 islands, including Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and parts of Borneo and New Guine ...
. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate e ...
) attributes this difference to South Africa's widespread welfare system.
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects. The World Bank is the collective name for the Inte ...
research shows that South Africa has one of the widest gaps between per capita GDP versus its
Human Development Index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the education system), and per capita income indicators, wh ...
ranking, with only Botswana showing a larger gap. After 1994, government policy brought down inflation, stabilised public finances, and some foreign capital was attracted, however growth was still subpar. From 2004 onward, economic growth picked up significantly; both employment and
capital formation Capital formation is a concept used in macroeconomics, national accounts and financial economics. Occasionally it is also used in corporate accounts. It can be defined in three ways: *It is a specific statistical concept, also known as net inve ...
increased. During the presidency of Jacob Zuma, the government increased the role of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Some of the biggest SOEs are
Eskom Eskom Hld SOC Ltd or Eskom is a South African electricity public utility. It was established in 1923 as the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM) and was also known by its Afrikaans name Elektrisiteitsvoorsieningskommissie (EVKOM). Eskom repre ...
, the electric power monopoly, South African Airways (SAA), and
Transnet Transnet SOC Ltd is a large South African rail, port and pipeline company, headquartered in the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg. It was formed as a limited company on 1 April 1990. A majority of the company's stock is owned by the Departmen ...
, the railroad and ports monopoly. Some of these SOEs have not been profitable, such as SAA, which has required bailouts totaling R30 billion ($ billion) over the 20 years preceding 2015. Principal international trading partners of South Africa—besides other African countries—include Germany, the United States, China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Spain. The 2020
Financial Secrecy Index The Financial Secrecy Index (FSI) is a report published by the advocacy organization Tax Justice Network (TJN) which ranks countries by ''financial secrecy indicators'', weighted by the economic flows of each country. It looks at how wealthy ...
ranked South Africa as the 58th safest
tax haven A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a governmental organization in order to fund government spending and various public expenditures (regional, local, or n ...
in the world. The South African 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. Due to the
arid A region is arid when it severely lacks available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life. Regions with arid climates tend to lack vegetation and are called xeric or desertic. Most ...
ity of the land, only 13.5% can be used for crop production, and only 3% is considered high potential land. In August 2013, South Africa was ranked as the top African Country of the Future by ''
fDi Intelligence ''fDi Intelligence'' is an English-language bi-monthly news and foreign direct investment (FDI) publication, providing an up-to-date review of global investment activity. The A4 glossy pages reach a circulation of 15,488 ABC audited, active corpo ...
'' based on the country's economic potential, labour environment, cost-effectiveness, infrastructure, business friendliness, and foreign direct investment strategy.


Mining

South Africa has always been a mining powerhouse. Diamond and gold production were in 2013 well down from their peaks, though South Africa is still number five in gold and remains a cornucopia of mineral riches. It is the world's largest producer of chrome,
manganese Manganese is a chemical element with the symbol Mn and atomic number 25. It is a hard, brittle, silvery metal, often found in minerals in combination with iron. Manganese is a transition metal with a multifaceted array of industrial alloy use ...
,
platinum Platinum is a chemical element with the symbol Pt and atomic number 78. It is a dense, malleable, ductile, highly unreactive, precious, silverish-white transition metal. Its name originates from Spanish , a diminutive of "silver". Pla ...
, vanadium and
vermiculite Vermiculite is a hydrous phyllosilicate mineral which undergoes significant expansion when heated. Exfoliation occurs when the mineral is heated sufficiently, and commercial furnaces can routinely produce this effect. Vermiculite forms by the we ...
. It is the second largest producer of
ilmenite Ilmenite is a titanium-iron oxide mineral with the idealized formula . It is a weakly magnetic black or steel-gray solid. Ilmenite is the most important ore of titanium and the main source of titanium dioxide, which is used in paints, printing ...
,
palladium Palladium is a chemical element with the symbol Pd and atomic number 46. It is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself na ...
,
rutile Rutile is an oxide mineral composed of titanium dioxide (TiO2), the most common natural form of TiO2. Rarer polymorphs of TiO2 are known, including anatase, akaogiite, and brookite. Rutile has one of the highest refractive indices at visib ...
and
zirconium Zirconium is a chemical element with the symbol Zr and atomic number 40. The name ''zirconium'' is taken from the name of the mineral zircon, the most important source of zirconium. The word is related to Persian '' zargun'' (zircon; ''zar-gun'' ...
. It is the world's third largest coal exporter. It is a huge producer of iron ore; in 2012, it overtook India to become the world's third-biggest iron ore supplier to China, the world's largest consumers of iron ore.


