South Africa on the world map. Map of South Africa with cities
Map of South Africa with cities. Where South Africa is on the world map. The main geographical facts about South Africa - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
South Africa Fact File
Ethnic groups Indigenous 75.2%, mixed 8.6%, Indian 2.6%, European 13.6%,
Economy Services 62%, industry 24%, agriculture 14%
GNP per capita US$ 9,400
Official name Republic of South Africa
Form of government Republic with two legislative bodies (Senate and National Assembly)
Capital Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial)
Area 1,219,912 sq km (471,008 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 2 hours
Projected population 2015 44,616,000
Population density 35.8 per sq km (92.7 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 35.8
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 61.8
Official languages Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Other languages Indigenous and Indian languages
Literacy rate 85 %
Religions Christian 68%, Hindu 2%, Muslim 2%, indigenous beliefs 28%
Climate Mainly semiarid; subtropical on southeast coast Highest point Njesuthi 3,408 m (11,181 ft) Map reference Pages 370-71
Occupying the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa comprises a central plateau or veld, bordered to the south and east by the Drakensberg Mountains and to the north by the countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Independent State of Lesotho is contained within South Africa's borders. European settlement in the seventeenth century culminated in white minority rule, and a controversial policy of racial segregation was officially implemented in 1948. After fifty years of deepening crisis and international isolation as a result of its racial policies, South Africa changed course in 1990, held democratic elections in 1994, and under a new government rejoined the international community. Always the economic powerhouse of southern Africa, it is now free from sanctions and able to renew normal trading relations. The abandonment of apartheid, and the freeing of long-term political prisoner (and then president) Nelson Mandela, have had an uplifting effect on national morale and provided a chance for a fresh start. Problems currently facing the nation include discrepancies between the educational level and skills of blacks and whites; vastly different income levels; increasing unemployment; high urban crime rates; and the ongoing conflict between Zulu groups and the ruling party, the African National Congress.
Physical features and land use
South Africa has three main geographic regions. First, there is the vast African Plateau of the interior. This slopes gradually north and west to form part of the semiarid and sparsely populated Kalahari basin, while to the east it rises to elevations of 2,000 m (6,500 ft). Second, the Great Escarpment, varying in height, structure, and steepness, forms a rim around the entire plateau from the mountains of the Transvaal Drakensberg in the northeast to Namibia in the northwest. Its highest peaks are in the Drakensberg along the Lesotho border. The third region consists of the narrow, fertile strips of land along the peripheral coastal plains.
Agricultural products include maize (a staple for many African farmers); apples, pears, stone fruit, grapes, and wine from Eastern Cape Province; wheat from Western Cape Province; and sugarcane from coastal KwaZulu-Natal. On the grasslands of the plateau large-scale pastoralism produces wool, mohair, skins, and meat. South Africa is geologically ancient—only a few superficial strata are less than 600 million years old. In the 1880s rocks of the Witwatersrand were found to contain gold and diamonds, and since then gold and diamond mining has been the basis of South Africa's national wealth.
Along the west coast, north of Cape Town, the cold Benguela current inhibits rainfall, producing the desert of the Namib. In the northeast there is dry savanna bushland. On the Mozambique border the best-known of South Africa's eight wildlife reserves, Kruger National Park, contains lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, and hippopotamuses.
People and culture
First inhabited by San, or Bushmen, in the fifteenth century Southern Africa was occupied by a wave of cattle-keeping, grain-growing Bantu peoples from the north—their modern descendants being groups such as the Xhosa and the Zulu. Then in 1652 and 1688 two groups of settlers arrived from Europe—the first Dutch, the second French Huguenot, both firmly Protestant in their faith—and established a colony in the south at Cape Town. They became known as Boers (farmers) and later as Afrikaners (after their language, Afrikaans). The British established themselves on the Cape in 1806. Over the years a
c. 1800 Zulu nation founded in today's KwaZulu-Natal, forcing Shoshangane clan into Swaziland and Mzilika-zi clan into Zimbabwe
population of mixed Afro-European descent emerged who became known as "Cape Coloreds". In the nineteenth century laborers from India were brought in by the British, creating yet another large and distinct ethnic community. There are also a small number of Malays.
After 1948, under the ruling Afrikaners, apartheid (apartness) laws were drafted defining how each community should associate, where each should live, whether they could intermarry, and what work they could do. The entire population was to be organized in a hierarchy of privilege, with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom. Africans were to be confined to a series of internal Black States called "homelands", which were in practice mere labor pools, since the only way people could find employment was by leaving home and traveling to the South African mines. The impracticality, unreality, and injustice of the system aroused widespread international condemnation. The misery it created led to ongoing violent resistance.
Economy and resources
Although both the Bantu and the first Europeans to colonize South Africa were farming people, and agriculture formed the foundation of the economy for hundreds of years, during the nineteenth century gold and diamonds were the attractions that drew a new wave of settlers. Today, gold and precious stones still make up half the country's total exports, and over the last 100 years almost half the world's gold has come from South African mines. Other important minerals include asbestos, nickel, vanadium, and uranium (which can sometimes be found in old gold mines). In addition, South Africa is the world's largest producer of manganese, platinum, and chromium.
Energy conservation is a vital concern to the country as no petroleum deposits have yet been found. During the long period of South Africa's isolation and of trade boycotts, the state corporation Sasol extracted oil from coal. Though this is a expensive process, extensive deposits of coal make this a feasible supplementary supply. Many white South Africans enjoy a standard of living that is equal to the highest in the world. The challenge for the government in this century is to provide the circumstances and conditions in which less privileged social groups can have a share of the wealth. This is not an easy task: currently there are jobs for less than five percent of the 300,000 workers who enter the labor force each year.
Eastern Cape • Free State • Gauteng • KwaZulu-Natal • Mpumalanga • Northern Province • Northern Cape • North West • Western Cape