South Africa

south_african_flag Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together under the Union of South Africa. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in black majority rule.

Geography

 

Location: Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Geographic coordinates: 29 00 S, 24 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 1,219,912 sq km 

land: 1,219,912 sq km

note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
Area - comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 4,862 km          
Border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km
Coastline: 2,798 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrain: vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m 
 

highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resources: gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 12.1%

permanent crops: 0.79%

other: 87.11%
Irrigated land:                         14,980 sq km
Total renewable water resources: 50 cu km
Natural hazards: prolonged droughts
Environment - current issues: lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification
Geography - note: South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

People

 

Population: 48,782,756
Nationality: South African(s)
Ethnic groups: black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5%
Religions: Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1%
Languages: IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, other 7.2%
Literacy: total population: 86.4%

 

Government

 

Country name:    

long form: Republic of South Africa
short form: South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA

Government type:    
republic
Capital:  
Pretoria (administrative capital) Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
Independence:         
31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State); 31 May 1961 (republic declared) 27 April 1994 (majority rule)
National holiday:
Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)
Constitution: 10 December 1996; this new constitution entered into effect on 4 February 1997
Legal system: 
based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage:

 18 years of age; universal

Flag description: two equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band that splits into a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side; the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green band and its arms by narrow white stripes

 

Economy

 

Economy - overview: South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Growth has been robust since 2004, as South Africa has reaped the benefits of macro-economic stability and a global commodities boom. Unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth.
Agriculture - products:
corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
Industries: mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair
Currency (code): Rand (ZAR)

 

Communications

 

Telephone system: general assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity is nearly 110 telephones per 100 persons; international: country code - 27
Internet country code: .za

                   

Transportation

 

Airports: 728
Railways:  20, 872km
Roadways: 362,099 km

paved: 73,506 km (includes 239 km of expressways)

unpaved: 288,593 km
Merchant marine: 3
Ports and terminals:  Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay

 

Military

 

Military branches:
South African National Defense Force (SANDF): South African Army, South African Navy (SAN), South African Air Force (SAAF), Joint Operations Command, Military Intelligence, Military Health Services (2008)

Transnational Issues

 

Disputes - international: South Africa has placed military along the border to apprehend the thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing economic dysfunction and political persecution; as of January 2007, South Africa also supports large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers; managed dispute with Namibia over the location of the boundary in the Orange River; in 2006, Swazi king advocates resort to ICJ to claim parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from South Africa

 

 
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