Skip to main content
Select Source:

South Africa



Republic of South Africa

Republiek van Suid-Afrika

CAPITAL: Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial)

FLAG: The national flag, adopted in 1994, consists of a blue-black triangle placed vertical to the hoist and bordered in gold-yellow. Bands of red, white, green, white, and blue appear horizontally.

ANTHEM: Two anthems are currently in use: the official anthem, Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Call of South Africa), and Nkosi Sikelel' Afrika (God Bless Africa), a hymn adopted by most liberation groups.

MONETARY UNIT: The South African rand (r) is a paper currency of 100 cents. It is used throughout the South African monetary area. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 rand, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 rand. r1 = $0.16155 (or $1 = r6.19) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Republic Day, 31 May; Kruger Day, 10 October; Day of the Vow, 16 December; Christmas, 25 December; Goodwill Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Ascension; Family Day is a movable secular holiday.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


The area of South Africa is 1,219,912 sq km (471,011 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by South Africa is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. Considered as a whole, South Africa extends 1,821 km (1,132 mi) nesw and 1,066 km (662 mi) senw. It is bounded on the n by Botswana and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), on the ne by Mozambique and Swaziland, on the e by the Indian Ocean, on the s by the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, on the w by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the nw by Namibia. South Africa also controls two small islands, Prince Edward and Marion, which lie some 1,920 km (1,200 mi) southeast of Cape Town. South Africa's capital city, Pretoria, is located in the northeastern part of the country.


South Africa has a mean altitude of about 1,200 m (3,900 ft), and at least 40% of the surface is at a higher elevation. Parts of Johannesburg are more than 1,800 m (6,000 ft) above sea level. There are three major zones: the marginal regions, which range in width from 80 to 240 km (50150 mi) in the east to 6080 km (3550 mi) in the west, and including the eastern plateau slopes, Cape folded belt, and western plateau slopes; a vast saucer-shaped interior plateau, separated from the marginal zone by the Great Escarpment; and the Kalahari Basin, only the southern part of which projects into north-central South Africa. The land rises steadily from west to east to the Drakensberg Mountains (part of the Great Escarpment), the tallest of which is Mt. Injasuti (3,408 m/11,181 ft), on the border with Lesotho.

The coastal belt of the west and south ranges between 150 and 180 m (500 and 600 ft) above sea level and is very fertile, producing citrus fruits and grapes, particularly in the western Cape. North of the coastal belt stretch the Little and the Great Karoo highlands, which are bounded by mountains, are semiarid to arid, and merge into sandy wastes that ultimately join the arid Kalahari. The high grass prairie, or veld, of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal is famous for its deposits of gold and silver; other minerals are found in the Transvaal's bush veld. From the Drakensberg, the land falls toward the Indian Ocean in the rolling hills and valleys of Natal, which are covered with rich vegetation and, near the coast, subtropical plants, including sugarcane.

The two most important rivers draining the interior plateau are the Orange (with its tributary the Vaal), which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Limpopo, which empties into the Indian Ocean through Mozambique. Of the fast-flowing rivers with steeply graded courses that produce spectacular waterfalls, the largest is the Tugela, which rises in the Mont-aux-Sources and flows swiftly to the Indian Ocean.


South Africa lies almost wholly within the southern temperate zone, and its climate is more equable than that of corresponding northern latitudes because of its surrounding waters. Temperature differentials between east and west coasts stem from the influences, respectively, of the warm Mozambique (Agulhas) Current and the cold Benguela Current. The average daily minimum temperature at Durban, on the east coast, ranges from 11°c (52°f) in July to 21°c (70°f) in February; on the west coast, at Port Nolloth, the range is from 7°c (45°f) to 12°c (54°f) during the corresponding months. Temperatures are cooler in the highlands: at Johannesburg, the average daily minimum is 4°c (39°f) in June and July and 14°c (57°f) in January. On the high veld there are sharp differences of temperature between day and night, but there is less daily fluctuation nearer the coast.

Rainfall is unpredictable in large parts of the country, and prolonged droughts are a serious restriction on farming in such areas. While the mean annual rainfall is 46 cm (18 in), 21% of the country receives less than 20 cm (8 in) and 31% gets more than 60 cm (24 in). Much of South Africa gets its rain in the summer months, but the western coastal belt is a winter rain area. Along the Cape south coast, rain falls during both seasons.


The variety of South Africa's climate and altitude accounts for its diversified flora and fauna. Major vegetation zones include the forest and palm belt of the east, south, and southwest coasts; the temperate grasslands (veld) of the eastern portion of the interior plateau; the desert and semidesert (Karoo) vegetation of the western interior; and the bushveld (savanna) of the Kalahari and the northeast. Of the 200 natural orders of plants in the world, over 140 are represented and South Africa has over 25,000 species of flora, including a floral kingdom found nowhere else. There are 200 species of euphorbia, about 350 different kinds of heath in the Cape Province alone, and more than 500 species of grass. Wild flowers (including the protea, South Africa's national flower) grow in great profusion throughout the Cape region.

Aardvark, jackal, lion, elephant, wild buffalo, hippopotamus, and various kinds of antelope are still found in some parts of the country. In the great game parks, animals may be seen living in natural surroundings. So extensive is the variety both of smaller mammals and of plants that they have not yet all been identified. The number of different kinds of birds is estimated at well over 300; that of snakes, 200. The number of species of insects is estimated at 40,000, and there are about 1,000 kinds of fish.


Recent industrialization and urbanization have taken their toll on the South African environment, as have such agricultural practices as veld fires, overgrazing of livestock, and intensive use of pesticides. Soil erosion and desertification are two more significant environmental issues in South Africa. Three hundred to four hundred million tons of soil per year are lost. The country's limited water resources have been impaired by mineralization, eutrophication, and acidic mine drainage. South Africa has 45 cu km of renewable water resources, with 72% of annual withdrawals used for farming and 11% for industrial activity. The country's cities produce about 4.2 million tons of solid waste per year. Air pollution in urban areas stems primarily from coal burning and motor vehicle exhausts. The government has taken steps to address these issues: Johannesburg was the site of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, and South Africa is seen as a leader of the developing world on issues such as climate change, conservation, and biodiversity.

The principal environmental bodies are the Department of Water Affairs, the Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Department of National Health and Population Activities. Pursuant to a government "white paper" about environmental conservation policy, approved in 1980, a comprehensive environmental protection bill was given parliamentary approval in 1982. It included development of a comprehensive technology for treating sewage and industrial effluents, surveys of threatened natural habitats, research on marine pollution, monitoring of atmospheric pollutants, and a program of environmental education in the public schools.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 29 types of mammals, 36 species of birds, 20 types of reptiles, 21 species of amphibians, 49 species of fish, 18 types of mollusks, 109 species of other invertebrates, and 75 species of plants. Threatened species in South Africa include the riverine rabbit, Cape Mountain zebra, Treur River barb, and several species of butterfly. Twelve species have become extinct, including the cape warthog, bluebuck, Burchell's zebra, and quagga.

About 5.5% of the total land area is protected and there are numerous nature and game reserves and national parks. Some 120 rare Addo elephants are protected in Addo Elephant National Park, 56 km (35 mi) north of Port Elizabeth; Bontebok National Park (near Swellendam, Cape Province) is a habitat for the last surviving herd of bontebok antelope; Mountain Zebra National Park (near Cradock, in Cape Province) is a refuge for several hundred rare mountain zebras and springbok; and Kruger National Park, in northeastern Transvaal, has almost every species of South African wildlife in its natural habitat.


The population of South Africa in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 46,923,000, which placed it at number 27 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 33% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 96 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 0.7%. The projected population for the year 2025 was 47,779,000. The overall population density was 39 per sq km (100 per sq mi); however, more than a third of the people live on only 4% of the land area.

The UN estimated that 53% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.65%. The administrative capital, Pretoria had a population of 1,209,000 in that year. Johannesburg, the largest city and the commercial and industrial center of the country, had a metropolitan population of 3,228,000; Cape Town, the legislative capital, had a population of 3,103,000. Other major cities include East Rand, 3,043,000; Durban, 2,643,000; West Rand, 1,297,000; Sasolburg, 1,259,000; and Port Elizabeth, 998,000; Bloemfontein, the judicial capital, approximately 300,000.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of South Africa. The UN estimated that 21.3% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


Preference was given in the past to immigrants from those countries from which South Africa's present white population is derived. Between 1963 and 1984, the number of immigrants averaged about 37,000 annually, and the number of emigrants about 12,000. Between 198084, some 72,528 Zimbabwe residents emigrated to South Africa. After 1984, immigration fell, and, perhaps as a consequence, the white population actually declined between 198091. Of the 63,495 immigrants between 198691, 16,815 came from other African countries, 16,056 from the United Kingdom, 16,512 from other European countries, and 14,112 from other parts of the world. Emigration came to 46,541 during these years.

In 1986, it was estimated that between 1.5 million and 2 million black Africans migrate temporarily to South Africa each year to fulfill work contracts, although only about 500,000 foreign male Africans are living and working in the country at any given time. South Africa was providing informal sanctuary to perhaps 200,000 refugees from Mozambique in 1992, most of whom repatriated by 1996.

Since 1999, one of South Africa's main challenges has been the increasing cross-border migration. In addition to the large number of undocumented migrants that enter the country, as of 1999, the country was hosting some 55,000 asylum seekers, only 8,500 of whom had been recognized as refugees. Also in 1999, xenophobia was on the rise, with 30 refugees and asylum seekers having been killed in attacks on foreigners since 1995. The number of migrants living in South Africa in 2000 was 1,303,000, including refugees. In 2004 there were 27,683 refugees and 115,224 asylum seekers. Over 7,000 refugees were from Somalia, 5,000 were from Angola, and the remainder from the DROC. Asylum seekers were from Zimbabwe, the DROC, Somalia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -0.21 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Legal separation of the racial communities was a cornerstone of government policy through most of the 20th century. This racial policy, often called apartheid but referred to in South African government circles as "separate development," created and maintained one of the most rigidly segregated societies in the world. During the 1970s and 1980s, enforcement of separatist policies eased, but the division of the population into four racial communities, Africans (blacks), whites, coloreds, and Asians, remained. The rules of apartheid were formally abolished in 1991, but most citizens still describe themselves as one of the four traditional categories.

At the 2001 census, about 79% of the population were black Africans. This black population includes a large number of peoples, including the Zulu, Xhosa, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Tswana, Shangana-Tsongo, and Swazi. Whites account for about 9.6% of the total population. About 60% of the whites are descendants of Dutch, French Huguenot, and German settlers, and about 40% are of British descent; South Africans of European, especially Dutch, descent are called Afrikaners. The Cape Coloureds, accounting for about 8.6% of the total population, are a long-established racial amalgam of white, Hottentot, and other African, Indian, and Malay lineage. Asians make up about 2.5% of the population; they include descendants of Indian, East Indian, and Chinese indentured laborers who were not repatriated after their brief period of service as miners. There are a few thousand Khoikhoi within the country, an indigenous nomadic people who are primarily sheep and cattle herders.


The interim constitution adopted in 1993 recognized 11 languages as official at the national level: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. All were still recognized officially in 2005. The African languages spoken in South Africa are of the Niger-Congo family. In general, English is more commonly spoken in the cities, and Afrikaans in the rural areas.

Afrikaans is a variant of the Dutch spoken by the 17th-century colonists, and it includes lexical items, phrases, and syntactic structures from Malay, Portuguese, the Bantu group, Hottentot, and other African languages, as well as from English, French, and German. Afrikaans has borrowed from English words such as gelling (gallon), jaart (yard), sjieling (shilling), and trippens (three pence), while English has taken over kraal, veld, and other Afrikaans words. More than 70% of South African whites are bilingual. Afrikaans is the primary language of about 13.3% and English of 8.2%. The most widely spoken primary language is Zulu, spoken by about 23.8% of the population. Xhosa follows with about 17.6% of the population as primary speakers. Sepedi is spoken by 9.4% of the population, Setswana by 8.2%, Sesotho by 7.9%, and Tsonga by 4.4%. The remaining 7.2% included speakers of German, Portuguese, and other languages.


According to a 2001 census, approximately 80% of the population claimed to be Christian, with the largest group of Christian churches linked to the African Independent Churches. These include the Zion Christian Church (accounting for about 11% of the population) and the Apostolic Church (about 10% of the population), as well as some Pentecostal offshoots which were founded as breakaways from various missionary churches, or the so-called Ethiopian churches. The Dutch Reformed churches make up about 6.7% of the population and include the Nederduits Gereformeerde, Nederduitsch Hervormde, and the Gereformeerde Churches. The next-largest denomination was the Roman Catholic Church at 7.1% of the population, followed by the Methodists at 6.8%, Anglicans at 3.8%, Lutherans at 2.5%, Presbyterians at 1.9%, Baptists at 1.5%, and Congregationalists at 1.1%. There are a number of Pentecostal and charismatic churches as well as congregations of Greek Orthodox and Seventh-Day Adventists. About 87% of all whites are Christian, as are about 80% of all Blacks and 87% of all Coloureds.

About 1.2% of the population are Hindu and another 1.5% are Muslim, with most adherents being of Indian descent. There are very small numbers of Jews, Buddhists, Confucians, and Rastafarians. About 15% of the population claim no formal religious affiliation, but many of these individuals practice traditional indigenous customs, including the veneration of deceased ancestors and the use of herbs, therapeutic techniques, and even black magic to manipulate the powers of the spirits. There are some who combine traditional practices with Christianity.

Though there is no state religion, Christian holidays are officially observed. Relations between most religious groups is amicable. The South African Council of Churches is an interfaith and interracial groups that promotes mutual understanding among religions and maintains good relations with the government.


South Africa's transportation network is among the most modern and extensive on the continent. In 2002, there were an estimated 275,971 km (171,654 mi) of national and provincial roads, of which 57,568 km (35,807 mi) were paved, including 2,032 km (1,264 mi) of expressways. There were 4,154,593 automobiles and 2,079,860 commercial vehicles in 2003.

The South African Transport Service, a government department under the minister of transport affairs, operates the railways, principal harbors, South African Airways, and some road transportation services. In 2004, South Africa's railroad network totaled 20,872 km (12,982 mi), all of it narrow gauge. Of that total, 10,436 km (6,491 mi) were electrified.

In 2005, the South African merchant fleet consisted of two ships of 1,000 GRT or more, with a total volume of 31,505 GRT. South Africa's seven ports, owned and operated by the government, include the deepwater ports of Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Table Bay (at Cape Town); other ports with good facilities are Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay, East London, and Mosselbaai (or Mossel Bay).

Airports in 2004 totaled an estimated 728, of which 146 had paved runways as of 2005. The government-owned South African Airways operates both international and domestic flights. Jan Smuts Airport, near Johannesburg, is the major international airport; other international airports are located at Cape Town and Durban. In 2003, about 9.481 million passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.


Fossil skulls suggest that South Africa may have been one of the earliest scenes of human evolution. Little is known of the original settlers, but when Europeans first arrived, there were two distinct groups of peoplesthe Bushmen, primitive nomadic hunters of the western desert upland country, and the Hottentots, a pastoral people who occupied the southern and eastern coastal areas. Before ad 100, Bantu-speaking peoples entered the Transvaal from the north, settling territories in the north and east.

In 1488, the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeu Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope, and on Christmas Day of 1497, Vasco da Gama discovered Natal. The first European settlement at the Cape was made in 1652 under Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Co., which needed a refreshment station on the route to the East. Because there was a shortage of farm labor, the Dutch imported slaves from West Africa, Madagascar, and the East Indies, and because of the scarcity of European women, mixed marriages took place, eventually producing the Cape Coloured people. Huguenot settlers joined the small Dutch settlement in 1688. Continued demands for meat and relatively poor agricultural production encouraged the development of cattle farming, which in turn led to the need for more grazing land. Settlements were established on the coastal plain, along the valleys, and on the Great Karoo. The European population multiplied, but the Bushmen and Hottentots declined in numbers. The first contacts with Bantu-speaking Africans were made along the Great Fish River, which, in 1778, the Cape authorities proclaimed the boundary between the colonists and the Africans. The first serious clash came in 1779, when invading Xhosa tribesmen were driven back across the river border. Three more frontier wars were fought by 1812.

In 1795, Britain occupied the Cape, and in 1814, the area was ceded to the United Kingdom by the Treaty of Vienna. The free Coloured inhabitants of the Cape were given the same legal and political status as whites, and in 1834, slavery was abolished. Because of severe droughts and in reaction to British policy and administration, about 6,000 Boers (Dutch farmers) undertook the Great Trek in 183436, migrating northward into the present Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Some crossed the Drakensberg Mountains into Natal. The British annexed Natal in 1843 and extended their rule over Kaffraria in 1847, Griqualand West in 1871, and Zululand and Tongaland in 1887. The Transvaal was annexed in 1877 but returned to independence after a revolt in 188081, culminating in a British defeat by the Boers at Majuba Hill. In 1881, Swaziland also was declared independent. After a war between the Boers and Basutos, the British proclaimed Basutoland (now Lesotho) a British territory, and in 1884, it became a British protectorate. The British granted local self-government to the Cape in 1872 and to Natal in 1897.

Meanwhile, the spread of European settlements into areas occupied by Africans led to the setting aside of large native reserves and to the development of separate white and black communities. In 1860, indentured Indians were brought into Natal to work on the sugarcane plantations; by 1911, when India halted the emigration because of what it called "poor working conditions," more than 150,000 Indians had come to South Africa as contract laborers. It was in South Africa, while pursuing the Indians' claims of injustice, that Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, then a young lawyer, developed his philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

The discovery around 1870 of diamonds along the Orange and Vaal rivers and in the Kimberley district led to an influx of foreigners and brought prosperity to the Cape and the Orange Free State. Railways were built and trade increased. The discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886 brought in thousands of additional newcomers and made Transvaal potentially the wealthiest state. Tension between the Boers and outsiders attracted to Transvaal was accentuated by an unsuccessful attempt to capture Johannesburg by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson (Jameson Raid) in 189596 and culminated in the South African (or Boer) War in 18991902. After a desperate struggle against the larger British forces, the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State gave up their independence by the Treaty of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902 but shortly thereafter were granted self-government by the British. In a convention during 19089, the leaders of the Afrikaners (as the Boers were now called), together with those from the Cape and Natal, drafted a constitution for a united South Africa that passed the British Parliament as the South Africa Act in 1909 and became effective on 31 May 1910. The constitution provided for a union of the four territories or provinces, to be known as the Union of South Africa. In 1913, the Union Parliament passed the Bantu Land Act, setting aside 8.9 million hectares (22 million acres) of land as black areas; an additional 6.3 million hectares (15.6 million acres) were added to the black homelands by another parliamentary act in 1936.