Labour market

From 1995 to 2003, the number of formal jobs decreased and informal jobs increased; overall unemployment worsened. According to data published by the University of Cape Town, between 2017 and the end of 2020, South Africa had lost 56% of its middle-class earners, and the number of ultra-poor who earn below minimum wage had increased by 6.6 million individuals (54%). The government's
Black Economic Empowerment Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a policy of the South African government which aims to facilitate broader participation in the economy by black people. A form of affirmative action, it is intended especially to redress the inequalities creat ...
policies have drawn criticism from Neva Makgetla, previous lead economist for research and information at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, for focusing "almost exclusively on promoting individual ownership by black people
hich Ij ( fa, ايج, also Romanized as Īj; also known as Hich and Īch) is a village in Golabar Rural District, in the Central District of Ijrud County, Zanjan Province, Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also ...
does little to address broader economic disparities, though the rich may become more diverse." Official affirmative action policies have seen a rise in black economic wealth and an emerging black middle class. Other problems include state ownership and interference, which impose high barriers to entry in many areas. Restrictive labour regulations have contributed to the unemployment malaise. Along with many African nations, South Africa has been experiencing a brain drain in the past 20 years and is almost certainly detrimental for the wellbeing of those reliant on the healthcare infrastructure. The skills drain in South Africa tends to demonstrate racial contours given the skills distribution legacy of South Africa and has thus resulted in large white South African communities abroad. However, the statistics which purport to show a brain drain are disputed and also do not account for
repatriation Repatriation is the process of returning a thing or a person to its country of origin or citizenship. The term may refer to non-human entities, such as converting a foreign currency into the currency of one's own country, as well as to the pro ...
and expiry of foreign work contracts. According to several surveys, there was a reverse in brain drain following the global
financial crisis of 2007–2008 Finance is the study and discipline of money, currency and capital assets. It is related to, but not synonymous with economics, the study of production, distribution, and consumption of money, assets, goods and services (the discipline of fi ...
and expiration of foreign work contracts. In the first quarter of 2011, confidence levels for graduate professionals were recorded at a level of 84% in a Professional Provident Society survey. Illegal immigrants are involved in informal trading. Many immigrants to South Africa continue to live in poor conditions, and the immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive since 1994.
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The group pressures governments, policy makers, companies, and individual human r ...
reported in August 2019 that foreign national truck drivers were being subjected to deadly attacks carried out by South African truck drivers. The organization urged the South African government to take immediate actions ensuring the safety of the foreign national truck drivers putting up with violence, harassment, intimidation, stoning, bombing, and shooting, by local truck drivers in the country.


Tourism


Infrastructure


Energy

South Africa has a very large energy sector and is currently the only country on the African continent that possesses a Nuclear power plant. The country is also the largest producer of electricity in Africa and 21 largest in the world. South Africa produces in excess of 248 million
tonne The tonne ( or ; symbol: t) is a unit of mass equal to 1000  kilograms. It is a non-SI unit accepted for use with SI. It is also referred to as a metric ton to distinguish it from the non-metric units of the short ton ( United State ...
s of
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen. Coal is formed when ...
and consumes almost three-quarters of that domestically. Around 77% of South Africa's energy needs are directly derived from coal and 92% of coal consumed on the African continent is mined in South Africa. Despite being the largest electricity producer of Africa, the country faces an energy crisis which causes a drastic effect on the country's economy, most notability manifesting in the form of successive rounds of
Loadshedding A rolling blackout, also referred to as rota or rotational load shedding, rota disconnection, feeder rotation, or a rotating outage, is an intentionally engineered electrical power shutdown in which electricity delivery is stopped for non-overla ...
, is an ongoing period of widespread national level rolling blackouts as state-owned power company
Eskom Eskom Hld SOC Ltd or Eskom is a South African electricity public utility. It was established in 1923 as the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM) and was also known by its Afrikaans name Elektrisiteitsvoorsieningskommissie (EVKOM). Eskom repre ...
fails to meet South Africa's energy demand, It began in the later months of 2007 and continues to this day.


