About South Africa
Republic of South Africa
Area: 1.2 million sq. km. (470,462 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capitals – Administrative, Pretoria; Legislative, Cape Town; Judicial, Bloemfontein.
Terrain: Plateau, savanna, desert, mountains, coastal plains.
Climate: Moderate; similar to southern California.
Nationality: South African(s).
Population: 44.187,637 (black 79%; white 9.6%; colored 8.9%; Asian (Indian) 2.5%)
Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga (all official languages).
Religions: Predominantly Christian; traditional African, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish.
Type: Parliamentary democracy
Independence: The Union of South Africa was created on May 31, 1910 and became a sovereign state within the British Empire in 1934. The National Party came to power in 1948 and placed laws on the statute books to enforce separate development of peoples by race, known as “apartheid.” The country became a republic on May 31, 1961, left the Commonwealth in October 1968, and rejoined in June 1994. The unbanning of the African National Congress and the freeing of Nelson Mandela by the National Party under F W de Klerk left the way open for the first truly democratic elections, which took place peacefully in 1994. A new Constitution was written and entered into force on February 3, 1997.
The first Dutch settlers came to the southern tip of Africa in 1652 and many took to farming as a way of life. They became known as “Boers” from the Afrikaans word for farmer. Afrikaans finds its origins in the Dutch language, but is quite distinct from it. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope in 1806, many of 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 Wars (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa, under British influence until 1961, entrenched white minority rule with increasingly inhumane measures, until black majority rule was finally achieved in 1994.