The Union of South Africa fought with the Allies in World War I, signed the Treaty of Versailles, and became a member of the League of Nations. In 1920, the League gave South Africa a mandate over the former German colony of South West Africa (now generally called Namibia), which lasted until 1946, when South Africa refused to recognize UN authority over the area and regarded it as an integral part of the country. In 1926, a British declaration granted South Africa national autonomy and equal legal status with the United Kingdom. Mining and industrialization advanced in the period between the two wars. More intensive exploitation of the wealth of the country led to better living standards. South Africa sent troops to fight the Nazis in World War II, although many Afrikaners favored neutrality. In 1948, the National Party (NP) took power, influencing the general character of life in South Africa and, in particular, enforcing its policies of apartheid, or racial separation (officially called "separate development" after 1960) of whites and nonwhites.

South Africa's white electorate approved a republican form of government in a 1960 referendum, and South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961. The republican constitution did not deviate substantially from the former one, the only major change being the substitution of a president for the monarch as the head of state. As a result of objections from nonwhite members of the Commonwealth of Nations to South Africa's presence, South Africa withdrew its application for continued Commonwealth membership in 1961.

The immediate period surrounding the creation of the republic was one of mounting pressures applied to the government because of its apartheid policies. In 1960, black unrest swelled to the point where a state of emergency was declared. On 21 March 1960, a black demonstration was staged against the "pass laws," laws requiring blacks to carry "reference books," or internal passports, thus enabling the government to restrict their movement into urban areas. The demonstration resulted in the killing at Sharpeville of 69 black protesters by government troops and provided the touchstone for local black protests and for widespread expressions of outrage in international forums. During 196364, the government acted to stiffen its control over blacks living in white areas. After 1 May 1963, the General Law Amendment Act allowed the government to hold people for consecutive 90-day periods without trial (the length was decreased to 15 days in 1966). In 1965, the Suppression of Communism Amendment Bill renewed the government's authority to detain for security reasons persons who had completed prison sentences.

As the Portuguese colonial empire disbanded and blacks came to the fore in Mozambique and Angola during the mid-1970s, South African troops joined the Angolan civil conflict, in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a Soviet-backed faction from coming to power, but then withdrew from Angola in March 1976. South Africa subsequently launched sporadic attacks on Angola (which supported insurgents seeking to end South African rule over Namibia) and Mozambique and aided insurgencies in the two former Portuguese territories; these operations (and other raids into Botswana, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe) were apparently in response to the aid and political support given by South Africa's neighbors to the African National Congress (ANC), a black nationalist group.

Beginning in June 1976, the worst domestic confrontation since Sharpeville took place in Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where blacks violently protested the compulsory use of Afrikaans in schools; suppression of the riots by South African police left at least 174 blacks dead and 1,139 injured. The Afrikaans requirement was subsequently modified. During the late 1970s, new protest groups and leaders emerged among the young blacks. After one of these leaders, 30-year-old Steven Biko, died on 12 September 1977 while in police custody, there were renewed protests. As a result, on 4 November, the UN Security Council approved a mandatory arms embargo against South Africathe first ever imposed on a member nation.

As of 1981, the government had designated four of the ten black homelands as "sovereign" states: Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei, and Venda. All members of the ethnic groups associated with these homelands automatically lost their South African citizenship; the government's stated intent to grant independence to the remaining six homelands meant that the vast majority of South Africa's blacks would eventually lose their South African citizenship. In an effort to conciliate nonwhites and international opinion, the government scrapped many aspects of apartheid in the mid-1980s, including the "pass laws" and the laws barring interracial sexual relations and marriage. A new constitution established legislative houses for Coloureds and Indians in 1984, although only 31% and 20% of the respective eligible voters went to the polls.

These measures failed to meet black aspirations, however, and as political violence mounted, in July 1985, the government imposed a state of emergency in 36 magisterial districts, embracing nearly all of the urban black population, which lasted over seven months. During this time, 7,996 persons were detained and 757 people died in political violence, by government count. A new, nationwide state of emergency was imposed in June 1986, with police and the military exercising extraordinary powers of arrest and detention. At least 4,000 and possibly as many as 10,000 were detained in 1986, including over 1,400 aged 18 or under.

In 1984, South Africa and Mozambique signed an agreement by which each country pledged not to aid the antigovernment forces in the other country; also in 1984, South Africa signed an agreement under which it withdrew forces that it had sent into southern Angola in an effort to forestall aid to guerrillas in Namibia. However, the government continued to hold its neighbors responsible for ANC violence, and South African raids into Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were conducted during 198586. In 1987, the government announced that it was withdrawing troops that it had sent into Angola to aid the rebels fighting against the Angolan government, which was supported by Cuban and Soviet troops.

In July 1987, the government cracked down on the United Democratic Front (UDF), an umbrella organization of over 600 civic, sports, church, trade union, women's, professional, youth and student bodies opposed to apartheid. Some 22 of its leaders were charged with treason and many more were forced to go underground. The government banned 17 antiapartheid organizations, including the UDF and the largest trade union, on 24 February 1988. Repression increased throughout 1987 and 1988, as did protest against state policies. Alternative newspapers, New Nation and Weekly Mail, were prohibited briefly from publishing. Various antiapartheid leaders were assassinated by secret hit squads identified with the police and military intelligence. Others were detained and otherwise restricted; still others were served with banning orders. In retaliation, protest strikes and demonstrations mounted, as did organization efforts among antiapartheid activists.

In 1989, President P.W. Botha resigned as head of the NP after a "mild stroke" in January. He was replaced by F. W. de Klerk who, on 15 August, was also named acting state president. After the general election, held 6 September, de Klerk was elected to a five-year term as president.

De Klerk launched a series of reforms in September 1989 that led speedily to the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela and others on 10 February 1990. The ANC and other resistance militants, including the Communist Party, were legalized. Mandela had been in prison 27 years and had become a revered symbol of resistance to apartheid.

At that point, the ANC began to organize within South Africa. Government began "talks about talks" with the ANC and in August 1990, the ANC suspended its armed struggle. Most leaders of the ANC returned from exile. Still, fighting continued, largely between ANC activists and supporters of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party, strongest in Natal province. More than 6,000 people were killed in political violence in 1990 and 1991, many victims of fighting provoked by a "third force" of operatives employed by hardliners within the Defense Force and the police.

In 1991, de Klerk introduced and parliament passed measures to repeal laws that had institutionalized apartheid policiesthe Land Act (1913 and 1936), the Group Areas Act (1950), and the Population Registration Act (1950). A number of repressive security acts were repealed as well.

In July, the ANC convened its first full conference in South Africa in 30 years. They elected Mandela president and Cyril Ramaphosa the secretary general. The ailing Oliver Tambo moved from president to a new post, National Chairman.

Meanwhile, negotiations continued over constitutional changes and plans for nonracial elections and the transition to majority rule. Numerous parties engaged in a Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) starting in December 1991. On 14 September 1991, government, the ANC and Inkatha signed a pact to end factional fighting. Other groups signed on, but it hardly stemmed the high levels of violence. The militant right wing refused to cooperate with any negotiations and agreements. In order to strengthen his negotiating hand, de Klerk called a whites-only referendum for 17 March 1992. Of the 85% turnout, 68.7% supported de Klerk's efforts to negotiate a settlement. By May, however, CODESA talks bogged down. The ANC mounted a series of mass protests against the stalemated CODESA talks. After 42 residents were horribly murdered at Boipatong Township by Zulu hostel dwellers allegedly assisted by police, the ANC withdrew from CODESA. On 7 September, 24 ANC supporters were killed by the Ciskei army troops as they marched in protest on the homeland's capital.

Later that month, negotiations began again between government and the ANC. A 26 September summit between Mandela and de Klerk produced a Record of Understanding that met several key ANC demands. But this angered KwaZulu Chief Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi, so he withdrew from the talks. In February 1993, government and the ANC reached agreement on plans for a transition to democracy. Multiparty negotiations followed in April. An interim parliament was to be elected for a five-year period after a general election in April 1994. All parties gaining over 5% of the vote would be represented in the new cabinet. The new parliament would also serve as a constituent assembly to iron out details of a new constitution. The broad guidelines were agreed upon by the government, the ANC, and other parties in late December 1993. A transitional Executive Council to oversee some aspects of government, including security, came into existence in December 1993. Inkatha, led by Buthelezi, and the right wing Conservative Party refused to participate. The Conservative Party and Inkatha boycotted the talks on multiparty government. But just a few days before the scheduled elections, Inkatha agreed to participate. White conservatives tried to hold out for an Afrikaner homeland, yet the white right was divided on whether to participate in preelection talks, in the election itself, or whether to take up arms as a last resort. There were inefficiencies and some claims of electoral fraud and intimidation, especially by the ANC against Inkatha in Natal province. The elections proceeded relatively peacefully and with great enthusiasm. They were pronounced "free and fair" by international observers and the independent Electoral Commission.

The results left the ANC as the major vote getter with 62.5%. The NP gained 20.4%; the Inkatha Freedom Party, 10.5%; the Freedom Front, 2.2%; the Democratic Party, 1.7%; and the Pan-Africanist Congress, 1.2%. ANC, thus, was awarded 252 of the 400 seats in parliament. It was the governing party in all but two of the nine regions. The IFP carried KwaZulu/Natal and the NP held the Western Cape. Mandela became president and the ANC's Thabo Mbeki and the NP's de Klerk, deputy presidents. Even Buthelezi was persuaded to take a ministerial post in the cabinet.

In May 1994, the Constitutional Assembly convened to lay the groundwork for the new constitution. All parties were included in the initial sessions, but Inkatha boycotted the Assembly's drafting of an interim constitution when its demand for international mediation on regional autonomy was not met. At the same time, violent clashes between Inkatha and ANC supporters flared anew in the Natal Province.

South Africa held local elections on 1 November 1995, although last-minute changes to the interim constitution allowed for seven provincesincluding Kwa-Zulu Natalto delay elections until 1996. The ANC also swept the provincial elections, with the NP winning the largest minority share of the vote.

Bishop Desmond Tutu convened a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in early 1996 to expose apartheid atrocities committed in the years of white rule. Although those who refused to cooperate with the commission could be subject to criminal penalties, the commission granted immunity and amnesty to those who admitted their roles in apartheid crimes. Testimony in a 1995 court case also linked death squads to the highest levels of government, including the prime minister's office.

In 1997, the Constitutional Court ratified the new constitution after rejecting a first submitted draft in 1996. The new constitution was inaugurated in February 1997. It granted a strong central government with some limited powers vested in the provinces. Inkatha, which boycotted the drafting sessions to the end, accepted the Constitutional Court's decree.

The NP withdrew from the government of national unity immediately after ratification of the constitution to take its place as the official opposition party. De Klerk, who would leave politics in August 1997, also resigned his post to head the opposition party.

By 1997, the exuberance of the new constitutional era and two years of economic expansion had given way to uncertainty in the months following ratifications. South Africa was struggling with the new political structure, a flagging economy, revolutions of the Truth and Reconciliation, and a crime wave seemingly out of control. The latter was deemed by citizens as the number one problem facing the new government. The murder rate had grown to ten times higher than the murder rate in the United States. Robbery, assault, and carjackings had left downtown Johannesburg in ruins, and vigilante groups were prevalent throughout the nation. The high crime rate had deterred foreign investment and affected the tourist industry as well.

Early in 1999, Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa since 1994, delivered his final "state of the nation" address. The vote in June 1999 passed without a single political killing and was quickly embraced by all political parties. Despite the increase in crime in the nation, the second parliamentary elections held in June 1999 were peaceful and generally fair. In the 3 June elections, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) won 266 of 400 parliamentary seats (63%), just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. Thabo Mbeki was sworn in as South Africa's second democratically elected president at a glittering inauguration ceremony, which saw Nelson Mandela step down after steering the country away from apartheid rule and oppression. However, the one-sided vote in favor of ANC was itself troubling. Critiques noted that the dominance of the ANC had the coloring of a de facto one party state.

The dominance of the ANC was clearly illustrated in the 14 April 2004 elections. The African National Congress (ANC) of President Thabo Mbeki, which had been in power since the end of the apartheid system in 1994, was reelected with an increased majority. The ANC obtained 69.7% of votes cast on the national ballot winning 279 seats, theoretically allowing them to change the constitutionthough they pledged not to. Only about 56% of eligible voters took part in the election. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, also obtained an increased percentage on the national ballot; 12.4% or 50 seats in the national assembly. The New National Party, a descendant of the ruling party of the apartheid era, lost most of their support, dropping from 6.9% in 1999 to 1.7%. In the 1994 elections it received 20.4% of the votes. Many of their supporters were unhappy with the party's alliance with the ANC. The Independent Democrats surprised many observers by obtaining more votes than the New National Party, becoming the fifth-largest party. The Inkatha Freedom Party which obtained 7.0% (28 seats) of the vote lost some support even in its stronghold province of Kwazulu-Natal. The United Democratic Movement also lost support winning only 2.3% of the vote. Several other smaller parties also contested in these elections. Overall the elections were deemed free and fair. The next presidential election was due April 2009 and the next parliamentary elections were due in 2009, as well.

The first four years of Mbeki in office were marked by an active foreign policy and controversy over his AIDS policy. Along with Botswana, South Africa sent peacekeeping forces to Lesotho in 1999 to quell rioting and civil unrest following the 1998 elections there. Subsequently, the government played host to the belligerents of Africa's "first world war" in the Great Lakes region, helping them reach power sharing and peace agreements in December 2002 and April 2003. In addition to sending peacekeeping troops to the DROC, South Africa also took the lead in providing peace-keepers for Burundi in early 2003 following peace negotiations by Nelson Mandela in that country. Mbeki has been one of four African heads of state to champion the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a continent-wide initiative that promises accountable governance in exchange for donor resources and technical assistance. South Africa hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August 2002.

However strong this record, it has been tarnished by Mbeki's feeble response to the flawed March 2002 elections in Zimbabwe, and by his de-linking of HIVthe virus that the world scientific community says causes AIDSfrom the disease itself. His government's reluctance to introduce anti-retroviral therapy widely and affordably has damaged his credibility at home and abroad. Given HIV prevalence rates of 23% among adults 1549 years old, Mbeki was roundly booed at the world AIDS summit in Durban in July 2000.

Although South Africa's economy is highly developed, the exclusionary nature of apartheid and distortions caused in part by the country's international isolation until the 1990s left major weaknesses. As of 2005 the economy was in a process of transition as the government seeks to address the inequities of apartheid, stimulate growth, and create jobs. South Africa is increasingly becoming integrated into the international system, and foreign investment has increased dramatically. Still, the economic disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many years, remaining an area of priority for the government.


The terms of a new constitution adopted in February 1997 were hammered out prior to the 2729 April 1994 election. There is a 400-seat National Assembly chosen by proportional representation (200 nationally and 200 from regional lists). Following the implementation of the new constitution on 3 February 1997, the former senate was disbanded and replaced by the National Council of Provinces with essentially no change in membership and party affiliationsalthough the new institution's responsibilities have been changed somewhat by the new constitution. Of 90 members, 10 come from each province or region and selected by each provincial assembly. The members serve as both a legislature and a constituent assembly. They also elect the president and deputy presidents. Elections for the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces were last held 2 June 1999 with the next to be held by 2 August 2004. The president names a cabinet, divided proportionally between parties that have gained at least 5% of the vote.

The next presidential elections were scheduled for sometime between May and July 2004.

Although the degree of autonomy and the level of power given to the regions remains contentious with the IFP's longstanding grievance about the way power is devalued to the regions, the nine provinces have assemblies based on the total number of votes cast in the general election. Thus, the number of members each provincial legislature has depends on the number of votes cast divided by 50,000. The executive branch of the provincial governments is, like the legislatures, allocated proportionally.


The early division in the South African party system was between those who promoted Afrikaner nationalism and those Afrikaans-speaking and English-speaking persons who worked together toward goals on which both sides could agree. When General Louis Botha formed the first cabinet in 1910, he combined the moderate Afrikaners and English into the South African National Party, which confronted an English-speaking opposition. Soon afterward, however, General J.B.M. Hertzog formed the National Party (NP), dedicated to placing the interests of South Africa above those of the British Empire and to developing the Afrikaner group until it was as powerful as were English South Africans.

Hard-pressed by Hertzog's NP in 1920, General Jan Christiaan Smuts, who succeeded Botha, fused the South African National Party with the English-speaking Unionists, establishing the alignment of the English-speaking, except those in the Labour Party (LP), with moderate Afrikaners. The LP allied itself with Hertzog, who achieved office in 1924. Together they carried through the so-called civilized labor policy, designed to safeguard a wide area in the economy for white labor.

Economic crisis during the Depression forced a new alignment of parties that brought Hertzog and Smuts into coalition in 1933 and fusion in the United Party (UP) in 1934. Daniel F. Malan broke with Hertzog in 1934 to form the "purified" NP, dedicated to a more exclusive and radical Afrikaner nationalism than Hertzog had ever preached.

When World War II broke out, Hertzog wished to remain neutral. Smuts swung the House of Assembly in support of the Allies and became prime minister with the support of all English-speaking South Africans and a substantial group of moderate Afrikaners in the UP. Malan won the 1948 election, the first whose campaign was waged chiefly on the racial issue. The sharpest division between the two parties arose from NP efforts to remove the Coloureds from the common voting roll.

The basic division in the party system was between the NP, which favored the policy of apartheid, or totally separate development of the different races, and the UP, which favored social and residential segregation but economic integration. The members of the NP were mainly Afrikaans-speaking and those of the UP were English-speaking, but each party had a considerable number of members of the other language group. Beginning in 1950, the Nationalists implemented their program of apartheid. Between 1953 and 1987, the NP won nine successive parliamentary elections under four party leaders: Malan (in 1953); Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (1958, 1961, 1966); Balthazar Johannes Vorster (1970, 1974, 1977); and Pieter W. Botha (198187). Vorster, who succeeded Verwoerd as prime minister after the assassination of Verwoerd in 1966, left the office in 1978 to become president. In the following year, however, he was forced to resign because of a political scandal involving the misappropriation of government funds to finance clandestine political and propaganda activities in the United States, Norway, and other Western countries. The Nationalists' program met with little effective opposition from the UP, which formally disbanded in 1977. In that year, leaders of the UP and its splinter group, the Democratic Party, which had formed in 1973, established the New Republic Party (NRP), with support from English-speaking voters in Natal and the Eastern Cape. The NRP endorsed continuing white rule, but with a softening of apartheid. In the same year, another merger produced the Progressive Federal Party (PFP), which drew its main backing from English-speaking voters in urban areas and stood for universal suffrage within a federal system, with guarantees of minority rights. In the 1987 elections, the NP increased its representation from 116 (in 1981) to 123 seats. The PFP fell from 26 to 19 seats; the NRP lost 4 of its 5 seats. In 1989, the last national race-based parliamentary elections, the NP suffered a setback, winning just 48% of the vote and 93 seats. The PFP dissolved itself in favor of the Democratic Party, which took 33 seats.