Science and technology

Several important scientific and technological developments have originated in South Africa. South Africa was ranked 61st in the
Global Innovation Index The Global Innovation Index is an annual ranking of countries by their capacity for, and success in, innovation, published by the World Intellectual Property Organization. It was started in 2007 by INSEAD and ''World Business'', a British ma ...
in 2021, up from 63rd in 2019. The first human-to-human
heart transplant A heart transplant, or a cardiac transplant, is a surgical transplant procedure performed on patients with end-stage heart failure or severe coronary artery disease when other medical or surgical treatments have failed. , the most common procedu ...
was performed by cardiac surgeon
Christiaan Barnard Christiaan Neethling Barnard (8 November 1922 – 2 September 2001) was a South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world's first human-to-human heart transplant operation. On 3 December 1967, Barnard transplanted the heart of accident-v ...
at
Groote Schuur Hospital Groote Schuur Hospital is a large, government-funded, teaching hospital situated on the slopes of Devil's Peak in the city of Cape Town, South Africa. It was founded in 1938 and is famous for being the institution where the first human-to-huma ...
in December 1967;
Max Theiler Max Theiler (30 January 1899 – 11 August 1972) was a South African-American virologist and physician. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1951 for developing a vaccine against yellow fever in 1937, becoming the first ...
developed a
vaccine A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious or malignant disease. The safety and effectiveness of vaccines has been widely studied and verified.
against
yellow fever Yellow fever is a viral disease of typically short duration. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains – particularly in the back – and headaches. Symptoms typically improve within five days. ...
,
Allan MacLeod Cormack Allan MacLeod Cormack (February 23, 1924 – May 7, 1998) was a South African American physicist who won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (along with Godfrey Hounsfield) for his work on X-ray computed tomography (CT). Early life a ...
pioneered X-ray computed tomography ( CT scan); and Aaron Klug developed crystallographic electron microscopy techniques. Cormack and Klug received
Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, Nobelprisen ) are five separate prizes that, according to Alfred Nobel's will of 1895, are awarded to "those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind." Alfr ...
s for their work.
Sydney Brenner Sydney Brenner (13 January 1927 – 5 April 2019) was a South African biologist. In 2002, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with H. Robert Horvitz and Sir John E. Sulston. Brenner made significant contributions to work ...
won most recently, in 2002, for his pioneering work in
molecular biology Molecular biology is the branch of biology that seeks to understand the molecular basis of biological activity in and between cells, including biomolecular synthesis, modification, mechanisms, and interactions. The study of chemical and physi ...
.
Mark Shuttleworth Mark Richard Shuttleworth (born 18 September 1973) is a South African and British entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Canonical, the company behind the development of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system. In 2002, Shuttleworth became ...
founded an early Internet security company
Thawte Thawte Consulting (pronounced "thought") is a certificate authority (CA) for X.509 certificates. Thawte was founded in 1995 by Mark Shuttleworth in South Africa. As of December 30, 2016, its then-parent company, Symantec Group, was collectivel ...
, that was subsequently bought out by world leader
Verisign Verisign Inc. is an American company based in Reston, Virginia, United States that operates a diverse array of network infrastructure, including two of the Internet's thirteen root nameservers, the authoritative registry for the , , and gene ...
. It is the expressed objective of the government to transition the economy to be more reliant on high technology, based on the realisation that South Africa cannot compete with Far Eastern economies in manufacturing, nor can the republic rely on its mineral wealth in perpetuity. South Africa has cultivated a burgeoning
astronomy Astronomy () is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, g ...
community. It hosts the
Southern African Large Telescope The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is a 10-metre class optical telescope designed mainly for spectroscopy. It consists of 91 hexagonal mirror segments each with a 1-metre inscribed diameter, resulting in a total hexagonal mirror of 11.1 ...
, the largest
optical telescope An optical telescope is a telescope that gathers and focuses light mainly from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum, to create a magnified image for direct visual inspection, to make a photograph, or to collect data through elect ...
in the Southern Hemisphere. South Africa is currently building the Karoo Array Telescope as a pathfinder for the €1.5 billion Square Kilometre Array project.


Transports

Different methods of
transport in South Africa Different methods of transportation in South Africa include roads, railways, airports, water, and pipelines for petroleum oil. The majority of people in South Africa use informal minibus taxis as their main mode of transport. BRT has been imp ...
include roads, railways, airports, water, and pipelines for petroleum oil. The majority of people in South Africa use informal minibus taxis as their main mode of transport. Bus rapid transit has been implemented in some cities in an attempt to provide more formalised and safer public transport services. These systems have been widely criticised because of their large capital and operating costs. South Africa has many major ports including Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth that allow ships and other boats to pass through, some carrying passengers and some carrying petroleum tankers.