The Conservative Party (CP) opposed any form of power sharing with nonwhites. It was led by a former cabinet minister, Andries Treurnicht. The CP became the official opposition party after winning 23 seats in the 1987 elections and 39 in 1989.

Several Coloured and Indian parties participated in the August 1984 elections for the houses of Parliament created for their respective ethnic groups. The Labour Party, a Coloured party headed by the Rev. Allan Hendrickse, won 76 of the 80 directly elected seats; it opposed the new constitution, advocated repeal of all discriminatory measures, and said that it was campaigning on behalf of all nonwhites but was vague on the question of whether it would accept a unitary state governed on the principle of one-person, one-vote. All five Indian parties participating in the elections favored protection of minority rights and rejected government in a unitary state on the basis of one-person, one-vote. The National People's Party won 18 and Solidarity 17 of the 40 directly elected seats; the two parties formed a governing alliance in January 1986.

In 1985, the government repealed a law that had prohibited people of different racial groups from belonging to the same political party.

Several extraparliamentary organizations of Africans and Asians have formed on a national basis. The African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Indian Congress have cooperated with each other and have sought to cooperate with white liberal organizations. Banned in 1960, the ANC turned from its earlier tradition of nonviolence toward sabotage and other terrorist acts. In 1987, the government offered to legalize the group if it renounced violence. In 1987 and onward, talks were held outside the country between the ANC and diverse groups of white South Africans.

Notable among the more militant African groups was the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), which broke away from the ANC in 1959 and was banned in 1960. The ANC and PAC had been recognized by the UN General Assembly as "the authentic representatives" of the people of South Africa. During the 1970s, a loose coalition of African student groups known as the Black Consciousness Movement developed under the leadership of Steven Biko. The United Democratic Front (UDF) was founded in 1983, claiming at its peak to be a multiracial alliance of nearly seven hundred groups representing nearly two million people. It dissolved itself in August 1991, after having continued resistance to apartheid while the ANC was in exile. Considerable ferment occurred among political parties in the run-up to the 1994 elections. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) headed by Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, at first had a cozy relationship with the NP, but that dissolved once the NP began negotiating in earnest with the ANC. Not until just days before the elections in 1994 did the IFP agree to run candidates. It captured over 10% of the national vote and managed to win the election for the provincial government in Natal. The Freedom Front (FF) became the electoral vehicle for Gen. Constand Viljoen, former head of the Defense Force. He contested the results (2.2% of the vote, nine seats) despite resistance from the CP and other right-wing bodies. The FF sought to work within the system to achieve the creation of an autonomous Afrikaner state.

In February 1993 the ANC allowed minority parties to participate in the government for five years after the end of apartheid. Also in February 1993 the first nonwhites entered the cabinet, thus broadening the base of the NP.

The 1994 elections resulted in an overwhelming victory for the ANC, headed by Nelson Mandela, as did the 1995 local elections. The new government included six ministers from the NP and the IFP.

Any political party that wins 20% or more of the National Assembly votes in a general election is entitled to name a deputy executive president; any party that wins 20 or more seats in the National Assembly is entitled to become a member of the governing coalition. As of 1997 the ANC, the IFP, and the NP constituted a Government of National Unity.

In the second post-apartheid parliamentary elections in 1999, the ANC won handsomely, taking 266 of 400 parliamentary seats (66%), just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. The remaining seats went to 12 other parties as follows: Democratic Party (DP) 38; Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 34; New National Party (NNP) 28; United Democratic Movement (UDM) 14; African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 6; Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 3; United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) 3; Vryheidsfront/Freedom Front (VF/FF) 3; Federal Alliance (FA) 2; Minority Front (MF) 1; Afrikaner Eenheids Beweging (AEB) 1; and Azanian People's Organization (Azapo) 1.

In the third post-apartheid parliamentary elections in 2004, the ANC won decisively, taking 279 of 400 parliamentary seats (69.7%), more than the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. The remaining seats went to 11 other parties as follows: Democratic Alliance (DA) 50; Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 28; United Democratic Movement (UDM) 9; Independent Democrats (ID) 7; New National Party (NNP) 7; African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 6; Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 3; United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) 3; Vryheidsfront/Freedom Front (VF/FF) 4; Minority Front (MF) 2; Azanian People's Organization (Azapo) 2. The next parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place in 2009.


Historically, the four provincesCape, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free Statedealt chiefly with local matters, such as hospitals, roads, municipal government, and educational matters that can be classified as general affairs (applying to all population groups). The provinces receive annual subsidies from the national government. Elected provincial councils were abolished in 1986 and replaced by regional services councils, with representation by local authorities. Executive power in each province is exercised by an administrator and executive committee appointed by the state president and responsible to the national government.

Under the 1984 constitution, local government was to be assigned to the three parliamentary houses, as applicable, or, in regard to general affairs, to the Department of Constitutional Development and Planning. However, residents in each (segregated) residential area, including blacks, elected primary local authorities, who rendered certain services as well as represented their constituents at the provincial level. As far as local government and administration for whites were concerned, elected municipal councils were retained. The local affairs of blacks living in the six black homelands within the Republic of South Africa were administered by the respective homeland governments.

Under the post-1994 election arrangements, nine provincial governments were established (Northern Province, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, and North-West). Their legislatures were determined (in size and party representation) by proportional representation. The actual distribution of governmental powers and responsibilities has to be worked out by the constituent assembly.

A transitional local government arrangement prevails. The 1995 local election results were as follows: ANC, 76.66%; NP, 18.58%; FF, 2.36%. The remaining few parties, including the Inkatha Freedom Party, split the remainder of the votes. There were 5.3 million valid votes cast and 12.7 million registered voters.


South Africa has a unified judicial system. The Supreme Court has a supreme appellate division and provincial and local divisions with both original and appellate jurisdictions. The Court of Appeals, with its seat in Bloemfontein, the judicial capital, normally consists of the chief justice and a variable number of appellate judges. Special superior courts may be constituted to try security cases, and there were, in 1986, 309 magistrates' offices vested with certain judicial as well as administrative powers. Judges are appointed by the state president. There were no nonwhite judges as of 1987.

The common law of the Republic of South Africa is Roman-Dutch law, which has evolved from the uncodified law of the Netherlands as it existed when the Cape of Good Hope was ceded to Great Britain. It has been influenced by English common law in procedures more than in substantive matters. Trial by jury was abolished in 1969.

Black tribal chiefs and headmen have limited jurisdiction to hear cases in traditional courts. There are appeals courts, divorce courts, and children's courts for blacks. In self-governing black homelands, lower courts have been established by the legislative assemblies.

The judiciary has moved in the direction of more independence from the other branches with instances of alleged political interference with courts on the decline. Prospects have considerably improved for nonwhite law school graduates to receive "Articles of Clerkship" which qualify them for admission to the bar.

A new constitution went into effect partially in February 1997, with complete implementation scheduled for 1999. The 1994 interim constitution provided for an independent judiciary and the authorities respect this provision in practice. There is also a constitutional court as highest court for constitutional issues. It provides for due process, including the right to a fair, public trial, legal counsel, and the right to appeal.


In 2005 South Africa had 55,750 active military personnel, with 60,000 reservists. The Army had 36,000 troops, with over 168 main battle tanks, 176 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,200 armored infantry fighting vehicles and 1,467 artillery pieces. The total strength of the Navy was 4,500 personnel, in addition to 2,000 civilian prsonnel. Major naval units included three tactical submarines, four corvettes, 34 patrol/coastal craft and nine mine warfare vessels. The Air Force, with 9,250 personnel, had an estimated 50 to 130 combat capable aircraft, that included 26 fighters and 12 fighter ground attack aircraft. Other aircraft included 12 assault helicopters. There is also a medical corps of 6,000. South Africa provided troops to UN peacekeeping efforts in three African countries. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $3.4 billion.


South Africa became a charter member of the United Nations on 7 November 1945 and has technically remained a member continuously, despite past disputes and international sanctions over apartheid and the country's unwillingness to place its League of Nations mandate, Namibia, under UN international trusteeship. Namibia gained independence in 1990. South Africa is part of ECA and several nonregional specialized UN agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, IAEA, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNIDO, ILO, and the WHO. The nation is also a member of the ACP Group, WTO, the African Development Bank, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the Commonwealth of Nations, G-24. G-77, the Southern African Custom Union, and the Southern African Development Community. South Africa served as the African Union's first president from July 2003 to July 2004.

The nation was diplomatically isolated from other states on the African continent after Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe were constituted as black-ruled countries during 197580, leaving South Africa as the continent's only white-minority regime. South African teams were excluded from international competition, such as the Olympic Games (from 1960). Following changes in South Africa's political situation, the country was reinstated to international competition by the International Olympic Committee.

South Africa has supported peace negotiations in a variety of African nation conflicts, including UN missions and operations in Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Liberia (est. 2003), Burundi (est. 2004), and the DROC (est. 1999). The nation is part of the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group).

In environmental cooperation, South Africa is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The opening of the political process to all South Africans and the election of a new multiracial government in 1994 marked a turning point in South Africa's economic history. With a modest agriculture sector (though known for excellent fruits and wine), fabulous mineral wealth (gold accounts for over one-third of exports), a diverse manufacturing sector (centered in metals and engineering, and especially steel-related products), and growing financial services and tourism sectors, South Africa's influence extends well beyond its borders. It has a mixed economy, with substantial government intervention and a number of state-owned enterprises existing jointly with a strong private sector. A chief characteristic of the private sector is the high concentration of ownership by a small group of integrated conglomerate structures.

Real economic growth in the GDP fell from 1.1% in 1991 to about 0.5% in 1998 and rose to 2.7% in 2001. Between 2001 and 2005 GDP increased steadily from 2.7% in 2001 to 5.0% in 2005. Still, analysts estimate that the economy must grow at between 5 and 10% if South Africa is going to overcome unemployment rates estimated at 26.2% in 2004. Although the white minority enjoys living standards equal to those in the rest of the industrialized world, most of the remaining 85% of the population has Third World living standards. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains the major obstacle to achieving economic growth, and, with 5.3 million people living with the disease in 2003 and over 370,000 deaths caused by it, social upheaval only adds to the crisis. High unemployment, rigid labor laws, low skill levels, crime, and corruption hamper economic progress. Emigration has also emerged as one of South Africa's challenges, as those South Africans who are highly skilled find better markets for their skills abroad, especially in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

Foreign direct investment in 2003 remained below levels targeted by the government; plans were made to build a knowledge and technology-based economy to attract investment. Structural economic changes and policies geared to lower inflation helped temper the effects on the South African economy of the global economic downturn that began in 2001. A rise in interest rates and a strong rand contributed to a fall in inflation in 2003, but so did an accounting error by the government, which caused many borrowers to pay more in interest on loans than they would have had the correct economic statistics been reported by the government. Business activity and consumer confidence subsequently fell. Nonetheless, the GDP in 2005 grew by 5%.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $527.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $11,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.4% of GDP, industry 31.6%, and services 65.1%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $436 million or about $10 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $625 million or about $14 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.4% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in South Africa totaled $99.16 billion or about $2,165 per capita based on a GDP of $165.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%. It was estimated that in 2000 about 50% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


As of 2005, South Africa's economically active population was estimated at 15.23 million. As of 2003, the services sector accounted for 65.1% of the labor force, with agriculture at 10.3%, and industry at 24.5%. Undefined occupations accounted for the remainder. In 2005, South Africa's unemployment rate was estimated at 25.2%.

In 2003, unions had a total membership of about 3.3 million or 42% of the workforce in the formal economy. The Labor Relations Act provides protection to workers. The government does not interfere with collective bargaining. The constitution provides for the rights to unionize and strike, both of which are reinforced by the Labor Relations Act of 1995. In industries and trades where employers and employees are not organized, the Minister of Labor, acting on the advice of the government-appointed wage board, may prescribe compulsory wages and conditions of employment.

As of 2005, the standard workweek was 45 hours. In addition, the law also authorized four months of maternity leave for women and time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Some collective agreements provide for three weeks' annual leave, and many industries work a five-day week. Employers must provide satisfactory working conditions and accident-prevention measures. Enforcement of safe working conditions is irregular although the government is making attempts to improve the means of enforcement. The National Economic Forum, a tripartite structure representing labor, business, and government, is involved in nurturing job creation and job training.

There is no legally mandated national minimum wage, rather negotiations between labor and management set minimum wage standards industry by industry. In addition, the Minister of Labor can set wages by sector. As of July 2005, the rate for farm workers in urban areas was about $141 per month and $117 per month in rural areas. However, compliance rates depended upon the province and in that same year ranged from 6590%. Employment of minors under 15 is illegal. Child labor laws are enforced in the formal economy, but in the agricultural and informal sectors, child labor is widespread. The Ministry of Welfare does allow exceptions to the child labor laws in some sectors of the economy, such as in the performing arts.


Over 80% of the total land area is available for farming, but only 13% is cultivated. Many areas suffer from erratic rainfall and soil erosion; cultivated land is not expected to exceed 15% in the future because of these adversities. Only 9.5% of cultivated land was irrigated in 2003. The worst drought of the 20th century in southern Africa resulted in near to total crop failure in 199192. Many farmers subsequently abandoned the countryside for urban areas. After many years of dry weather, South Africa had abundant rainfall in the 1995/96 growing season. Except for rice, tea, coffee, and cocoa, the country is typically self-sufficient in essential food production. The average annual growth rate of agricultural output was 0.6% during 19902000. During 200204, crop production was up another 0.6% compared with 19992001. Agriculture contributed an estimated 4% to GDP in 2003.

The principal crop is corn ("mealies"), which is grown mainly on the plateau of the Orange Free State and Transvaal. Some 27% of the sown area is planted in corn; output totaled 9,737,000 tons in 2004. Wheat can be grown only in winter; production of wheat totaled 1,761,000 tons in 2004. An indigenous sorghum ("Kaffir corn") is used to make beer and is also an important source of protein. Less important, but planted in considerable quantities, are the other winter cerealsbarley, oats, and rye. Potato production totaled 1,574,000 tons in 2004.

Sugarcane, indigenous to the Natal coastal belt, was grown before World War II (193945) in quantities sufficient to export. Increasing domestic demand after the war absorbed the total output, but with a rise in production and an expansion of the capacity of sugar mills, South Africa became a large sugar exporter. Sugarcane production totaled 19,095,000 tons in 2004. Deciduous and citrus fruits, some of them exported, are also profitable. Vegetables, peanuts, sunflower seeds, groundnuts, soy beans, coffee, ginger, tobacco, cotton, and various types of fodder plants are used domestically. In 2004, 1,683,000 tons of grapes were produced. Wine is an important product; production in 2004 was estimated at over 91 million liters.


Until the end of the 19th century, cattle were kept mainly for draft purposes and bred for strength and endurance; meat and fat needs were provided by sheep. The cattle gave little milk and yielded poor-quality meat, while the sheep gave only fat mutton and no wool. The introduction of foreign breeds and crossbreeding gradually improved the stock, providing excellent meat, wool of fairly good quality, and good milk yields. The country's sheep breeds consist mainly of Merino for wool and Dorpes for mutton. Cattle breeds include the introduced Hereford and Aberdeen Angus as well as the indigenous Afrikaner. Dairy cows are mostly Fresian, forming a well-developed dairy industry.

The livestock in 2005 included 25.3 million sheep; 13.7 million head of cattle; 6.4 million goats; 1.6 million hogs; and 121 million chickens. Output of fresh cow's milk in 2005 was 2.5 million tons; eggs, 340,000 tons; cheese, 41,600 tons; and wool (greasy), 44,100 tons. Meat production in 2005 included (in tons): beef, 643,000; pork, 122,000; mutton and lamb, 122,000; and poultry, 925,000. South Africa does not produce enough meat to satisfy domestic demand and typically imports live animals from Namibia and meat from Botswana.

Exports of meat in 2004 amounted to $74.9 million. Exports of raw hides, skins, and leather in 2004 were valued at $98.9 million; wool (greasy), $72.7 million.


After Morocco, South Africa is Africa's most important fishing nation. The Fisheries Development Corp., established in 1944, has helped modernize equipment, secure better conditions of life for fishermen, and stimulate the catching and canning of fish. The commercial fishing fleet is operated mainly from Cape Town harbor. In 2003, South Africa's fishing fleet increased by 27 vessels of 100 gross tons or larger.

The total catch for 2003 was 862,574 tons, according to the FAO. The value of fish exports was estimated at $393.5 million that year. More than 90% of the catch is taken from the productive cold waters off the west coast. Shoal fishing by purse-seine accounts for most of the volume. Hake accounts for 70% of all deep-sea landings. Anchovy, pilchard, mackerel, round herring, snoek, abalone, kingklip, rock lobster, oysters, and mussels are other important species. One-third of the hake catch and nearly all of the abalone are exported. Anchovy, pilchard, and round herring are processed into fishmeal, fish oil, and canned fish.

Rock lobster is caught mainly along the western and southern Cape coasts; about 2,594 tons of rock lobster were caught in 2003, with much of it processed into frozen lobster tails for export. About 75% of the lobster catch is exported. South Africa ceased whaling in 1976 and is a member of the International Whaling Commission.

Oyster farming at Knysna began decades ago. Interest in mariculture has grown in recent years and permits have been granted for farming abalone, prawns, red-bait, and mud crab.

Besides commercial fishing, there are thousands of anglers who fish for recreation from the shore and small craft. There are size restrictions and limits for sport fishing. A total ban has been placed on the catching of four species: the great white shark, Natal basse, and the potato and brindle bass.


South Africa is sparsely wooded, with a wooded and forested area of about 8.9 million hectares (22 million acres), or about 7.3% of the land area. Cutting in indigenous forests is strictly controlled. Commercial forestry covers 1.2 million hectares (31 million acres), with pine and commercial softwoods, eucalyptus, and wattle the principal timbers produced. South Africa is an important producer of wattle and wattle extract, used in the tanning of leather. The timber cut was 33,159,000 cu m (1.17 billion cu ft) in 2004, with 37% used as fuel wood. Sawn wood production was 2,171,000 cu m (76.6 billion cu ft) in 2004; wood-based panels, 1,021,000 cu m (36 million cu ft); wood pulp, 2,075,000 tons; and paper and paperboard, 2,566,000 tons. Domestic timber production satisfies 90% of domestic needs. Wood is imported for furniture manufacture, railroad ties, and high-quality paper.


Since the late 19th century, South Africa's economy has been based on the production and export of minerals, which, in turn, have contributed significantly to the country's industrial development. One of the largest and most diverse mineral producers, In 2003, South Africa was the largest producer and exporter of chromium and vanadium, as well as the leading producer of alumino-silicates (andalusite) gold, gem diamonds, ferrochromium, platinum (88% of world reserve base of platinum-group metals, or PGMs), and manganese (80% of world reserve base of ore). South Africa was also the second-largest producer of zirconium and titanium minerals, as well as a major producer of cobalt, copper, iron ore, lead, nickel, silver, uranium, zinc, aggregate and sand, asbestos, dimension stone, fluorspar, lime, limestone, phosphate rock, sulfur, and vermiculite. South Africa was self-sufficient in the vast majority of its mineral needs, the bulk of which were produced in the northern half of the country. South Africa was among the top five countries in terms of reserves, ranking first in reserves of andalusite, chromite, gold, manganese, PGMs, and vanadium. De Beers, the South African mining giant, accounted for 94% of the country's diamond production and controlled 80% of the world's uncut diamond trade.

In 2003, the mining industry accounted for 7.1% of South Africa's $466.4 billion gross domestic product (GDP). Primary mineral exports in 2003 accounted for 34% of the South Africa's merchandise trade, or $11.5 billion. The leading export earners in 2003 were in descending order: gold, PGMs coal, ferroalloys (ferrochromium, ferromanganese, ferrosilicon, and ferrovanadium), diamonds, and aluminum. The production of iron, steel, chemicals, and fertilizers ranked among the country's top industries.

The 2003 output of PGMs (platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, and others) was 266,150 kg. Production came almost exclusively from mines in the Bushveld Complex, north of Pretoria. Anglo American Platinum Corp. Ltd. (Anglo Platinum), in 2003 was the world's largest PGM producer.

Primary gold output in 2003 was 372,767 kg, down from 398,300 in 2002. South Africa's gold output in 2003 accounted for about 15% of world production, compared to around 11% of world output by Australia and the United States, and 8% from China.

Iron ore and concentrate output (by metal content) in 2003 was 38.086 million tons (preliminary). Kumba Resources Ltd. in 2003 continued its expansion of the Sishen iron ore mine's capacity, which was to increase to 30 million tons annually by 2003, and 38 million tons per year by 2007. The Sishen Mine was previously owned by Iscor, South Africa's largest crude steel producer.

Chromium output in 2003 (gross weight) was 7.406 million tons (preliminary), compared to 6.436 million tons in 2002. Mined copper output in 2003 was 89,501 metric tons (preliminary), down from 129,589 metric tons in 2002. The country's total copper reserve base (metal content) was 13 million tons. Antimony production in 2003 (by gross weight) was put at 9,000 metric tons (preliminary). Proven and probable reserves of antimony amounted to 1.5 million tons, and mineral resources exclusive of reserves totaled 8.6 million tons. The country's total antimony reserve base was 250,000 tons.

Output of manganese ore and concentrate (primarily metallurgical-grade, but also chemical) was 3.501 million tons (gross weight) in 2003 (preliminary), up from 3.322 million tons in 2002. Total proven reserves were 12.8 million tons (44.61% manganese, 7.30% iron), and measured, indicated, and inferred resources were 237 million tons (41.24% manganese, 7.98% iron). The country's total manganese reserve base was four billion tons.

Preliminary production outputs for the other principal metals in 2003 were: vanadium, 15,000 metric tons (with a reserve base of 12 million tons); titanium (ilmenite and rutile concentrates), 2.15 million tons (with a reserve base of 146 million tons); zirconium concentrate (baddeleyite and zircon), 300,000 tons (a reserve base of 14.3 million tons); and mined nickel (metal content), 40,842 metric tons (a reserve base of 11.8 million tons). South Africa also produced cobalt, lead, silver, uranium, and zinc.

Preliminary output of natural gem and industrial diamonds in 2003 were put at 5,144,000 carats and 7.540 million carats, respectively. Approximately 94% of South Africa's diamond production in 2003 came from mines owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. The country's total diamond reserve base was 1,127 million carats. Alluvial diamonds were discovered along the Orange River in 1867, and surface diamonds, at Kimberley, in 1870.

Preliminary output of other industrial minerals in 2003 included: chrysotile asbestos, 6,218 metric tons; vermiculite, 183,802 metric tons; and limestone and dolomite, 15.980 million tons. South Africa also produced aluminosilicates (andalusite, with a reserve base of 50.8 million tons), barite, calcite, hydraulic cement, clays (attapulgite, bentonite, fire clay, raw and calcined flint clay, and kaolin), feldspar, fluorspar (acid-grade and metallurgical-grade, with a total reserve base of 36 million tons), tiger's eye (semiprecious gem), gypsum, industrial or glass sand (silica), lime, crude magnesite, mica, nitrogen, perlite, phosphate rock (a reserve base of 2.5 billion tons), natural mineral pigments (ochers and oxides), salt, natural sodium sulfate, dimension stone (granite, norite, and slate), crushed and broken stone (quartzite and shale), aggregate and sand, sulfur, talc and pyrophyllite (wonderstone), and brick clay.

The South African minerals industry operated on a free-enterprise, market-driven basis. Government involvement was primarily confined to ownership of the national electric power supply and the national oil and gas exploration company. Mineral land holdings and production has historically been controlled either by the government or by private entities. However, under the new Minerals and Petroleum Resources Act, existing mineral rights will revert to the South African government, unless companies act within a five year period to convert "old order" exploration and mining rights into "new" rights under terms specified in the new legislation. Since 1994, the minerals industry has undergone a major corporate restructuring, or "unbundling," aimed at simplifying a complex system of interlocking ownership, at establishing separate core-commodity-focused profit centers, and at diversifying and rationalizing nonperforming assets.

The well-developed railway and port infrastructure was built mainly to transport mineral products, and minerals continued to constitute a major part of the nation's freight. Domestic and foreign investors have committed more than $10 billion to develop and expand new mining and value-added mineral processing capacity by 2007. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the able-bodied skilled and semiskilled work force in the country was of concern to investors. There was also increased attention to environmental issues.


South Africa is the second-largest energy producer on the African continent, surpassed only by Algeria, and is the continent's largest consumer of energy.

Coal is the primary energy source produced and consumed in South Africa. The country's recoverable coal reserves are the seventh-largest in the world, which in 2002 were estimated at 54.6 billion short tons. In 2002, South Africa produced an estimated 245.3 million short tons, with domestic consumption estimated at 171.6 million short tons and exports estimated at 73.7 million short tons, for that year.

South Africa has only small proven reserves of oil. As of 1 January 2005, the country's proven oil reserves were estimated at 15.7 million barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. In 2003, oil production was estimated at 194,000 barrels per day, of which 165,000 barrels per day were synthetic. The country's crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, was estimated at 519,547 barrels per day. Demand for oil in 2003 was estimated at 469,000 barrels per day, with net oil imports estimated at 274,000 barrels per day, for that same year.

South Africa's proven reserves of natural gas, as of 1 January 2005, were estimated at 1 billion cu ft, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Domestic consumption of natural gas and natural gas imports were each estimated by the South African Department of Minerals and Energy at 1.3 trillion cu ft in 2003.

The bulk of South Africa's electric power generating capacity is based upon conventional thermal fuels. In 2002, the country's electric generating capacity was 40.481 million kW, of which thermal capacity amounted to 38.020 million kW, followed by nuclear at 1.800 million kW and hydropower at 0.661 million kW. Electric generation totaled in 2002 totaled 205.673 billion kWh of which 92.9% was from fossil fuels, 5.8% from nuclear power, and the remainder from hydropower and other renewable sources. South Africa's demand for electricity in 2002, came to 192.199 billion kWh.

South Africa's synthetic fuels industry is highly developed and is backed by offshore condensate and natural gas production in Mossel Bay, and a plentiful supply of coal. The South African Coal, Oil, and Gas Corporation (Sasol) is the world's leader in oil-from-coal technology. SASOL operates two coal gasification plants in Secunda and one in Sasalburg. SASOL has a capacity to produce 150,000 barrels per day, mostly to the gasoline market. South Africa's other leading synthetic fuel producer is the Petroleum Oil and Gas Corporation of South Africa (PetroSA) with capacity of 50,000 barrels per day.


The manufacturing sector has evolved over the past 70 years, beginning with light consumer industry in the 1920s and expanding into heavy industry with the creation of ISCOR (Iron and Steel Corporation of South Africa) in 1928. Industry is localized in Gauteng, Western Cape, the Durban-Pinetown area of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Port Elizabeth-Uitenhage area of Eastern Cape.

The largest industrial sector is the metal products and engineering sector dominated by ISCOR, now privatized. South Africa is the world's largest gold, platinum, manganese, chromium, vanadium, alumino-sillicates, and titanium producer; and the second-largest of vermiculite and zirconium; third for fluorspar; fourth for antimony; and fifth for zinc, coal, lead, and uranium. The steel industry feeds a substantial motor vehicle sector, which experienced a 14% increase in production from 2000 to 2001. Companies like Columbus Stainless Steel and Billiton's Hillside Aluminum Smelter produce processed industrial minerals, instead of just primary commodities. A dip in gold prices during the late 1990s threatened the gold mines, but only temporarily. The mining industry contributes more than 50% to exports, and some estimates go up to 70%.

Other than Swaziland, South Africa is the only African state to produce pulp and paper. The clothing and textiles sector and the electronics sector were experiencing strong growth in 2002, as was the construction sector, which employed 260,000 people. The chemical sector centers on sizeable fertilizer production and the Modderfontein explosives factory. The sector is also home to the synthetic fuels production industry which, with three plants in operation that produce oil and petrochemicals from coal, serves 40% of the nation's motor fuels demand. There are four oil refineries in South Africa, with a total production capacity 469,000 barrels per day.


Among South Africa's earliest research ventures was the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, established by the British Admiralty in 1820. Societies of leading engineers, architects, chemists, metallurgists, and geologists were organized in the 1890s, and the South African Association for the Advancement of Science was established in 1902. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (founded in 1945) has 13 research divisions. The Atomic Energy Corporation established an experimental nuclear reactor in 1965 and has since directed the government's nuclear program. In 1970, it was announced that its researchers had devised a new uranium-enrichment process, subsequently developed by the national Uranium Enrichment Corp. The Scientific Advisory Council to the Minister of National Education (established in 1962) promotes the application of scientific knowledge and recommends national science policies and programs.

The Hartebeestheek Radio Astronomy Observatory's 26-meterdiameter antenna was originally constructed to serve as a tracking station for NASA's Deep Space Network. In Johannesburg are located a geological museum, the Adler Museum of the History of Medicine, and the James Hall Museum of Transport. Botanical and zoological gardens are located, respectively, in Durban and Pretoria. South Africa has 30 universities and colleges offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 29% of college and university enrollments.

In 2002, expenditures for research and development (R&D) totaled $3.1 billion, or 0.68% of GDP. In 1998 (the latest year for which the following data is available), the business sector accounted for the largest portion of R&D spending at 49.4%, followed by the government at 33%. Higher education accounted for 10%, with foreign sources at 7%. In 2002, there were 192 scientists and engineers, and 74 technicians per million people that were actively engaged in R&D. High technology exports in that same year were valued at $740 million, or 5% of the country's manufactured exports.


South Africa has largely dismantled its old economic system that involved extensive government involvement in the domestic economy through state-owned enterprises. Approximately 90% of the population and consumer market surrounds the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, and Port Elizabeth.

Retail establishments are extremely diverse, ranging from local convenience stores and specialty shops to department stores, supermarkets, and chain stores. There are some wholesale outlet stores as well and hypermarkets are beginning to find a place in some suburban areas. In rural areas, merchants sponsor cooperative stores. Nearly 90% of consumer goods are domestically sourced. The number of franchises continues to grow, with about 300 firms represented as of 2002. The government maintains price controls on petroleum products and certain food products. There

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 31,635.9 34,543.1 -2,907.2
Areas nes 3,844.2 1,129.0 2,715.2
United Kingdom 3,197.5 3,000.8 196.7
Japan 3,147.7 2,434.0 713.7
Gemany 2,439.8 5,128.5 -2,688.7
Netherlands 1,508.7 466.5 1,042.2
Belgium 985.4 715.2 270.2
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 913.1 180.0 733.1
Australia 889.1 797.8 91.3
Zimbabwe 858.6 347.8 510.8
Spain 830.8 376.5 454.3
() data not available or not significant.

are many advertising agencies, with the five largest accounting for 70% of all advertising billings.

Business hours for most offices and shops are from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and from 8:30 am until 1:00 pm on Saturday. Banks are usually open from 9 am to 3:30 pm weekdays, and from 8:30 to 11 am on Saturdays.


Gold, diamonds and other metals and minerals are the most valuable export commodities. Exports of gold, platinum, coal, and iron account for approximately 17% of commodity exports. The share of gold as a percentage of total merchandise exports fell from 51.4% in 1980 to 13% in 2000. In 1995, processed primary product exports exceeded those of gold for the first time. The top four exports in 2004 are as follows: metals and metal products ($6.3 billion), gold ($5.6 billion), diamonds ($2.9 billion), and machinery and transport equipment ($2.6 billion). The United States and South Africa established bilateral trade agreements in the late 1990s. Main destinations of exports in 2004 were as follows: United States (10.1%), United Kingdom (9.1%), Japan (8.8%), and Germany (7%).


Gold invariably represents the great majority of the country's international reserves, but decreased demand for gold lowered world prices in the 1990s, slowing financial flows. The current account balance improved at the end of 2000 due to increased merchandise export earnings, which rose by 15%. This can be attributed in part to the depreciation of the rand, which strengthened the competitiveness of South African manufactures. Petroleum imports rose that year as well.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of South Africa's exports was $51.587 billion while imports totaled $52.059 billion resulting in a trade deficit of

Current Account -1,456.0
   Balance on goods 3,701.0
     Imports -35,002.0
     Exports 38,703.0
   Balance on services -952.0
   Balance on income -3,386.0
   Current transfers -818.0
Capital Account 2.0
Financial Account 6,289.0
   Direct investment abroad -721.0
   Direct investment in South Africa 820.0
   Portfolio investment assets -132.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 893.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 3,216.0
   Other investment liabilities 2,214.0
Net Errors and Omissions 2,927.0
Reserves and Related Items -7,762.0
() data not available or not significant.

$472 million. However, between 2001 and 2003 South Africa registered a healthy and positive trade balance.


The South African Reserve Bank (SARB), the central bank of issue, began operations in 1921, and in 1924 assumed liability for the outstanding notes of the commercial banks. It is the fourth oldest central bank to have been established outside Europe. It purchases and disposes of the entire gold output. In September 1985, because of a net outflow of capital arising from South Africa's declaration of a state of emergency, a two-tier foreign-exchange system was adopted by the bank, involving a commercial rand for current transactions and a financial rand for investments or disinvestments by nonresidents. At the same time, certain debt payments, mainly to foreign banks, were frozen. Limited payments were resumed in April 1986, and the two-tier foreign-exchange system was discarded.

The top four banksStandard Bank Investment Corp. (Stanbic), Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA), First National Bank (FNB), and Nedcoraccounted for at least 80% of total bank assets in the country in 2002. Foreign interest grew with groups such as Citibank, Morgan Guaranty, and Standard Chartered, setting up and targeting the business end of the market. Although foreign banks are not allowed to accept deposits, over 41 fully licensed institutions, 15 local branches of foreign banks, and 61 representative offices of foreign banks were operating in South Africa in 2002. Offshore lending is popular.

Each bank is required to maintain a reserve balance with the South African Reserve Bank equal to 8% of its short-term liabilities. Since the commercial banks have restricted themselves to traditional functions, many other institutions have been established to make loans or investments to stimulate economic growth and development. The government has sponsored financial institutions such as the Development Bank of South Africa, the Corporation for Public Deposits, the Industrial Development Corp. (IDC), the Fisheries Development Corp., and the Corporation for Economic Development.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $36.3 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $67.6 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 8.84%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 9.5%.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) ranks 10th in the world in market capitalization. At the end of 2001, its total capitalization was $140 billion. As of 2004, the JSE's market capitalization stood at $455.536 billion. A total of 403 firms were listed on the JSE that same year. The JSE dwarfs all sub-Saharan Africa's other active stock exchanges put together, accounting for 96% of their total market capitalization at the end of 1995. On 8 November 1995, the JSE underwent its "Big Bang" when the Stock Exchange Control Act came into effect, changing the system under which the market had operated for years. New capital adequacy requirements placed major financial obligations on broking firms, and the easy fixed-commission system for brokers disappeared. Most visibly, the traditional trading floor-the open outcry market-became a thing of the past as firms carried out all their trading by computer. Restructuring of the stock exchange also allowed banks to enter the securities markets as stockbrokers for the first time. However, market capitalization is now at about half of that peak level in 1995.


Automobile third-party liability, unemployment insurance and workers' compensation insurance are all compulsory, the last of which is a virtual government monopoly. At the beginning of 1994, a consortium of black investors negotiated a deal to buy 51% of African Life, a life insurance company serving over two million customers, from majority share holders. Other insurance companies include Old Mutual and Sanlam.

Life insurance companies and pension funds are controlled by the Registrar of Financial Institutions. The main long-term capital institutions are the pension funds and life assurance companies, which invest mainly on the JSE secondary market. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $25.398 billion, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $20.728 billion.


The fiscal year runs from 1 April to 31 March. The minister of finance presents the budget to parliament in March for authorization of expenditures and imposition of the necessary taxes. In 1994, the ANC inherited a government that owned about half of all capital assets, one-quarter of them parastatal corporations. Since then, privatization has moved slowly, but steadily.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 South Africa's central government took in revenues of approximately $65.9 billion and had expenditures of $70.6 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$4.7 billion.

Revenue and Grants 328,088 100.0%
   Tax revenue 304,083 92.7%
   Social contributions 7,440 2.3%
   Grants 1,989 0.6%
   Other revenue 14,576 4.4%
Expenditures 359,253 100.0%
   General public services
   Public order and safety
   Economic affairs
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities
   Recreational, culture, and religion
   Social protection
() data not available or not significant.

Public debt in 2005 amounted to 37.7% of GDP. Total external debt was $44.33 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were r328,088 million and expenditures were r359,253 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$43,371 million, based on a principal exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = r7.56475 as reported by the IMF.


As of 1 January 2001, South Africa's territorial system of taxation (or source-based system) was replaced with one based on worldwide incomes for resident companies, including resident branches of foreign companies. In order to preserve some of South Africa's appeal as an offshore location for international headquarters, a separate regime for nonresident International Holding Companies (IHCs) is maintained which allows for income from foreign subsidiaries not to be counted in the IHC's tax liability (under Controlled Foreign Entity provisions in the tax law).

As of 2004, the standard corporate tax in South Africa consisted of two parts: a 30% flat rate plus an additional 12.5% secondary tax (STC) on net dividends. Branch offices of nonresident companies are subject to a 35% corporate tax rate. Those branches and other nonresident companies are not subject to the STC. Dividends distributed out of mining income by oil and gas companies are also exempt from the STC. Dividends from South African sources paid to a resident individual by a South African company are tax-exempt, but, as of 23 February 2000, dividends from foreign sources received by residents are taxed at 12.5%. The maximum effective rate for companies that distribute all their after-tax profits as dividends is 37.8%.