Water supply and sanitation

Two distinctive features of the South African water sector are the policy of free basic water and the existence of
water boards A water board is a regional or national organisation that has very different functions from one country to another. The functions range from flood control and water resources management at the regional or local level (the Netherlands, Germany), w ...
, which are bulk water supply agencies that operate pipelines and sell water from reservoirs to municipalities. These features have led to significant problems concerning the financial sustainability of service providers, leading to a lack of attention to maintenance. Following the end of apartheid, the country had made improvements in the levels of access to water as those with access increased from 66% to 79% from 1990 to 2010.
WHO Who or WHO may refer to: * Who (pronoun), an interrogative or relative pronoun * Who?, one of the Five Ws in journalism * World Health Organization Arts and entertainment Fictional characters * Who, a creature in the Dr. Seuss book '' Horton He ...
/
UNICEF UNICEF (), originally called the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund in full, now officially United Nations Children's Fund, is an agency of the United Nations responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to ...
: Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitationbr>Data table South Africa
, 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2012
Sanitation access increased from 71% to 79% during the same period. However, water supply and sanitation has come under increasing pressure in recent years despite a commitment made by the government to improve service standards and provide investment subsidies to the water industry. The eastern parts of South Africa suffer from periodic droughts linked to the
El Niño El Niño (; ; ) is the warm phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (approximately between the International Date ...
weather phenomenon. In early 2018, Cape Town, which has different weather patterns to the rest of the country, faced a water crisis as the city's water supply was predicted to run dry before the end of June. Water-saving measures were in effect that required each citizen to use less than per day. Cape Town rejected an offer from Israel to help it build desalination plants.


Culture

The South African black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives. It is among these people that cultural traditions survive most strongly; as blacks have become increasingly urbanised and Westernised, aspects of traditional culture have declined. Members of the middle class, who are predominantly white but whose ranks include growing numbers of Black, Coloured and Indian people, have lifestyles similar in many respects to that of people found in Western Europe, North America and
Australasia Australasia is a region that comprises Australia, New Zealand and some neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term is used in a number of different contexts, including geopolitically, physiogeographically, philologically, and ecologi ...
.


Arts

South African art South African art is the visual art produced by the people inhabiting the territory occupied by the modern country of South Africa. The oldest art objects in the world were discovered in a South African cave. Archaeologists have discovered two s ...
includes the oldest art objects in the world, which were discovered in a South African cave and dated from roughly 75,000 years ago. The scattered tribes of the Khoisan peoples moving into South Africa from around 10,000 BC had their own fluent art styles seen today in a multitude of cave paintings. They were superseded by the Bantu/Nguni peoples with their own vocabularies of art forms. Forms of art evolved in the mines and townships: a dynamic art using everything from plastic strips to bicycle spokes. The Dutch-influenced folk art of the Afrikaner and the urban white artists, earnestly following changing European traditions from the 1850s onwards, also contributed to this eclectic mix which continues to evolve to this day.


Popular culture

The South African media sector is large, and South Africa is one of Africa's major media centres. While the many broadcasters and publications reflect the diversity of the population as a whole, the most commonly used language is English. However, all ten other official languages are represented to some extent or another. There is great diversity in
South African music South Africa is well known for its distinct musical styles which have played a huge role towards the country's society. The music of South Africa is very diverse with a wide variety of genres such as Marabi, Kwaito, house music, Isicathamiya, ...
. Black musicians have developed a unique style called
Kwaito Kwaito is a music genre that emerged in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, during the 1990s. It is a variant of house music that features the use of African sounds and samples. Kwaito songs occur at a slower tempo range than other styles of h ...
, that is said to have taken over radio, television, and magazines. Of note is
Brenda Fassie Brenda Nokuzola Fassie (3 November 1964 – 9 May 2004) was a South African singer, songwriter, dancer and activist. Affectionately called MaBrrr by her fans, she is also known as the "Queen of African Pop", the " Madonna of The Townships" or s ...
, who launched to fame with her song "
Weekend Special "Weekend Special" is the debut single by the South African recording group Brenda and the Big Dudes taken from their debut studio album ''Weekend Special'' (1983). It was written by Melvyn Matthews, as was the B-side "Life Is Going On". "Wee ...
", which was sung in English. More famous traditional musicians include
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Ladysmith Black Mambazo are a South African male choral group singing in the local vocal styles of '' isicathamiya'' and '' mbube''. They became known internationally after singing with Paul Simon on his 1986 album '' Graceland'', and have won ...
, while the
Soweto String Quartet The Soweto String Quartet is a string quartet from Soweto in South Africa composed of Reuben Khemese, Makhosini Mnguni, Sandile Khemese and Thami Khemese. Their music is a fusion of the "dance rhythms of Kwela, the syncopated guitars of Mbaqanga, th ...
performs classical music with an African flavour. South Africa has produced world-famous jazz musicians, notably
Hugh Masekela Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939 – 23 January 2018) was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, singer and composer who was described as "the father of South African jazz". Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for ...
,
Jonas Gwangwa Jonas Mosa Gwangwa (19 October 1937 – 23 January 2021) was a South African jazz musician, songwriter and producer. He was an important figure in South African jazz for over 40 years. Career Gwangwa was born in Orlando East, Soweto. He firs ...
,
Abdullah Ibrahim Abdullah Ibrahim (born Adolph Johannes Brand on 9 October 1934 and formerly known as Dollar Brand) is a South African pianist and composer. His music reflects many of the musical influences of his childhood in the multicultural port areas of Cap ...
,
Miriam Makeba Zenzile Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she w ...
,
Jonathan Butler Jonathan Kenneth Butler (born 10 October 1961) is a South African singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music is often classified as R&B, jazz fusion or worship music. Biography Born and raised in Athlone, Cape Town, South Africa, during Apa ...
, Chris McGregor, and
Sathima Bea Benjamin Beatrice "Sathima Bea" Benjamin (17 October 1936 – 20 August 2013) was a South African vocalist and composer, based for nearly 45 years in New York City. Early life She was born Beatrice Bertha BenjaminChinen, Nate ''The New York Times'', 29 ...
. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr, the punk rock band
Fokofpolisiekar Fokofpolisiekar (, ''Fuckoffpolicecar'') is an Afrikaans alternative rock band from Bellville, Western Cape, Bellville, near Cape Town, South Africa. Due to the obscenity in the name, they are also commonly known simply as Polisiekar or FPK. ...
, and the singer-songwriter
Jeremy Loops Jeremy Thomas Hewitt (born March 4, 1984) known by his stage name Jeremy Loops, is a South African singer, songwriter, and record producer. In 2011, Loops released his self-titled EP. His debut album ''Trading Change'' was released March 2014 ...
. South African popular musicians that have found international success include Manfred Mann,
Johnny Clegg Jonathan Paul Clegg, (7 June 195316 July 2019) was a South African musician, singer-songwriter, dancer, anthropologist and anti-apartheid activist, some of whose work was in musicology focused on the music of indigenous South African people ...
, rap-rave duo
Die Antwoord Die Antwoord (, Afrikaans for "The Answer") is a South African alternative hip hop group formed in Cape Town in 2008. The group comprises rappers Watkin Tudor "Ninja" Jones and Anri "Yolandi Visser" du Toit, a male/female duo, and producers ...
, and rock band Seether. Although few South African film productions are known outside South Africa, many foreign films have been produced about South Africa. Arguably, the most high-profile film portraying South Africa in recent years was ''
District 9 ''District 9'' is a 2009 science fiction mockumentary film directed by Neill Blomkamp in his feature film debut, written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, and produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham. It is a co-production of New Zea ...
'' and its upcoming sequel. Other notable exceptions are the film , which won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film at the
78th Academy Awards The 78th Academy Awards presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), took place on March 5, 2006, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Los Angeles beginning at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time Zone, PST ...
in 2006, as well as , which won the
Golden Bear The Golden Bear (german: Goldener Bär) is the highest prize awarded for the best film at the Berlin International Film Festival. The bear is the heraldic animal of Berlin, featured on both the coat of arms and flag of Berlin. History The win ...
at the 2005
Berlin International Film Festival The Berlin International Film Festival (german: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), usually called the Berlinale (), is a major international film festival held annually in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1951 and originally run in June, the fest ...
. In 2015, the
Oliver Hermanus Oliver Hermanus (born 26 May 1983) is a South African film director and writer.
"Oliver Hermanus." IMDb: The Internet Movie Dat ...
film The Endless River (film), ''The Endless River'' became the first South African film selected for the
Venice Film Festival The Venice Film Festival or Venice International Film Festival ( it, Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia, "International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art of the Venice Biennale") is an annual film festival h ...
.