Capital gains, untaxed before 2001, are taxed at an effective rate of 15%. For companies that rate is applied to 50% of the gains realized. For individuals, that rate is applied to 25% of the gains realized. South Africa also has a preferential offshore tax regime for international holding corporations, as well as a program of tax incentives administered by the its Industrial Development Corporation designed to assist entrepreneurs in the establishing and/or expansion of economically viable manufacturing industries.

Individual income tax is assessed according to a progressive scale with a top rate of 40% (as of 2004). Above an exempted limit, gifts are taxed at 20%, but there is no inheritance tax. The transfer of property is tax on a progressive scale depending on the value of the property. Royalties paid to nonresidents are subject to a withholding tax of 12%.

The main indirect tax is South Africa's value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate of 14%. However, certain fuels, exports, some farming goods and basic foodstuffs, and international transport are zero-rated. Residential rents, educational services, some financial services and domestic passenger transport are exempt from the VAT. Other taxes include provincial and city taxes.


Although South Africa has signed GATT and has been liberalizing import controls with the intention of eventually removing them completely, some classes of imports are still subject to licenses and control regulations. Many goods enter South Africa duty-free. Goods that are subject to a duty pay an average rate of 12%. There are six levels of tariffs: 0%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, and 30%. For protected industries such as textiles and automobiles, high tariffs were supposed to be reduced from 100% to about 4550% within 8 to 12 years.

South Africa maintains a common customs area with Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and the black homelands of Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei, and Venda, through the South African Customs Union. The South African Development Community intended to open a free trade area between member countries by 2000. Common customs, excise, and a value-added tax (VAT) of 14% are levied. Specific excise duties of about 10% are levied on beverages, tobacco, petroleum products, and motor vehicles. Ad valorem excise duties are levied on office machinery, film, and luxury consumer goods. Export licenses are required for a number of products.


Despite a considerable increase in recent years in domestic savings available for investment, foreign capital investment plays a significant role in South African economic development, and a number of manufacturing and industrial concerns have been established by the United Kingdom, the United States, and continental European companies since World War II. UK capital has been invested primarily in manufacturing, heavy engineering, and in the development of new gold fields in Transvaal and the Orange Free State. US investments are mainly in mining and manufacturing, and in wholesale and retail trade. Some 250 American companies accounted for about one-fifth of total foreign investment in South Africa as of 1982. However, between 1984 and 1987, the number of US companies with direct investments in South Africa dropped from 325 to 259. In 1986, the United States and the EEC banned new investment in South Africa.

The establishment of a multiracial government in 1994 and the lifting of sanctions led to an increase in foreign investment in South Africa. The number of multinational corporations with direct investments or employees in South Africa increased by over 20%. By 1997, total foreign direct investment (FDI) exceeded $18 billion. The inflow of FDI in 1997 was over $3.8 billion, but fell to $561 million in 1998. Inward FDI flows increased to $1.5 billion in 1999 and to $888 million in 2000. Contrary to worldwide trends in the economic slowdown of 2001, FDI inflow in South Africa reached a record $6.79 billion. However, the flows declined to $757 million in 2002 to $720 million in 2003 and $585 million in 2004. However, for 2005 FDI inflows will be boosted by the Goldfields-Norilsk and Metcash-Metzo deals and the takeover of Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA)one of the country's "big four" banksby Barclays of the United Kingdom, and the purchase by Vodafone of a further 15% stake in the mobile-phone operator, Vodacom. The Barclays-ABSA transaction is estimated to have boosted FDI inflows by about $5 billion in the third quarter of 2005, and Vodafone's purchase of the additional shares in Vodacom by $2.4 billion.

Barclays' purchase is the largest single FDI inflow into South Africa since the transition to multiparty rule in 1994. The inflows from both Barclays and Vodafone have stimulated foreign interest in South Africa and signal a vote of confidence for the country's political and economic prospects for the medium and long term. The United Kingdom has been the largest investor with almost half of the total, followed by the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Switzerland. Manufacturing and business services gained the lion's share of FDI, led by telecommunications; major investors included Petronas, SDC Communications, Dow Chemicals, Telecom Malaysia, Coca-Cola, and Lafarge.


The recession of 1989 to 1993 was provoked by a drop in investment from 24% to 15%. With the inauguration of multiracial government in 1994, this investment was restored from about $13 billion in 1994 to about $18 billion in 1998, creating new jobs and generating growth. Tremendous changes in the structure of the economy are required as well to relieve the pressures of poverty and inequality which resulted from apartheid. A realistic strategy that attends to popular expectations and aspirations as well as to sound economic principles will look to reducing tariffs and other restrictive practices, linking wages and output, ending exchange controls, reforming taxes, and optimizing welfare allocations. The government implemented a Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) plan to cover the years 19962000. The plan was successful in bringing macroeconomic stability to the country, but formal employment continued to decline, and wealth remained unequally distributed along racial lines.

South Africa has what may be called a dual economyone comparable to industrialized nations and another comparable to developing countries. Trade liberalization increased from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. The Mbeki government in 2003 maintained a cautious fiscal policy, but due to the global economic slowdown, growth remained at 2.6% (it was forecast to rise to 3.5% in 2004). The government's monetary policy was geared to bring inflation down to the Reserve Bank's target of 36% by the end of 2004. This was clearly achieved as inflation was estimated at 4.3% in 2004 and 4% in 2005.

The government continues to be committed to responsible fiscal management while increasing spending on infrastructure, social services and socio-economic "upliftment" programs. Revised real GDP figures indicate that the economy has grown more rapidly and is larger than had previously been estimated, and growth for 2005 is now estimated to rise by 5%, from 4.5% in 2004. Inflation has steadily declined.

However, unemployment in 2004 was estimated at 26.2%, but unofficial sources place it at around 41%. The government adopted plans to encourage development in specific regions and in small and medium enterprise development, in part to promote growth and the creation of jobs. South Africa is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


South Africa has a comprehensive system of social legislation, which includes unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, old age pensions, disability pensions, war veterans' pensions, pensions for the blind, maternity grants, and family allowances. The first statutory benefits were initiated in 1928, and the current system was updated in 2004. The cost of most of these benefits is borne by the national government, but the cost of industrial accident insurance is borne by employers, while contributions to the unemployment insurance fund are made by employers, employees, and the government. The retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women. Sickness and maternity benefits both pay 45% of weekly earnings; maternity benefits are payable up to a total of 26 weeks. The government funds assistance to families of limited means.

The ANC government of national unity sought to provide more social services for its black constituents within the constraints of a weakened economy. Its top priorities are housing, health, education, and the creation of more jobs in the formal economic sector.

Despite legal protection, sex discrimination is still widespread, especially in connection with economic issues including wage disparity, credit access and property rights. Domestic abuse is widespread, and victims who seek redress are not treated adequately by law enforcement, medical personnel, or the judicial system. The incidence of rape is extremely high due to general lack of security and the prevailing attitude condoning violence against women. There are many governmental and nongovernmental organizations monitoring and promoting human rights for women.

Although South Africa's human rights record has improved, there are continued reports of detainees dying in custody. Criminal activity is widespread, and vigilante and mob justice is increasing. Prison conditions are harsh.


As of 1992, the South African government increased its spending in the public and private sectors of health care. South Africa's governmental policy has been directed toward a more streamlined and equitable public health service to bridge the country's social and ideological divisions. Emphasis on better health care resulted in numerous projects to expand and modernize existing hospitals and clinics, as well as build new ones. There was also emphasis on preventive health care, as well as a greater demand for laboratory analysis and therapeutic equipment and disposables. Most electronic and high-tech equipment is imported. Provincial administrations maintain most major hospitals and receive subsidies from the national government. Hospital care is free for those unable to bear the costs, but medical treatment is generally conducted on a private basis.

About 80% of doctors take care of urban citizens. Large sectors of the population live in conditions nearer to those of a developing country. There are 684 hospitals, with Baragwanath Hospital near Johannesburg the largest in southern Africa. As of 2004, there were an estimated 69 physicians, 388 nurses, 10 dentists, and 24 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Chains of independent hospitals have been established. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 7.2% of GDP.

There are medical schools at the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand, Pretoria, Natal, and the Orange Free State. Between 1959 and 1994, most black medical students attended the medical school at the University of Natal. In addition, the Medical University of Southern Africa (near Pretoria) was opened for black students in 1978. Following the introduction of democracy in 1994, the government sought to reverse the discrimination against blacks by building 780 community clinics by the year 2000. However, the money to fund these clinics comes from the medical school budgets funded publicly. The South African Institute for Medical Research in Johannesburg is well known for its studies of silicosis and other diseases to which mine workers are subject.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa is among the worst in the world. As of 2004, there were approximately 5,300,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, the highest number of any nation. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 21.50 per 100 adults in 2003. There were an estimated 370,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003. An increasing percentage of those infected are infants and young children and it is estimated that nearly one-fourth of pregnant women are HIV positive, although the rate of infection varies widely among provinces. In some hospitals more than one-third of the beds are occupied by AIDS patients.

Aside from HIV/AIDS, other prevalent infectious diseases reported in South Africa include tuberculosis, measles, typhoid, malaria, and viral hepatitis. Leprosy had been reduced to less than 1 per 100,000, but malaria and tuberculosis still cause serious problems. About 52% of the male and 16% of the female populations over age 15 smoked in 1995. Between 1983 and 1992, there were about 15,000 deaths due to political and ethnic violence.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 20.6 and 18.9 per 1,000 people. Average life expectancy was 43.27 years in 2005. Infant mortality in 2005 was 61.81 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate was estimated at 340 per 100,000 live births. Children up to one year of age were immunized against tuberculosis, 95%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 73%; polio, 73%; and measles, 76%.


In the late 1990s, there was an explosive growth of shacks and shantytowns surrounding South Africa's major urban areas. In 1994 the housing backlog was estimated to be 1.2 million homes for the black population, while there is a surplus of white housing units of 83,000. This backlog and demand translated into the need to build 250,000 dwelling units a year in the last years of the 20th century, or roughly 1,000 units per working day; however, only about one-tenth of that number25,000 dwelling unitswere built each year, leaving the country with a serious housing shortage. Most of the black townships and squatter settlements lack the basic infrastructure and services of water, sewage, and electricity. Efforts to solve South Africa's housing problem must focus not only on construction, but on servicing current and prospective sites by building roads and providing electricity, sanitation, and water.

At the 2001 census, there were about 11,205,705 households counted, which translates into about the same number of dwelling units. About 55.6% of all households were living in what was described as a house on a separate stand; 16% of all households were living in shacks. Some 32.3% of all households had access to piped water inside their dwelling. Another 29% had piped water in their yard. Nearly 52% of all dwellings had some type of flush toilet. Another 27% used pit latrines.


The challenge facing the post-apartheid government has been to create an educational system that provides quality education to all citizens of South Africa. The educational legacy left by the apartheid government has not been easy to dismantle. Literacy rates among blacks remain low, and educational facilities in the townships and rural areas need to be upgraded. During the apartheid government, education for whites was free and compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16 while attendance was not generally compulsory for blacks. Adult literacy was close to 100% for whites and about 50% for blacks in the mid-1980s.

After the Soweto riots of 1976, the national government increased expenditures for black education, and black student enrollment did rise sharply. The government reported by the early 1990s that primary and secondary schools enrolled about one million white students; 5.8 million blacks; 900,000 colored; and 300,000 Asians.

The Government of National Unity established a National Ministry of Education in 1994 and an educational system comprised of nine provincial subsystems was developed. National policies set clear educational guidelines, and the Provincial Legislatures have been accorded significant authority in setting specific priorities and policies for that province.

In 1995, President Mandela launched the Presidential Lead Project on Developing the Culture of Learning and Teaching. The program revised school governance structures, increasing school attendance and renovating hundreds of schools around the country.

Education is now compulsory for nine years, which is covered by six years of primary school and three years of junior secondary school. Students may then enter either a two-year technical school program or a three-year general senior secondary program. In 2001, about 35% of all six-year-olds were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 89% of age-eligible students. In 2001, secondary school enrollment was about 62% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 98% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 34:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 30:1.

South Africa has 21 universities and 15 technikons that provide tertiary level vocational training. In 2003, it was estimated that about 15% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 82.4%, with 84% for men and 80.9% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.3% of GDP, or 18.5% of total government expenditures.


The National Library of South Africa is made up of two branches: in Pretoria (formerly known as the State Library, 787,000 volumes) and in Cape Town (formerly known as the South African Library, 750,000 volumes). The University of Witwatersrand's main collection holds over one million volumes. Major public libraries are located in Johannesburg (850,000 volumes) and Cape Town (1.4 million volumes).

The Kaffrarian Museum in King William's Town has imposing collections of indigenous animals. The National Museum in Bloemfontein contains an ictidosaur skeleton and the Florisbad human fossil skull. The East London Museum houses the first coelacanth to be caught (the entire family had previously been thought to be extinct). The South African National Gallery is in Cape Town. Founded in 1871, it houses an extensive European collection and well as one of Africa's finest collections of contemporary African art. The South African Cultural History Museum is also in Cape Town, as is the Castle Military Museum, which opened in 1995. Robben Island, 12 kilometers from Cape Town, is a former prison and is now a museum. Johannesburg has several archaeological museums as well as the University Art Galleries of the University of Witwatersrand. Pretoria houses the Kruger Museum, chronicling the life of Paul Kruger; the Natural Cultural History Museum; and the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.


The government operates the postal, telegraph, and telephone services through the Department of Posts and Telecommunications. In 2003, there were an estimated 107 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 364 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC), a semigovernmental organization, offers transmissions in English, Afrikaans, and nine Bantu languages. It derives its income from listeners' licenses and from its commercial services. External broadcasting services are operated by the Voice of South Africa. The country's first television service was begun in January 1976 under government auspices. In 1981 a separate channel began broadcasting in native languages. There are several privately held television and radio stations. As of 1999, there were 15 AM and 164 FM radio stations and 556 television broadcast stations, with transmissions in English, Afrikaans, and four Bantu languages. In 2003, there were an estimated 336 radios and 177 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 72.6 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 68 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 909 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The English and Afrikaans populations have their own newspapers, distinguished not only by language but also by the variety and slant of news. Nearly all newspapers in South Africa are published by members of the Newspaper Press Union (NPU). Its main function is to hear and decide complaints against the press in cases where the complaints do not fall under the jurisdiction of the courts. The Media Council, established by the NPU, seeks to maintain editorial standards and to deal with infringements of the NPU press code. The largest daily newspapers (with language of publication and 2002 circulations) are: The Sowetan (English, 225,000), The Star (English, 162,316), Beeld (Afrikaans, 111,958), Die Burger (Afrikaans, 105,841), Cape Argus (English, 85,000), and The Daily News (English, 71,600).

The three largest-circulation Sunday newspapers are the English-language Sunday Times (458,000) and Sunday Tribune (113,000) and the Afrikaans-language Rapport (353,000). Ilanga and Umafrika are Zulu-language weeklies. About 150 local newspapers appear weekly or biweekly. Magazines and general periodicals are divided equally between Afrikaans and English.

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government now is said to respect these rights. News coverage and editorial opinion is vigorous and unfettered.


The cooperative movement began before the consummation of the Union, concentrating then as now on marketing agricultural produce. The movement's rapid advance, however, dates from 1922, when the first Cooperative Societies Act was passed. Every branch of farming has its own associations, to which about 75% of all farmers belong; these groups are affiliated with provincial organizations, which, in turn, are members of the South African Agricultural Union. The Agricultural Research Council is an important group for the advancement of the farming industry. Other similar groups include the Sugar Milling Research Institute, the South African Sugarcane Research Institute, and the ARC-Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Crops.

The South African Federated Chamber of Industries is the chief employers' organization. The Association of Chambers of Commerce (ASSOCOM) was formed in 1892 to promote commerce and industry in South Africa. In 1990 the South African Chamber of Business (SACOB) was formed by the merger of the Association of Commerce and Industry and the South African Federated Chamber of Industries. One hundred and two chambers of commerce and industry are members of SACOB.

To provide special aid to Afrikaans-speaking businesspeople, the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut was established in Pretoria in 1942. It now assists all Afrikaner businesses involved in commerce, finance, and mining. Membership is offered if at least half the capital of a firm is owned by Afrikaners.

The Royal Society of South Africa, founded in 1877, is the leading scholarly organization. The South African Academy of Science and Arts was founded in 1909 and is based in Arcadia. The Geological Society of South Africa (founded in 1895) has published important research in its transactions, and its influence extends beyond South Africa. The African Music Society, an international organization that specializes in the recording of music of all parts of Africa, has its headquarters near Johannesburg. Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa is based in Grahamstown. Other organizations have been established for studies in Afrikaans, archaeology, economics, medicine, technology, and other fields. Groups for hobbyists and other amateur actives are also available, such as the All Breeds Cat Club, the Cape Lancia Club (a car club), and the Federation of Rose Societies of South Africa (R.O.S.A).

Organizations dedicated to health and welfare include the Association of Societies for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Systems TrustSouth Africa, the South African Medical Research Council, the Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa, and the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. The South African Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions, such as the Cancer Association of South Africa and Diabetes South Africa.

There are a number of sports associations throughout the country. National youth organizations include the ANC Youth League, Girl Guides Association of South Africa, Junior Chamber, National Catholic Federation of Students, YMCA/YWCA, South African Scout Association, South African Student Congress, South African Young Christian Workers, and Youth for Christ. Sports associations promote amateur competition among athletes of all ages for a variety of pastimes.

Women's organizations include the ANC Women's League, the African Gender Institute, National Council of Women of South Africa, the Nisaa Institute for Women's Development, and programs through the Office on the Status of Women. Black Sash Trust is an organization, primarily of women, dedicated to promoting human rights and civil liberties through the principles of democracy.

There are several national environmental associations in the country, including Birdlife South Africa, Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Grassland Society of Southern Africa, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, African Conservation Trust, and the Environmental Monitoring Group.

National organizations promoting causes of social justice include the Friedrich Naumann FoundationAfrica Regional Office and the Legal Resources Centre. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Caritas, Habitat for Humanity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, UNICEF, and Amnesty International.


The tourism industry is based on private enterprise, but the government oversees tourist facilities through the South African Tourist Corporation, which also promotes tourism abroad. In addition to the principal cities and many ocean beaches, popular attractions include the Kruger National Park, situated in the northeast, on the Mozambique and Zimbabwe borders, and several game reserves; the Castle of Good Hope fortress at Cape Town (built during 166682); and the Kimberley Mine Museum at the site of the famous Big Hole diamond mine. Entertainment facilities include symphony halls, theaters, movies, nightclubs, and discos. Among popular pastimes are golf, tennis, bowls (lawn bowling), hunting, horse racing, rugby, football (soccer), cricket, and water sports.