Literature

South African literature emerged from a unique social and political history. One of the first well known novels written by a black author in an African language was Solomon Thekiso Plaatje's ''
Mhudi ''Mhudi: An Epic of South African Native Life a Hundred Years Ago'' is a South African novel by Sol Plaatje first published in 1930, and one of the first published African novels by a black African to be published in English. The novel was republi ...
'', written in 1930. During the 1950s, '' Drum'' magazine became a hotbed of political satire, fiction, and essays, giving a voice to the urban black culture. Notable white South African authors include Alan Paton, who published the novel ''
Cry, the Beloved Country ''Cry, the Beloved Country'' is a 1948 novel by South African writer Alan Paton. Set in the prelude to apartheid in South Africa, it follows a black village priest and a white farmer who must deal with news of a murder. American publisher Benn ...
'' in 1948. Nadine Gordimer became the first South African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1991. J.M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. When awarding the prize, the Swedish Academy stated that Coetzee "in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider." The plays of Athol Fugard have been regularly premiered in fringe theatres in South Africa, London (
Royal Court Theatre The Royal Court Theatre, at different times known as the Court Theatre, the New Chelsea Theatre, and the Belgravia Theatre, is a non-commercial West End theatre in Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England ...
) and New York.
Olive Schreiner Olive Schreiner (24 March 1855 – 11 December 1920) was a South African author, anti-war campaigner and intellectual. She is best remembered today for her novel ''The Story of an African Farm'' (1883), which has been highly acclaimed. It deal ...
's ''
The Story of an African Farm ''The Story of an African Farm'' (published in 1883 under the pseudonym Ralph Iron) was South African author Olive Schreiner's first published novel. It was an immediate success and has become recognised as one of the first feminist novels. B ...
'' (1883) was a revelation in
Victorian literature Victorian literature refers to English literature during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901). The 19th century is considered by some to be the Golden Age of English Literature, especially for British novels. It was in the Victorian era tha ...
: it is heralded by many as introducing feminism into the novel form.
Breyten Breytenbach Breyten Breytenbach (; born 16 September 1939) is a South African writer, poet and painter known for his opposition to apartheid, and consequent imprisonment by the South African government. He is informally considered as the national poet lau ...
was jailed for his involvement with the guerrilla movement against apartheid. André Brink was the first Afrikaner writer to be banned by the government after he released the novel ''
A Dry White Season ''A Dry White Season'' is a 1989 American drama film directed by Euzhan Palcy and starring Donald Sutherland, Jürgen Prochnow, Marlon Brando, Janet Suzman, Zakes Mokae and Susan Sarandon. It was written by Colin Welland and Palcy, based upon ...
''.


Cuisine

The cuisine of South Africa is immensely diverse, and foods from a many different cultures and backgrounds are enjoyed by all communities, and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety available. The cuisine is mostly meat-based and has spawned the distinctively South African social gathering known as the , a variation of the barbecue. South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer, with some of the best
vineyard A vineyard (; also ) is a plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice. The science, practice and study of vineyard production is known as viticulture. Vineya ...
s lying in valleys around
Stellenbosch Stellenbosch (; )A Universal Pronounc ...
,
Franschhoek Franschhoek (; Afrikaans for "French Corner", Dutch spelling before 1947 ''Fransche Hoek'') is a small town in the Western Cape Province and one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Formerly known as Oliphants hoek (as there were vast groups of ...
,
Paarl Paarl (; Afrikaans: ; derived from ''Parel'', meaning "pearl" in Dutch) is a town with 112,045 inhabitants in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is the third-oldest city and European settlement in the Republic of South Africa (after ...
and Barrydale.


Sports

South Africa's most popular sports are association football,
rugby union Rugby union, commonly known simply as rugby, is a close-contact team sport that originated at Rugby School in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In it ...
and
cricket Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of eleven players on a field at the centre of which is a pitch with a wicket at each end, each comprising two bails balanced on three stumps. The batting side scores runs by str ...
. Other sports with significant support are swimming, athletics, golf, boxing, tennis, ringball,
field hockey Field hockey is a team sport structured in standard hockey format, in which each team plays with ten outfield players and a goalkeeper. Teams must drive a round hockey ball by hitting it with a hockey stick towards the rival team's shooting ...
, surfing and
netball Netball is a ball sport played on a court by two teams of seven players. It is among a rare number of sports which have been created exclusively for female competitors. The sport is played on indoor and outdoor netball courts and is specifical ...
. Although football (soccer) commands the greatest following among the youth, other sports like basketball, judo, softball and skateboarding are becoming increasingly popular amongst the populace. Association football is the most popular sport in South Africa. Footballers who have played for major foreign clubs include
Steven Pienaar Steven Jerome Pienaar (; born 17 March 1982) is a South African former professional footballer and current assistant coach of the U18 team of the Ajax Youth Academy. He was a captain of the South African national team. He primarily played as ...
,
Lucas Radebe Lucas Valeriu Ntuba Radebe OIS (born 12 April 1969) is a South African former professional footballer who played as a centre back. He began playing in South Africa with Kaizer Chiefs, before transferring to Leeds United, where he played 256 ...
and
Philemon Masinga Philemon Raul Masinga (28 June 1969 – 13 January 2019) was a South African professional footballer and manager who played as a striker from 1990 to 2002. He played in the English Premier League for Leeds United, and Italian Serie A for Saler ...
,
Benni McCarthy Benedict Saul "Benni" McCarthy (born 12 November 1977) is a South African coach and former footballer who is a first-team coach at Manchester United. He previously worked as head coach of South African Premier Division team AmaZulu. A former f ...
,
Aaron Mokoena Teboho Aaron Mokoena (born 25 November 1980), known as Aaron Mokoena, is a South African former footballer. He is currently the assistant coach of Cape Town City. Club career Early career Mokoena was born in Boipatong. He moved to Bayer Leve ...
, and
Delron Buckley Delron Sebastian Buckley (born 7 December 1977) is a South African former professional footballer. His preferred position was the left wing although he could also play as a striker. In September 2021, he was appointed Head Coach of the Universi ...
. South Africa hosted the
2010 FIFA World Cup , image = 2010 FIFA World Cup.svg , size = 200px , caption = ''Ke Nako. (Tswana and Sotho for "It's time") Celebrate Africa's Humanity'It's time. Celebrate Africa's Humanity'' (English)''Dis tyd. Vier Afrika se mensd ...
, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter awarded South Africa a grade 9 out of 10 for successfully hosting the event. Player Benni McCarthy is also a first-team coach for the English football club Manchester United. Famous boxing personalities include Baby Jake
Jacob Matlala Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala (1 August 1962 – 7 December 2013) was a South African boxer and junior flyweight champion from Meadowlands, Johannesburg. He won 4 world championship titles. In 2004, Matlala was voted #72 in the " 100 Greatest Sou ...
,
Vuyani Bungu Vuyani Bungu (born 26 February 1967) is a South African former professional boxer who competed from 1987 to 2005. He held the International Boxing Federation, IBF junior-featherweight title from 1994 to 1999, and the International Boxing Organ ...
,
Welcome Ncita Welcome Ncita (born 21 October 1965) is a retired professional boxer and former IBF Super Bantamweight Champion. Known as "The Hawk", Ncita turned professional in 1984 and in 1990 captured the International Boxing Federation Super Bantamweight ...
,
Dingaan Thobela Dingaan Bongane Thobela (born 24 September 1966), is a South African former professional boxer who competed between 1990 and 2006. He is a world champion in two weight classes, having held the WBO lightweight title from 1990 to 1992, the WBA ...
,
Corrie Sanders Cornelius Johannes "Corrie" Sanders (7 January 1966 – 23 September 2012) was a South African professional boxer who competed from 1989 to 2008. He won the WBO heavyweight title in 2003 after knocking out Wladimir Klitschko in two rounds, whi ...
,
Gerrie Coetzee Gerhardus Christian Coetzee (born 8 April 1955) is a South African former professional boxer who competed from 1974 to 1986, and in 1993 and 1997. He was the first African ever to fight for, and win, a world heavyweight championship, having hel ...
and Brian Mitchell. Durban surfer
Jordy Smith Jordan Michael "Jordy" Smith (born 11 February 1988) is a South African professional surfer, competing on the World championship tour surfing (WCT). In 2007 Smith won surfing's World Qualifying Series, the second-tier tour which leads to qualific ...
won the 2010 Billabong J-Bay Open making him the highest ranked surfer in the world. South Africa produced
Formula One Formula One (also known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international racing for open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The World Drivers' Championship, ...
motor racing's 1979 world champion
Jody Scheckter Jody David Scheckter (born 29 January 1950) is a South African business proprietor and former motor racing driver. He competed in Formula One from 1972 to 1980, winning the Drivers' Championship in with Ferrari. Scheckter remains the only Afri ...
. Famous active cricket players include
Kagiso Rabada Kagiso Rabada (born 25 May 1995) is a South African international cricketer who plays all formats of the game. He is a right arm fast bowler. He made his international debut in November 2014 in limited-overs cricket before going on to make his ...
, David Miller,
Keshav Maharaj Keshav Atmanand Maharaj (born 7 February 1990) is a South African professional cricketer who plays for the South Africa national team in Tests, One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) cricket. He is currently the vice-cap ...
,
Anrich Nortje Anrich Arno Nortje (born 16 November 1993) is a South African professional cricketer. He made his international debut for the South Africa cricket team in March 2019. In July 2020, Nortje was named the newcomer of the year at Cricket South Afric ...
,
Reeza Hendricks Reeza Raphael Hendricks (born 14 August 1989) is a South African cricketer who plays for Gauteng (cricket team), Gauteng and for the South Africa national cricket team. He is a right-handed opening batsman. He made his international debut for So ...
and
Rilee Rossouw Rilee Roscoe Rossouw (born 9 October 1989) is a South African cricketer who played for South Africa between 2014 and 2016, before making a return to international cricket in July 2022. In South Africa he played domestic cricket for Knights and ...
; some also participate in the
Indian Premier League The Indian Premier League (IPL), also known as TATA IPL for sponsorship reasons, is a men's T20 franchise cricket league of India. It is annually contested by ten teams based out of seven Indian cities and three Indian states. The leagu ...
. South Africa has produced numerous world class rugby players, including
Francois Pienaar Jacobus Francois Pienaar (born 2 January 1967) is a retired South African rugby union player. He played flanker for South Africa (the Springboks) from 1993 until 1996, winning 29 international caps, all of them as captain. He is best known fo ...
,
Joost van der Westhuizen Joost Heystek van der Westhuizen (20 February 1971 – 6 February 2017) was a South African professional rugby union player who made 89 appearances in test matches for the national team, scoring 38 tries. He mostly played as a scrum-half and ...
,
Danie Craven Daniël Hartman Craven (11 October 1910 – 4 January 1993) was a South African rugby union player (1931–1938), national coach, national and international rugby administrator, academic, and author. Popularly known as Danie, Doc, or Mr R ...
,
Frik du Preez Frederik Christoffel Hendrik "Frik" du Preez (born 28 November 1935) is a former South African rugby union player who represented Northern Transvaal and the Springboks. He was born on a farm near Rustenburg and went to school at Parys High Schoo ...
,
Naas Botha Hendrik Egnatius 'Naas' Botha (born 27 February 1958) is a South African former rugby union player, who played for Northern Transvaal and South Africa (the Springboks). He was voted ''Rugby Player of the Year'' in 1979, 1981, 1985 and 1987. B ...
, and
Bryan Habana Bryan Gary Habana OIS (born 12 June 1983) is a South African former professional rugby union player who initially played as an outside centre but later on, he shifted to the wing. He most recently played for Toulon in the French Top 14 compet ...
. South Africa has won the
Rugby World Cup The Rugby World Cup is a men's rugby union tournament contested every four years between the top international teams. The tournament is administered by World Rugby, the sport's international governing body. The winners are awarded the Webb E ...
three times, tying New Zealand for the most Rugby World Cup wins. South Africa first won the
1995 Rugby World Cup The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the third Rugby World Cup. It was hosted and won by South Africa, and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country. The World Cup was the first major sporting event to take place in Sou ...
, which it hosted. They went on to win the tournament again in 2007 and in 2019. It followed the 1995 Rugby World Cup by hosting the 1996 African Cup of Nations, with the national team
Bafana Bafana The South Africa national soccer team represents South Africa in men's international soccer and it is run by the South African Football Association, the governing body for Soccer in South Africa. The team's nickname is Bafana Bafana (The Boys ...
going on to win the tournament. In 2022, the South Africa women's national soccer team, women's team also won the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations, Women's Africa Cup of Nations, beating Morocco women's national football team, Morocco 2–1 in 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations Final, the final. It also hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup, the ICC World Twenty20, 2007 World Twenty20 Championship. South Africa's national cricket team, the South Africa national cricket team, Proteas, have also won the inaugural edition of the 1998 ICC KnockOut Trophy by defeating West Indies national cricket team, West Indies in the final. South Africa national blind cricket team, South Africa's national blind cricket team also went on to win the inaugural edition of the Blind Cricket World Cup in 1998. In 2004, the swimming team of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Olympic Games in Athens, simultaneously breaking the world record in the 4×100 Freestyle Relay. Penny Heyns won Olympic Gold in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and more recently, swimmers Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk have both broken world records and won gold medals at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. In 2012, Oscar Pistorius became the first double amputee sprinter to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Olympic Games in London. In golf, Gary Player is generally regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time, having won the Grand Slam (golf), Career Grand Slam, one of five golfers to have done so. Other South African golfers to have won major tournaments include Bobby Locke, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark (golfer), Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.