Foreign nationals who travel to South Africa must have a valid passport. Visas are required for visitors from all countries except the United States, Japan, Scandinavia, and most Western European and Commonwealth Countries.

There were 6.5 million visitors who arrived in South Africa in 2003. Hotel rooms numbered 52,329 with 110,479 beds and an occupancy rate of 57%.Tourism expenditure receipts totaled $5.2 billion that year.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Johannesburg at $191; in Cape Town, $234 per day; and other areas, $202.


Among the most famous tribal leaders in what is now South Africa were Shaka (17731828), who built the Zulu into a powerful nation, and Cetewayo (d.1884), who led the Zulu in an unsuccessful war against the British in 1879. Other outstanding figures of 19th-century South Africa were Stephanus Johannus Paulus (Oom Paul) Kruger (18251904), president of the Transvaal and leader of the Boers, and British-born Cecil John Rhodes (18531902), entrepreneur and empire builder, after whom the Rhodesias (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) were named. Jan Christiaan Smuts (18701950), statesman and military leader, was one of the great men of the first half of the 20th century. He and two other prime ministers of Boer descentLouis Botha (18621919) and James Barry Munnik Hertzog (18661942)attempted to merge the two white nationality groups in a common loyalty to the British Commonwealth. Daniel François Malan (18741959), an Afrikaner Nationalist leader, led his party to victory in 1948 and served as prime minister (194854) when South Africa's racial separation policies were codified. Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (190166), Nationalist prime minister from 1958 until his assassination, vigorously enforced separate development of the races and created the black homelands. His successor, Balthazar Johannes Vorster (191583), served as prime minister from 1966 until his elevation to the presidency in 1978; he resigned in the following year because of a political scandal. Pieter Willem Botha (b.1916) became prime minister in 1978 and president in 1984. Frederik Willem de Klerk (b.1936) was the last state president of apartheid South Africa, serving from 1989 to 1994.

Among the best-known South African writers in the English language was Olive (Emily Albertina) Schreiner (18551920), whose Story of an African Farm has become a classic. A collection of short stories about Afrikaner farmers, The Little Karoo, by Pauline Smith (18821957), is regarded as a masterpiece. South African authors of novels and short stories such as Sarah Gertrude Millin (Liebson, b. Russia, 18891968), Alan Stewart Paton (190388), Sir Laurens Van der Post (190696), Peter Abrahams (b.1919), Ezekiel Mphahlele (b.1919), Nadine Gordimer (b.1923), Dan Jacobson (b.1929), and John M. Coetzee (b.1940) have won considerable attention in the United Kingdom and the United States. Ignatius Roy Dunnachie Campbell (190157) was an eminent South African poet, and his friend William Charles Franklyn Plomer (190373) was a highly regarded novelist, poet, essayist, and critic. Athol Fugard (b.1932) has written internationally acclaimed plays about South African race relations.

Well-known authors and poets in the Afrikaans language are Cornelis Jacob Langenhoven (18731932), author of the national anthem; Christian Frederick Louis Leipoldt (18801947); N.P. van Wyk Louw (190670); the poet, playwright, and critic Uys Krige (191087), who also wrote in English; and André Brink (b.1935). Eugène Nielsen Marais (18711936), a journalist, lawyer, poet, and natural historian, was an outstanding student of animal and insect behavior. Breyten Breytenbach (b.1939) has earned international recognition as an important Afrikaans poet; he served seven years in prison (197582) after pleading guilty to a passport violation and to illegal contacts with an African political group.

V. (J.E.A.) Volschenck (18531935) is sometimes called the "father of South African art," and Anton Van Wouw (b.Netherlands, 18621945) is called the "doyen" of South African sculpture. Other artists include the painters Robert Gwelo Goodman (b.England, 18711939), Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (18861957), and Walter W. Battiss (b.England, 190682), also an authority on Bushman art; and sculptor Coert Laurens Steynberg (190582).

Other noted South Africans are historian George McCall Theal (b.Canada, 18371919); the physical anthropologist Raymond Arthur Dart (b.Australia, 18931988); Clement Martyn Doke (b.England, 18931983), an authority on Bantu philology; the social anthropologist Isaac Schapera (190586); Louis Franklin Freed (b.Lithuania, 190381), a specialist on tropical diseases; and pioneer open-heart surgeon, Christiaan Neething Barnard (19222001). Lord Henry de Villiers of Wynberg (18421914) was chief justice of Cape Colony and of the Union of South Africa.

South Africa's first Nobel Prize winner (for peace in 1961) was Chief Albert John Luthuli (18981967), a former president of the ANC, who maintained a policy of nonviolence and of cooperation between whites and blacks. Desmond Mpilo Tutu (b.1931), the secretary general of the South African Council of Churches during 197984 and an outspoken foe of apartheid, received the 1984 Nobel Prize for peace. As archbishop of Cape Town, he became the Anglican primate for southern Africa in 1986. Nelson R. Mandela (b.1918), a prominent leader of the ANC, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964; his release was a principal demand of antigovernment activists. He became South Africa's first president elected in fully-representative democratic elections. Oliver Tambo (191993), the president of the ANC since 1977, directed the group from exile. Another outspoken critic of the government was the Rev. Allan Boesak (b.1945), a UDC founder and the former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. More conciliatory toward the regime was Gatsha Buthelezi (b.1928), the chief of the Zulu people, who heads the Inkatha movement.


South Africa has no territories or colonies. South Africa once maintained a civil administration and a military presence in Namibia (South West Africa). Namibia, a sovereign state, is discussed under its own heading elsewhere in this volume.


Ballard, Sebastian. South Africa Handbook 2000. 4th ed. Bath: Footprint, 1999.

Black, David R., and Larry A. Swatuk (eds.). Bridging the Rift: The New South Africa in Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

Buthelezi, Gatsha. South Africa: My Vision of the Future. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990.

Crankshaw, Owen. Race, Class, and the Changing Division of Labor under Apartheid. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Fox, Roddy and Kate Rowntree. The Geography of South Africa in a Changing World. Oxford, Eng.: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Guest, Emma. Children of AIDS: Africa's Orphan Crisis. Sterling, Va.: Pluto Press, 2001.

Juckes, Tim J. Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of Z. K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995.

Kamoche, Ken M. (ed.). Managing Human Resources in Africa. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Kanfer, Stefan. The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds and the World. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993.

Keegan, Timothy J. Colonial South Africa and the Origins of the Racial Order. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996.

Lawson, George. Negotiated Revolutions: The Czech Republic, South Africa and Chile. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2005.

Lemon, Anthony (ed.). The Geography of Change in South Africa. New York: J. Wiley, 1995.

Mandela, Nelson. The Struggle Is My Life. Rev. ed. New York: Pathfinders, 1986.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Robinson, Jennifer. The Power of Apartheid: State, Power, and Space in South African Cities. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1996.

Rotberg, Robert I. Ending Autocracy, Enabling Democracy: The Tribulations of Southern Africa, 19602000. Cambridge, Mass.: World Peace Foundation, 2002.

Saunders, Christopher and Nicholas Southey. Historical Dictionary of South Africa. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2000.

Summers, Randal W., and Allan M. Hoffman (ed.). Domestic Violence: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Thompson, Leonard Monteath. A History of South Africa. Rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Waldmeir, Patti. Anatomy of a Miracle: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of the New South Africa. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997.

Worden, Nigel. The Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Segregation and Apartheid. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1995.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa


Republic of South Africa

Major Cities:
Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein

Other Cities:
Benoni, Boksburg, Germiston, Kimberley, Krugersdorp, Ladysmith, Paarl, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Roodepoort, Soweto, Springs, Vereeniging, Welkom


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for South Africa. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


South Africa, a country of stark beauty and diverse cultures, provides an exciting and dynamic work environment. With the end of apart-heid, South Africa's new government has embarked on a historic effort to build a multi-racial, sustainable, market-oriented democracy. The success or failure of this effort will have enormous implications for the rest of Africa and for the world. Our official objectives are concentrated on support for a successful South African transition.

South Africa is a large country, about twice the size of Texas, and consists of an extensive interior plateau (altitudes range from 3,000 to 6,000 feet) with a narrow coastal plain. The climate is moderate with sunny days and cool nights. Latest estimates put South Africa's population at 44.6 million, including non-documented immigrants. The country has eleven official languages, including English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and Tswana. English is widely understood even by those who do not speak it as a native language.

With the most sophisticated economy on the continent, South Africa has a highly developed financial and physical infrastructure. Much of the country's wealth originally came from gold and diamond mines, but today South Africa exports a wide variety of manufactured products. Despite South Africa's impressive economic achievement, gross inequities exist along racial lines in the distribution of wealth and job opportunities. These disparities reflect the South African government's previous policy of apartheida system of legally mandated racial segregation favoring the white community. Although the present government has dismantled the legal basis for such racial discrimination, apartheid's legacy of widespread black poverty will take years to eliminate completely.

Besides a challenging work environment, South Africa offers a host of unique vacation experiences. The vineyards of the Cape, wildlife of Kruger National Park, and beaches of Durban are just some of the country's tourist attractions. Travel is easy, and people are helpful wherever you go. South Africa's combination of physical beauty and a changing society will make your stay rewarding.



Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. Greater Pretoria has about 1,081,187 people (Source: Central Statistical Service, 1991 Census). It is located in Gauteng Province, 35 miles Northeast of Johannesburg, 30 miles from Johannesburg International Airport, and 437 miles from Durban, the nearest port city in South Africa.

Founded in 1855, Pretoria is the seat of executive government for South Africa. It lies in a long valley edged by several ridges. The rural surrounding area consists of undulating veld with low trees scattered over the landscape. Aside from the Iscor Steelworks and automobile assembly plants located outside the city, and a few small industrial establishments, Pretoria is mainly a government town with enough shops and department stores to cater to its population. Schools, hospitals, doctors and dentists are in adequate supply.

Pretoria is a quiet, modern city offering current movies, plays, operas, ballets, and concerts. Two universities, the Transvaal Museum and the Transvaal Province Library, an excellent zoo, sports grounds, including several golf courses, and many beautiful parks provide cultural enjoyment and relaxation. Those seeking a brighter nightlife generally go to Johannesburg, though Pretoria has many good restaurants, some with dancing and/or live entertainment. Sundays in Pretoria are spent visiting friends, participating in sports, or indulging in the national pastime of the "braaivleis" (barbecue). In the city, flea markets and open-air art and craft markets are often held as well. Aside from the U.S. Embassy staff and their families, 250 other Americans live in Pretoria, including church and missionary representatives and American spouses of South Africans. Most American business representatives live in the Johannesburg suburbs. Diplomatic representatives of the U.S. and other countries form the nucleus of the growing foreign community.

Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Soshanguve are the historically black townships surrounding Pretoria where the majority of the black citizens of the Greater Pretoria Metropolitan area still live. Atteridgeville is 7 miles, Mamelodi is 15 miles, Soshanguve, Ga-Rankuwa, Winterveldt and Temba are all about 25 miles away. Nearly all residents work in Pretoria, traveling by bus, train, or taxi. A few drive personal vehicles. Lenasia, about 10 miles south of Pretoria, is home to many of the area's citizens of Asian descent. Each of these communities has its own town council and civic association and participates in the regional "super government," the Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council. Unemployment is high in the townships and standards of living significantly lower than in Pretoria proper. There is also a serious shortage of housing in the townships, which has given rise to large informal settlements or "squatter camps" on the periphery of established areas. Township councils resisted squatting initially, but because they did not have houses for the squatters, they began to provide water and toilets for them.


Basic foods, locally produced baby foods and infant formulas are all available. Baby food is widely available, however all dried cereals contain sugars. Fresh fruit and vegetables of all kinds are available most of the year. Dairy products, including butter, cheeses, eggs and whole, low fat and skim milk are all readily available. Several good quality South African and British brands are available in the major metropolitan cities. South African, as well as imported, coffees and teas are excellent and comparable in price to those sold in the U.S. Iced teas and ice tea mixes are rarely available.

Soft drinks (Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta and other Coke products) are widely available.

Ice cream lovers will satisfy their taste buds with higher quality brands, however, sorbets and sherbets are seldom available.

Most spices are available, however, the gourmet chef may wish to bring familiar brands and varieties with them. Extracts are not available.

White and brown sugars are both coarse, with the exception of powdered sugar, which is equivalent to that sold in the States.

Pancake syrups are limited in variety, and the quality is not the same as that available in the States. Corn syrup is not available.

Chocolate and other baking chips are either not available or of a lesser quality than that available in the States. Other baking items (cake mixes, bread mixes, pancake mixes, pie crusts and crumbs) are not available.

Graham crackers are not available, but saltines are available from local grocery stores.

Meats (beef, pork, lamb, chicken) are plentiful and reasonably priced. Seafood is widely available in coastal cities and is shipped (fresh or frozen) into inland areas. Turkeys (small fresh or frozen medium or large) are available primarily in November and December.

Solid shortening (Crisco), stuffing mixes, pumpkin pie filling, and certain ethnic foods are not available on the open market.

Breakfast cereal varieties are very limited, and many of the brands sold in the States are not available.

Liquors, beers, and wines, (domestic and international brands) are widely available and reasonably priced. South Africa is increasingly becoming known for its wide variety of great wines.

For those U.S. products you must have, several on-line shopping services will ship most items via diplomatic pouch, provided they are not prohibited.


South African men and women dress similarly to Americans and Europeans. Imported stylish European shoes are available although at a much higher cost. American shoe widths, especially narrow, are limited. Persons with small or very large feet may have difficulty finding shoes that fit. Although a winter coat is usually not necessary, some southern areas are colder in winter, often having frost and snow. Jackets, all-weather coats or wraps would be a good investment for use in winter months in any area of South Africa. Shoe and clothing sizes differ from those in the States.

Men's styles follow current trends. Wool and lightweight business suits are common. Winter wear is needed about four months a year, except for the southernmost and eastern area of the country, where the weather is colder for about three months a year. For business, most men wear suits or sports jackets and slacks. Dress shirts are available, however, better short sleeved shirts are seldom sold. Although you may purchase or rent tuxedos and dinner jackets, it is recommended that you bring your own formal wear.

Generally, women's clothing is similar to that worn in western U.S. cities. Hosiery is of a lesser quality than that available in the States. The sizes are different and much more costly. It is advisable for ladies to bring an ample supply of hosiery. There are few occasions when evening gowns are needed; cocktail dresses and/or pantsuits are more commonly worn. Accessories and undergarments are available at a higher price, but may vary in sizes and the quality may not compare to that of the States.

Children's clothing is available, however it is expensive. It is suggested that you bring needed clothing items with you or purchase them through U.S. catalogues.

Supplies and Services

Toiletries, household supplies, medicines, prescription drugs, etc. are in good supply, however some familiar U.S. brands may not be available. Cosmetics and perfumes (mostly imported) are expensive. It is recommended that you bring a supply of your favorite brands. Paper and plastic products (tissue, napkins, foil, freezer bags, etc.) are of a lower quality than that sold in the U.S. Many brands of disposable diapers are available, with quality comparable to those sold in the U.S. Disposable baby bottle liners are not available. Locally made toys are expensive. However, many Americans shop through catalogues. For on-time delivery, it is recommended that you shop early, especially during the busy holiday season. There is a "Toys 'R.'Us" store in the suburbs of Pretoria.

Many American and British brands of cigarettes are manufactured and sold in South Africa. Tobacco is readily available at a cheaper price than in the U.S.

It is recommended that you purchase a supply of postage stamps prior to arrival or order them from the U.S. Postal Service's 1-800-STAMPS Service Center.

Domestic Help

Many domestics are experienced and proficient. Some speak limited English and require specific instructions and directions. The best well-trained cooks command good wages and are rarely available. Less experienced cooks require considerable instruction and demonstration in preparing and serving food.

Some domestics are accustomed to performing only the tasks for which they are hired. A cook would not be expected to perform cleaning and laundry tasks. Most people employ domestics who are not specialists, but workers who can perform various chores.

Religious Activities

Various religious denominations are represented in South Africa. The Dutch Reformed Church, whose members include most of the Afrikaans-speaking white population, conducts services in Afrikaans. Catholic churches offer Mass in English, Afrikaans, and many African languages. Protestant churches other than the Dutch Reformed include Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational. The Zion Christian Church, Christian Science, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventist, Greek Orthodox, and Jewish synagogues also conduct services. There are also Hindu temples and Muslim mosques.


The American International School of Johannesburg (AISJ) is located midway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. It is situated on 67 acres of rolling hills. The school was established in 1982 and is a non-profit institution. It is the only school in this area, which offers a U.S. curriculum and school calendar (school year from August to June) for kindergarten through 12th grade. AISJ has an outstanding student-teacher ratio of one teacher to ten students. A limited program of physical education and sports activities is offered.

The South African school system follows the United Kingdom Standard form of schooling. Some are coeducational, most are single sex. The South African school year begins in mid-January and ends in early December. Students transferring from a U.S. curriculum based school need to be cognizant of the difference in school year start times.

There are several universities in the Pretoria-Johannesburg area for adult family members interested in pursuing studies while in South Africa.

Special Educational Opportunities

The Pretoria Preparatory School for children (ages 5-13), UNICA, Prinshof School for the Blind, Sonitus, and The New Hope School are among the schools available for children with special needs in Pretoria. Bellavista, Casa Do Sol, Cedarwood, Crosswoods, and Delta Park are among schools in the Johannesburg area serving children with special needs. Within Cape Town, Bel Porto, The Glendale School and Tafelberg are schools available to serve special needs students. The Browne School, The Golden Hours School and The Kenmont School are Durban area schools serving special needs children.


South Africa is one of the finest areas of the world for participant sports. Golf and tennis are played year round.

Weekend hunting, fishing, mountain climbing and water-rafting trips are available seasonally. Along the coastal areas, you may surf, scuba dive and sail. Many mineral baths are located in the surrounding areas, offering families a nice retreat with various pools. A popular participant sport, particularly with senior members of the local community, is lawn bowling. Ten pin bowling is available (limited) in the larger metropolitan areas. The most popular spectator sports are soccer, cricket, rugby and horse racing.

Excellent country clubs are within short drives of the city centers. Each has golf courses varying from good to excellent. Golfers may want to bring golf clubs from the U.S. although clubs and equipment are available locally at competitive prices. Golf clothing is more conservative than that worn in the U.S. Squash facilities are available at several country clubs and other local clubs. There are also many health clubs in the metropolitan areas with reasonable priced individual and family membership available.

Public tennis courts do not exist. Many tennis clubs are available in and around the metropolitan cities and have no or minimal membership fees. Standard tennis clothing is worn; colored attire is acceptable. Tennis rackets and balls are available at higher than U.S. prices. Re-stringing services are also available. Because of its inexpensive cost, many take private lessons. Once a year, there is a diplomatic tennis tournament in Pretoria.