See also

* Outline of South Africa


References


Further reading

* ''A History of South Africa, Third Edition''. Leonard Thompson. Yale University Press. 2001. 384 pages. . * ''Economic Analysis and Policy Formulation for Post-Apartheid South Africa: Mission Report, Aug. 1991''. International Development Research Centre. IDRC Canada, 1991. vi, 46 p. Without ISBN. * ''Emerging Johannesburg: Perspectives on the Postapartheid City''. Richard Tomlinson, et al. 2003. 336 pages. . * ''Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Segregation and Apartheid''. Nigel Worden. 2000. 194 pages. . * ''South Africa: A Narrative History''. Frank Welsh (writer), Frank Welsh. Kodansha America. 1999. 606 pages. . * ''South Africa in Contemporary Times''. Godfrey Mwakikagile. New Africa Press. 2008. 260 pages. . * ''The Atlas of Changing South Africa''. A. J. Christopher. 2000. 216 pages. . * ''The Politics of the New South Africa''. Heather Deegan. 2000. 256 pages. . * ''Twentieth-Century South Africa''. William Beinart Oxford University Press 2001, 414 pages, .


External links


Government of South Africa

South Africa
''The World Factbook''. Central Intelligence Agency.
South Africa
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South Africa
from the BBC News * * {{Authority control South Africa BRICS nations Countries in Africa English-speaking countries and territories G20 nations Member states of the African Union Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations Member states of the United Nations Newly industrializing countries Republics in the Commonwealth of Nations Southern African countries States and territories established in 1910