Several horseback riding facilities are located in the area. Lessons are available for all ages, and costs are considerably lower than the U.S.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

South Africa has many national parks, including the famous Kruger National Park. Several game reserves, including Pilanesberg National Park which is the third largest in South Africa, are close to the city and can be enjoyed as day tours. Short holidays to the game reserves are a favorite form of entertainment for South Africans as well as visitors to the country. Additionally, Pretoria and Johannesburg both have excellent zoos.

South Africa has many hunting farms. Hunting in the national parks is forbidden, but private hunting safaris will be able to help the serious hunter, offering a wide variety of game. Hunting migratory waterfowl is prohibited. Permits are necessary to hunt in South Africa, and can most times be arranged through the hunting safaris. Rifle and shotgun ammunition is available at prices similar to those in the U.S.

Camping (Carlovingian, as it is known in South Africa) is a popular activity with many South Africans, and equipment is readily available everywhere. Excellent terrain for hiking and mountain climbing is found in parks throughout the country; both are extremely popular sports. Almost all resorts offer walking and hiking trails. The Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal areas of the country have excellent freshwater fishing in the numerous streams and reservoirs scattered throughout the areas. Trout fishing farms are abundant. Saltwater fishing is also popular and available at various points along South Africa's eastern and southern coasts. Many spots provide surf or rock fishing, and charter trips may be arranged for big game fishing. Fishing equipment is available locally and is priced comparably to similar equipment in the U.S.

Scuba diving is also very popular in South Africa, with diving shops available everywhere. This sport is increasingly popular with expatriates wishing to take advantage of the reasonably priced lessons offered by most shops, and the wide variety of diving sites available along South Africa's coastline.

Golf and tennis are, by far, the most enjoyed sports, with exceptional facilities for tennis and championship golf courses available throughout the country. Top quality equipment is readily available but somewhat more expensive than in the U.S. You should include an ample supply of golf balls in your shipment since these are about 3 times the price you normally pay in the U.S.

Only a very limited opportunity exists for snow skiing. Skiing is offered in the southern Drakensberg Mountains. The slopes are not challenging for those beyond the beginner, low intermediate stages. A rope tow and a poma lift are used. The terrain leading to the area is extremely difficult and can only be traversed with 4-wheel drive vehicles.


Professional theater, ballet, concerts and opera are all available at prices much cheaper than the U.S. Art exhibits and craft shows are held almost each weekend in various venues throughout the major metropolitan areas. Movie theaters and several drive-ins show first run American movies.

South African television is government owned and offers three channels. CNN World News and BBC News are broadcast at various times throughout the day. Some American produced syndicated series are shown. Met Cable System offers four additional channels showing movies, sports and sitcoms. Investing in a satellite television system is another option if you desire a larger selection of news, entertainment and sports programming. Digital Satellite TV (MultiChoice) offers 44 channels featuring the entire range of programs as well as 40 music stations. This is very good value and relatively inexpensive to install, with a monthly fee similar to what you will pay for a cable subscription in the U.S.

In order to view American videos, you must have an NTSC VCR or a multi-system VCR. The local TV system is PAL-I. If you have a European PAL (CCIR) system television, a qualified TV repair shop can convert your set to PAL-I. American TV sets (NTSC) cannot receive South African television broadcasts. Video rental stores are located in most major metropolitan areas and are well stocked. VHS is the standard tape format in South Africa; however, rental videos are recorded on the PAL system and will not operate in an American VCR.

Radio in the area is varied, with many stations playing American music. The Voice of America (VOA) and BBC Radio are easily heard at night on an AM station and several short-wave bands.

Social Activities

Social activities are primarily family oriented with outings, braais (barbecues), and informal dinner parties being preferred. Children's birthday parties are festive occasions among the South Africans, with swimming parties, jumping castles, and visits to children's play-lands as favorite forms of celebration. Adults usually enjoy casual, at-home entertainment or dining out with friends. There are numerous fine restaurants in the area.

Three active American-oriented social clubs exist in the area-The American International Women's Club of Pretoria, the American International Women's Club of Johannesburg, and the American Society of South Africa. The latter is open to both men and women. All three enjoy a large membership and offer many activities for their members.

Cape Town

Cape Town easily qualifies as one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world. The sea and the mountains come together to create "The Fairest Cape in the Whole Circumference of the Earth," as Sir Francis Drake described it in the 16th century. Today Cape Town is a busy city with many of the advantages of a first-world infrastructure and economy. The outskirts of Cape Town, however, include many typical aspects of a large developing city.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers (December, January and February) and cool, wet winters (June, July and August). The weather is seldom extreme, except for frequent very strong winds. Sweaters and jackets are needed in the winter when temperatures can fall to the 40s. The lack of central heating in most homes intensifies the effects of the damp winters. Snow occasionally falls on the mountain peaks just north of Cape Town. Spring brings a riot of wild flowers to the area, while in autumn the numerous orchards and vineyards in the region turn red-orange.

Khoi-Khoi and San peoples ("Hottentots" and Bushmen in colonial-era parlance) lived in the Cape Town area for millennia prior to the arrival of Dutch settlers in 1652. The Dutch East Indies Company developed Cape Town as a "seaward looking caravansary on the periphery of the global spice trade." Many old buildings and farmhouses, built in the Cape Dutch style of architecture, link modern Cape Town with its historic past. The British controlled the Cape off and on from 1795 until 1910, when Cape Town became seat of parliament for the Union of South Africa. From colonial times through the 1948-94 apartheid era, Robben Island, located in Cape Town's Table Bay, was an infamous penal colony housing many political prisoners, including President Nelson Mandela.

Some three million people live in Cape Town, which serves as South Africa's parliamentary capital as well as the capital of the Western Cape Province. About half of the city's population is "colored," about a quarter is black, and a quarter is white. English predominates, but Afrikaans and Xhosa are also widely spoken. Approximately 1,900 Americans live in the consular district, with some 1,000 in the greater Cape Town area. Cape Town's economy is based on financial services such as banking and insurance, light industry (textiles, food processing), the harbor, fisheries, and tourism.

Cape Town is fast becoming a major tourist destination. Opportunities for active visitors include mountain climbing, hiking, fishing, golf, bird-and whale watching, horseback riding, bicycling, surfing and swimming (although the ocean is quite cold). Cape Town offers a wide variety of cultural events, including theater, concerts, art exhibitions, and first-run movies. World-class botanical gardens and national parks complement the scenic wine country near the city. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, somewhat akin to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, boasts more than 200 upscale retail outlets and restaurants.


Nursery school, kindergarten, elementary school, preparatory, and university education are available in Cape Town. Unless otherwise desired, instruction is in English. Anglican, Roman Catholic, and other religious denominations sponsor many private schools in Cape Town. Public schools are available. The educational system approximates that in Great Britain. Vacancies in most schools are very limited.

The school year is divided into 4 terms and runs from mid-January through mid December, each term lasting 10 weeks.

Afrikaans language study is required in all government and most private schools in the Western Cape, but exceptions are given to temporary residents (consular children) in most private schools. Language instruction other than Afrikaans usually begins in grade 5.

Most schools (except nursery schools) require students to wear a uniform. This usually includes, but is not limited to blazers, dresses or shirts and trousers, hats, sweater, stockings, shoes, gym suits, and in many cases underclothing. Purchase these items locally.

Special Educational Opportunities

Many adult classes at institutions such as the University of Cape Town (UCT), The University of Western Cape (UWC) and University of Stellenbosch offer instruction in the normal range of university studies, including various degree courses. Compared with American universities, the full-time annual tuition at these universities is inexpensive for a university of fairly high academic standards.

The Cape Technikon (Technical College) offers a wide selection of homemaking courses. A nominal fee is charged.


As mentioned above Cape Town offers excellent facilities for outdoor activities and sports, such as hiking, mountain climbing, bird and whale watching, tennis, golf, horseback riding, bicycling, surfing, swimming. There are several country clubs where expatriates might obtain membership. Initial fees for these clubs are substantial. Cape Town has two yacht clubs, and the peninsula boasts hundreds of small boat enthusiasts. One yacht club has headquarters in the port basin, the other is on a 600-acre freshwater lake 13 miles from Cape Town.

The Cape is unique in providing opportunities for both cold and warm water fishing. The wide range of fish around the reefs and beaches of the peninsula coastline provides excellent sport for anglers. Reasonably good freshwater fishing is also available.


Durban once famed as the "last outpost of the British Empire," today is the commercial, transport and vacation center of the Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) region. The city is in the heart of one of the nine provinces created after the historic general election in 1994. Out of a total of 7.7 million KZN population, the city proper has about 775,000 people and the entire metropolitan 2.5 million people.

Durban is located 437 miles Southeast of Pretoria, (5 hours by road or 1 hour by air) and 1,108 miles Northeast of Cape Town. It is the second largest city after Johannesburg and also the fastest growing in South Africa. Its expanding rates are similar to those of Mexico City and Lima.

Renowned as a tourist resort center, Durban is equally important as the largest international port in Africa, as an industrial commercial center and as a center of a thriving agricultural area. Although sometimes hot and humid, the year round subtropical and long stretch of beaches combine to make the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal a popular resort area.

Numerous cultures and subcultures co-exist in the city also known by its Zulu name Thekwini. The three major groupings totaling 2.5 million include 13.7% whites, 3% coloreds, 27% Indians and 57.3% Africans. The Zulus comprise the predominant cultural group.

Many people of British origin live in Durban, though in recent years more Afrikaans-speaking people have settled there, attracted down from the "reef " by the warmer weather and the low prices. As with major South African cities, former racial barriers remain evident in housing and in schooling but access to public facilities is fully open.

Americans in the Durban area number 3,200 persons of whom one-third live in Durban. Americans in Durban are mainly retired or American children of South African citizens, academics, and businessmen. Americans residing elsewhere in KZN are largely engaged in missionary work.


The division of Durban schooling into standards parallels the British system. South Africa's school year starts in January, but children are accepted at any time. School uniforms are compulsory for boys and girls. South African education, with its rigid curriculum requirements and often rigid rules governing behavior and appearance, is different from American education. Adjustment, particularly in the upper grades, may be difficult for American students.

Only two co-ed schools are located in Durban, but many excellent private schools for girls or boys (ages 8-18) are available. Several outstanding English-model boarding schools are located in the cool hill areas within an hour of Durban. A day and boarding school in Tongatt is about 25 minutes from the city, and this school extends from grade 7 to grade 12 (Standard V to matriculation). This school has a more relaxed atmosphere but high academic standards. The private schools are expensive, but standards are high.

Government schools average 30 students per classroom. Primary schools, up to and including Standard V (7th grade), charge minimal fees. At the high school level, some nominal fees are charged in government schools.

High schools offer a 5-year course culminating in the matriculation examination. Passing this examination qualifies a student for admission to a university. New students will have difficulty with instruction in Afrikaans, as it is part of the required curriculum as a second language in English-medium schools. Athletics, including cricket, rugby, swimming, and track, are usually included as part of the curriculum for boys. Girls participate in tennis, swimming, hockey, and basketball. Sports are a big interest for students and adults as well.

Three government high schools (one for boys and two for girls) are located in Durban North. Other high schools, private and government owned, are located in the city and may be reached by bus. Primary schools through grade 7 are distributed throughout the residential areas and are usually co-educational. On the average, not more than three or four American children attend any one school.

The University of Natal, with branches in both Durban and Pietermaritzburg, offers a wide variety of courses leading to degrees in liberal arts, science, engineering, and law. The University of Durban Westville also offers courses in these areas. In addition, many technical schools called "technikons" offer a range of courses in arts, design, dress making, commercial cookery, engineering, etc.

Some private nursery schools catering to 3-and 5-year-old children are available.

Special Educational Opportunities

Both the Universities of Natal and Durban Westville, as well as the technikons, offer adult part-time courses for academic credit. Actual degree programs are not offered part time. UNISA has offices in Durban that offer course work (including master's and doctoral) in various fields.

Private tutoring in music, ballet, and art is available to adults and children. Business courses and instruction in driving, flying, popular dance, fishing, diving, golf, tennis, swimming, riding, and ice skating, etc., are available. The cost of flight school is reasonable, and the instruction is excellent.


Durban offers recreational facilities of all types, with emphasis on outdoor sports for both spectators and participants. The many parks and playgrounds for children and the beaches are among the finest in South Africa. Sports, including yachting, fishing, golf, tennis, swimming, and bowls, may be enjoyed throughout the year, but access to some sports requires membership in a private club. Durban also has an ice dome for skating. Other popular sports include rugby, cricket, tennis, horseracing, baseball, and squash.

Four first-class, 18-hole golf courses are within Durban proper and four or five more are within a radius of 15 miles. Local courses are not designed to accommodate golf carts. At most courses, nonmembers can play for a nominal green fee.

Excellent asphalt and concrete all-weather tennis courts, most of which are operated by private clubs, are available, but admission is by availability. Inexpensive aqua-cise classes and well-equipped health studios, which provide aerobics and individual training programs, are close to homes in Durban and in the central business district.

All types of sporting equipment can be purchased locally, though costs are slightly higher than in the U.S.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Durban is blessed with a wide range of outdoor recreational facilities. KZN offers hunting, fishing, camping, boating, mountain climbing, hiking, lake swimming, and sightseeing. Ocean swimming and surfing are major attractions, but Durban must contend with shark dangers. The city has instituted a system of shark netting to protect most of its public beaches.

The city maintains several museums, a botanical garden, library, aquarium, and an aviary. Game reserves are within a few hours' drive from Durban, as are extensive parks and nature reserves.


American, English, and other films are shown at reasonable prices. Visiting professional repertory companies present plays and musicals, and several university and amateur companies perform regularly.

The city boasts many excellent restaurants and many nightclubs, ranging from sailors' dives to plush discos.

Photography is popular in Durban, and all equipment, including developing and printing services, is available at higher than U.S. prices.

Many colorful and interesting local festivals, including fire-walking ceremonies in the Indian community and Zulu dancing, especially the Zulu King's Reed Dance, are popular attractions.


Johannesburg is a city of skyscrapers but is often called the Golden City for the gold mines in the surrounding area. It is the industrial, commercial, and financial capital of South Africa. Hotels, restaurants, theaters, shops, homes, and apartment buildings are similar to those in modern European and American cities.

Johannesburg is South Africa's largest city. Located 35 miles south of Pretoria, it is 300 square miles with an official population of 1.6 million. PWV area (Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Vereeniging) has about 7.4 million people. This figure includes the black township of Soweto, which is an integral part of the Johannesburg metropolitan area. Estimates of Soweto's population exceed 2 million. Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Southern Transvaal have an American community of about 7,000.


Most American children attend local, private, or public schools, or the American International School serving the Johannesburg/Pretoria area. Attendance is daily, but limited boarding facilities are available.

Popular schools for boys include: Marist Brothers St. David's College (private, Catholic); King Edward (public); St. John's (private, Anglican); St. Stithian's (private, Methodist); Woodmead (private); and King David (private, Jewish). Most private schools are oversubscribed and have long waiting lists for admission.

Girls' schools include: Roedean (private); Kingsmead (private); Park-town Convent School (private, Catholic); St. Andrews (private, Anglican); and St. Mary's School for Girls (Anglican). Redhill is a private coeducational school. Parents are responsible for transportation to private schools.

Johannesburg also has a large number of private preschools (including Montessori) in the suburban areas.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is South Africa's largest English-language university. Its eight faculties include arts, science, medicine, engineering, commerce, law, dentistry, and architecture. The university confers degrees in arts (including education, fine arts, music, public administration, and social work); science, medicine, physiotherapy, engineering (chemical, civil, electrical, land surveying, mechanical, mining, and mining geology); commerce, law, dentistry, architecture, town and regional planning, and quantity surveying. It also grants post-graduate and undergraduate diplomas and certificates. Classes are during the day only.

Other educational opportunities are provided by several vocational schools, technical colleges, and colleges of education. These institutions serve as professional training centers for whites and nonwhites.


Facilities for all sports are available and enjoyed throughout the year. See also SportsPretoria.


Johannesburg is larger and more cosmopolitan than Pretoria and offers considerably more by way of restaurants, theaters, museums, art galleries, and night life. For general information, see also EntertainmentPretoria.

Social Activities

The American Society of South Africa holds several large annual dinners, dances, and outings. The American International Women's Club has numerous activities, including talks and outings. Many opportunities for volunteer work are available.


Bloemfontein, the republic's judicial capital, is also the capital of the Free State. It is a bright and modern Afrikaner city, about 295 miles west of Durban, and close to the border of Lesotho, the "enclave country " which lies within the boundaries of South Africa. Bloemfontein is noted for its beautiful parks and gardens and for the many buildings which date back to the founding of the city in the middle of the 19th century. On Naval Hill, overlooking Bloemfontein, is a large game reserve featuring eland, springbok, and blesbok, animals indigenous to the area. The Lamont-Hussey Observatory, established on Naval Hill in cooperation with the University of Michigan, now serves as a theater.

The Appeal Court, the highest judicial authority in South Africa, is located here, as are the Supreme Court and the official residences of the Free State president, the state administrator, and the chief justice of the republic. Among the newer attractions is Sand du Plessis Theatre, which is the venue for opera, ballet, and conferences. Bloemfontein's Zoological Garden in King's Park is the home of the famous "liger," a cross between an African lion and a Bengal tigress; a large collection of apes is also featured.

The University of the Orange Free State, formerly a constituent college of the University of South Africa, was founded here as an independent institution in 1950. There are currently nine faculties and a student body of close to 9,000. Bloemfontein is also the home of the noted Boyden Station Observatory. The metropolitan population is about 400,000.


Situated 20 miles east of Johannesburg at an altitude of 5,600 feet is BENONI , home to such industries as iron and steelworks and a brass foundry. It has a metropolitan population of 406,000. Benoni began as a mining camp in 1887, and today is an important mining center with some of the richest gold mines in the world.

BOKSBURG is the principal gold-producing city of the region just east of Johannesburg, with a population of about 290,000. Electric motors, cranes, soap, and ceramics are among its products. The town is surrounded by residential suburbs and is the focal point of a number of major roads.

South Africa's largest railway junction is at GERMISTON , immediately southeast of Johannesburg. This city of some 284,000 residents is the site of the Rand Refinery, the largest gold refinery in the world. Gold bullion from all over the country is recovered here. Germiston also has smelting, cotton-ginning, and other industries.

KIMBERLEY , an industrial city of close to 190,000 people, is the capital of the Northern Cape province and lies about 90 miles west of Bloemfontein. It was founded in 1871 following the discovery of diamonds in the region. Kimberley is the world's diamond center (DeBeers and Kimberley are among the mines in operation), but it is known also as a commercial center and rail hub. To the south of the city are several Boer War battlefields. Kimberley's scenery is marked by large pits and mounds of earth, the aftermath of mining operations. Today, diamond mining and cutting remain prominent industries. Kimberley is also a marketing and service center for a prosperous irrigated-farming and cattle-raising area. Iron, salt, and gypsum are also mined near Kimberley.

KRUGERSDORP , in the northeast 20 miles west of Johannesburg, is the site of the Paardekraal Monument, commemorating the victory of the Boers over the Zulu chieftain Dingaan on December 16, 1838. It is the object of an annual pilgrimage. The city is a mining and industrial center. Gold deposits have declined steadily in recent years. Manganese, asbestos, and limestone are also mined near Krugersdorp. The Sterkfontein Caves and archaeological sites are near the town, which was founded in 1887 and has a population of about 225,000.

LADYSMITH , located in northwestern KwaZulu-Natal province, was founded by the British in 1850. The town was the sight of a 115-day siege during the Boer War. The Boers besieged the town from November 2, 1899 until February 28, 1900 cutting off all supplies. Many people died during the siege and subsequent British operation to rescue the town. Today, Ladysmith has almost 100,000 residents. The city serves as an important rail junction and industry is based on food processing and the nearby KwaZulu-Natal coal fields.

PAARL , 30 miles east of Cape Town, is known for its agricultural products. Wine-making has been a part of the city's life since the Huguenots introduced viticulture in the 17th century. Citrus fruits, tobacco, and olives are also important products. Cigarettes, processed foods, and textiles are manufactured here. Paarl is a center of education, with a population of about 156,000.

PIETERMARITZBURG , a city of 420,000, lies in the eastern part of the country in KwaZulu-Natal. There is currently uncertainty whether the provincial capital will be in Pietermaritzburg or Ulundi. Its name, unfamiliar to most foreigners (except those acquainted with South Africa's history and geography), is derived from the names of two Boer War leaders, Pieter Retief and Gert Maritz. The city has several industries, producing rubber and aluminum products, furniture, footwear, and rice. One of the University of Natal's campuses is here (the other is at Durban). The Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve, Union Park, Municipal Game Reserve, Bakone Malapa Open-Air Museum, and the Scottsville Race Course are among the city's many attractions.

PORT ELIZABETH , located in southeastern Cape Province 400 miles east of Cape Town, is a major seaport for South Africa, and the center of the automobile industry. Although it was settled in 1799, there was no real development until the completion of the Kimberley Railroad 75 years later. The current metropolitan population is about 834,000. A notable seaside resort, Port Elizabeth is also known for its Snake Park, which features more than 2,000 reptiles. In addition, Addo Elephant Park is nearby. Excellent communications, cheap power, and water combine to create one of the country's busiest manufacturing centers. Tourists are attracted by Port Elizabeth's beautiful beaches and excellent surfing.

ROODEPOORT , 12 miles west of Johannesburg, is an industrial and residential. It was founded with the discovery of gold in 1885 and has since expanded through the annexation of nearby areas. It was here that the noted colonial administrator, Leander Starr Jameson, was captured in 1895 after leading an unauthorized and premature raid into Boer territory. The venture became famous as Jameson's Raid. Roodepoort's eastern section is an industrial and manufacturing district. Most of the city's residents live in the western portion of Roodepoort.

SOWETO is a residential community adjacent to Johannesburg, with its name taken from the South-Western Townships. Soweto has a population of over one million people, primarily Zulus and Xhosas. Homes in Soweto range from stately mansions to makeshift shantys. The township was the scene of the Soweto Rebellion, the 1976 uprising that focused international attention on apartheid. A Community Council authorizes the development of roads, transport, water supply, housing, and electricity. Other municipal services include schools, libraries, sports facilities, playgrounds, and hospital. Since Soweto has very little industrial development, most of Soweto's residents commute to Johannesburg for employment.

SPRINGS , a manufacturing town of almost 180,000 residents, 29 miles east of Johannesburg, was the world's most productive gold-producing area in the 1950s. It began as a coal-mining camp in 1885. Glass, machine tools, bicycles, foodstuffs, cosmetics, and paper are manufactured in Springs today.

VEREENIGING , 35 miles south of Johannesburg on the Vaal River, was the site of peace negotiations that ended the South African (or Boer) War in 1902. It is one of the country's major industrial communities, manufacturing iron and steel products, bricks, glass, and tiles. Large local thermal power stations transmit electricity through the national grid. Demonstrations in 1960 denouncing pass laws at the nearby township of Sharperville led to the shooting deaths of 69 blacks. The population is about 385,000.

WELKOM , located southwest of Johannesburg, was founded in 1947 amid goldfields. The booming gold industry helped Welkom to become Free State's second largest city. Welkom, with a population of 226,000, continues to grow quickly. It is a wealthy industrial city whose inhabitants boast the highest per capita income in the country. The city has numerous citizens, drive-in theaters, a variety of restaurants, a library, and numerous modern sports facilities.


Geography and Climate

South Africa lies at the southern tip of the African continent. To the west, south and east, South Africa borders on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with a coastline of 1,83 6 miles. To the north, South Africa shares common borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. The independent kingdom of Lesotho is completely enclosed by South Africa.

South Africa has a narrow coastal zone and an extensive interior plateau with altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. Lacking arterial rivers or lakes of significance, extensive water conservation and controls are necessary. South Africa's 472,494 square mile area is about twice the size of Texas. South Africa has nine provinces, starting from the south they are the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northwest and Northern Provinces.

South Africa has a moderate climate with sunny days and cool nights. The most southerly point has a mean yearly temperature of 61.8 degrees Fahrenheit, while Johannesburg about 1,000 miles to the northeast and 5,700 feet higher, has an annual mean of 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Pretoria is 4,452 feet above sea level and has a mean annual temperature of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures can be deceiving because of the very bright and dangerous high sun during most of the year, especially in the high yield areas.

Pretoria and Johannesburg in Gauteng Province are on the high plateau. The surrounding countryside is characterized by treeless, rolling hills. The Magaliesberg Mountain Range is thirty miles northwest of Johannesburg and about the same distance west of Pretoria. The large Hardebeestport Dam is located in this area. The more picturesque Drakensberg Mountain Range (located in Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal) extends north and south 200 miles to the east. Its beautiful peaks rise to 11,000 feet in Lesotho. The lower range of the Lebombo Mountains form the eastern boundary of the Johannesburg Consular District in the Mpumalanga Province.

The Free State offers a geographic variety of high plateaus spotted with barren but picturesque hills on the East and characterized by flat country to the west and south. The Vaal River separates the Free State from Gauteng Province. Bloemfontein is the provincial capital of the Free State as well as the Judicial Capital of South Africa.

Durban, located on the eastern seaboard of the Indian Ocean, is the principal city in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province and the largest seaport in Africa. Its shoreline extends north and south, along the Indian Ocean. Topographically, the coastal belt of Kwa-Zulu Natal rises sharply from the ocean to a fertile central plateau and then extends to the escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountain Range.

The Western Cape has the widest range of scenic attractions, including the Mediterranean-like luxuriance of the Cape Peninsula, rolling uplands to the east, excellent surfing beaches, the majestic peaks of the Katberg, the placid lakes of the Wilderness on the south coast of the picturesque Garden Route, and the vast, arid distances of the Karoo and in the northern and northwestern Cape.

Although the country lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn, the inland areas are tempered by the high altitude. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are opposite those of the U.S.-summer extends from October to March; winter from June to September. The rainy season in the Pretoria-Johannesburg area is during summer, and the temperature seldom rises above 90°F, with cool nights. Winter is dry and cool with daily temperatures varying from as low as 30°F during night to as high as 75°F during day.

Along the coastal area where Durban and Cape Town are located, heavier rainfall occurs during winter and spring, causing high humidity. Both cities experience strong winds-Durban from August through October and Cape Town throughout the year. The seasons are not pronounced but blend almost imperceptibly. South Africa's climate is comparable to that of central and southern California. For the most part, trees and shrubs remain green, with flowers blooming throughout the year. The high veld, however, which includes the Pretoria-Johannesburg area, has a dry, brown landscape during the winter drought period.


Census figures indicate South Africa's population is 44.6 million. This attempts to take into account the unknown numbers of non-documented immigrants moving into the country from neighboring African states. Because ethnicity is politics in South Africa, a country with a history of cultural diversity, most analyses of the country's population are broken down into the major cultural and linguistic groupings. As of this date, no generally recognized nomenclature has yet taken the place of the former apartheid categories which were used as an instrument of racial domination and suppression. The terms remain and are used in the census descriptively rather than prescriptively as in the past: "Africans" or "blacks" constitute 34.3 million, or 77% of the population; "whites" 5.4 million, or 12%; "coloreds" (people of mixed racial origin) 3.8 million or 8.5%; "Asians" (including Indians) 1.2 million or 2.5%. (Source: Development Bank of South Africa) Of the population of European descent, 60% are native Afrikaans speakers, 40% native English speakers.

Most of the "colored" population lives in the Cape, while most South Africans of Indian descent live in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Eleven languages are officially recognized and enjoy equal legal status. In descending order of demographic importance they are Zulu (7 million), Xhosa (6 million), Afrikaans (5 million), Pedi, English, Tswana, Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda and Ndebele. While English is spoken by only 9% of South Africans in the home, it is the lingua franca of the country, with Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans spoken across a wide spectrum as well.

While many Africans still have no economic options other than to live in the rural areas (former "Home-lands") to which they were relegated by the apartheid regime, blacks of all ethnic groups can be found living and working throughout South Africa. About 75% of employed blacks work outside the Homelands to which they were originally assigned. The Homelands are now fully politically integrated into the country.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Boer War (or the "Anglo-Boer War," as it is called in South Africa) largely ignored the majority of indigenous peoples living on South African territory. The struggle was between "Afrikaner"-descendants of the Dutch, French Huguenots, and Germans who came to the Cape in the seventeenth century; and the English who arrived two centuries later. The influence of these two groups remains disproportionately high compared to their demographic representation, mainly because they were able to impose their political, cultural, and economic will over the country during the course of 300 years. Afrikaners are largely members of the Dutch Reformed ("NG") Church, traditionally a bastion of conservatism. Other religions found in South Africa include other Protestant as well as Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, and Hinduism, Judaism and Islam.

The system of legally mandated racial segregation, or "apartheid," is now officially dismantled though economic and social barriers still stand in the way of genuine integration. Former apartheid laws which held the system together (now repealed) were the Group Areas Act of 1950, which segregated residential neighborhoods by race; the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936, which restricted black ownership of land to certain designated homelands; and the Population Act of 1950, by which people were racially classified at birth.

The Homelands, which were never recognized by the U.S. or the world community at large, gathered ethnic groups in geographic areas, which were not conducive to trade, production or development. The efforts of the apartheid government to make life in these areas economically viable were a generally recognized failure. Much of the black labor from the Homelands was employed in areas of production outside the Homelands as transient workers. The practice was highly disruptive to the family structures of those employed.

Now that the impediments to free movement have been lifted, black migration to the cities has intensified, and has created challenges to urbanization with rapid shifts in population, and with infrastructures unprepared. Questions of land reform, electrification, potable water and other amenities have become acute. The ANC government can boast of doubling school enrolment since it took office in 1994, and in major advances in rural electrification. However, housing construction has followed at a much slower pace.

Local and national governmental structures have generally passed to the hands of the majority population, and antidiscrimination laws have been passed in areas such as fair employment and fair access to housing. However, economic readjustments have taken only baby steps thus far, with high unemployment exacerbating the sense of stagnancy in the black community. The official figures on unemployment hover at 28-30%, while the generally accepted rate is 50-60%. In the townships, the figure often approaches 80-90%.

Another indicator of discrepancies in the lifestyle of the various ethnic groups is life expectancy, which for whites is 73.1 years, but remains at 60.3 for blacks (and 66.5 for coloreds and 68.9 for Asians). Birth rates have declined in recent years in all ethnic groups, from 40 per 1000 for blacks in 1970 to 25.3 in 1994; versus 22.9 for whites in 1970 down to 13.7 in 1994 (source: Central Statistical Service).

Crime remains a challenge for the government and the citizenry, with all ethnic groups among the victims. Homicide, now stemming generally from criminal and not political motives, stands at a proportional rate of seven times that of the U.S.

Public Institutions

The new Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, signed into law on December 10, 1996, codifies the separation of powers, appropriate checks and balances and a far-reaching Bill of Rights. South Africa is one of the few countries, which, through a single entrenched law, protects all universally accepted fundamental rights against government interference and individual abuse. Socioeconomic rights such as housing, health care, access to food and water, social security and basic education are also recognized. The constitution makes the bill of rights "horizontal" in its application, binding private persons as well as the State.

In terms of the constitution, the Constitutional Court is the highest court in cases regarding the interpretation, protection and enforcement of the constitution. While the Constitutional Court decides on constitutional matters only, the Supreme Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal against any decision of a High Court.

After centuries of minority rule and decades of confrontation, South Africa held its first democratic election in April 1994. The African National Congress (ANC) obtained 62.65% of the national vote in the 1994 elections against the National Party's (NP) 20.39%, the Inkatha Freedom Party's (IFP) 10.54%, the Freedom Front's (FF) 2.17%, the Democratic Party's (DP) 1.73%, the Pan Africanist Congress's (PAC) 1.25% and the African Christian Democratic Party's (ACDP) 0.45%. Nelson Mandela (ANC) subsequently became President, with Thabo Mbeki (ANC) as Executive Deputy-President and FW de Klerk (NP) as Deputy-President. On a provincial level the ANC won seven out of the nine provinces, while the NP won a majority in the Western Cape and the IFP in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Cabinet consists of the President, the Executive Deputy-President and 25 Ministers appointed by the President. A party with at least five percent of the seats in the National Assembly, which decides to take part, may have one or more Cabinet posts based on the number of seats it holds.

Government is structured at national, provincial and local levels. Instead of a clear division of powers, the constitution introduces the concept of "co-operative governance" in terms of which each tier of government must endeavor to resolve any disputes by mediation and negotiation.

Parliament consists of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and the National Assembly. The Senate was replaced by the NCOP, which came into operation on February 4, 1997. The NCOP was established to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national legislature. South Africa is divided into nine provinces, each with its own Legislature, Premier and Ministers.

The National Assembly consists of 400 members elected by a system of proportional representation. Each party has a number of seats based on the share of the votes gained in the 1994 election. Of the 400 members, 200 were elected on a national list and 200 on provincial lists.

There are currently seven political parties represented in the South African Parliament and the seat representation in the National Assembly is as follows:

African National Congress, 252
National Party, 82
Inkatha Freedom Party, 43
Freedom Front, 9
Democratic Party, 7
Pan Africanist Congress, 5
African Christian Democratic Party, 2

The ANC has succeeded in stabilizing the inflation rate and liberalizing exchange control regulations, but unemployment, low economic growth and housing shortages remain serious problems. The ANC has had problems maintaining labor support for its "liberal" Growth, Equity and Redistribution (GEAR) macro-economic framework.

With the May 1996 withdrawal of the NP from the Government of National Unity (GNU), party politics entered a new phase. Deputy President FW de Klerk's resignation from the Cabinet left the ANC in almost total charge of government, with the IFP receiving two ministerial positions. The NP has been racked by internal tensions and resignations; has experienced a distinct decline in the opinion polls; has had little success in building a black support base; and may be headed towards a future as a regional political entity in the Western Cape.

While the IFP remains a powerful force in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, it has lost substantial support amongst White and Indian voters, leaving little formal organization outside of its key support base of Zulus in the Kwa-Zulu Natal hinterland. More serious to the IFP is the party's loss of popular electoral support amongst Zulus in the urban areas of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The IFP now faces a dilemma-to move closer to the ANC in order to form an alliance or to keep its distance, acting as a regional opposition party.

Born out of the Afrikaner nationalist far right, the Freedom Front (FF) has continuously engaged the ANC-led government in pursuing its goal of protecting Afrikaner minority rights in the new South Africa. A pragmatic approach from General Constand Viljoen has made him one of the most respected white political leaders outside the ANC. A dwindling ethnic-Afrikaner support base and the ANC's refusal to countenance the creation of a "volkstaat" does not bode well, however, for the party in the run-up to the next election.

The DP, while outperforming many of its rivals in proposing alternative policies to those offered by the ANC, is still hampered by its inability to break out of its narrow support base of middle-income whites. The party has bounced back after a poor performance in the 1994 elections under the dynamic leadership of Tony Leon. The party refused an offer in 1997 from President Mandela to join the government, preferring to polish its opposition credentials.

The Pan Africanist Congress is still unable to attract any large-scale support away from the ANC. The party is simply too small with too few symbols of the struggle to attract meaningful quantities of black voters.

Arts, Science, and Education

Most South African cities have an active cultural life. Each province has a Performing Arts Council, subsidized by the central government, whose productions come from both the Western and indigenous repertoires. Following the end of the cultural boycott, a number of prominent foreign artists have recently appeared in South Africa. Johannesburg has several ambitious multiracial performing arts centers and an active local community theater. South Africa is highly developed scientifically. Its scientists are well educated, and many have international reputations. The veterinary faculty of the University of Pretoria at Onderstepport is one of the world's finest. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) covers a wide range of scientific research. The medical profession is highly developed, and significant progress has been made in experimental medicine-South Africa was the pioneer in successful heart transplant surgery. The Medical Research Institute is capable of the development and production of sophisticated pharmaceuticals. South Africa has 21 universities that include those in the former Homelands. They are open to all races, although historically many have been reserved for either white or black students. All of the most prestigious traditionally white institutions now freely admit qualified blacks. The University of South Africa, with 110,000 enrolled, offers instruction to all races by correspondence. Admission is based on stringent matriculation examinations. Universities do not yet have programs of general studies during the first 2 years as in American universities, but require specialization for the entire 3-year course at which the bachelor degree is given. "Honors," the completed fourth year of university instruction, provides the equivalent of a 4-year U.S. bachelor's degree. Other bachelor degrees may take 4-5 years. A bachelor of architecture takes 6 years.

For those students not attending the American International School in Johannesburg (AISJ), which provides a standard American high school curriculum, entry into American universities may pose some problems. Some students may have difficulty in adjusting to different curriculum standards beginning with Standard 9 (11th grade) when local students begin a 2-year matriculation program geared toward entry into the local university system. An above-average student should have little difficulty, but a weak student, without the benefit of pre-matriculation curriculum training, may find it difficult to master the program without tutoring, particularly in science and mathematics which are accelerated compared to most American public schools. The school year begins in January and ends in December with 3-4 week holidays separating the three school terms.

The South African curriculum is a blend of British and South African education (i.e., Standard 9 corresponds to the British Form IV and almost corresponds to U.S. grade 11-Standard 10 [Form V] is the matriculation year that is followed by university study). The regular matriculation course of study includes English, a physical science, a foreign language, a social science, a combined mathematics course, and minor courses such as art and physical education.

The manner in which subjects are presented in class may also require adaptation by American students. Mathematics is broken down into algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc., but is considered one completely integrated unit with advancing stages of difficulty each year. A percentage grading system is used in almost all schools that require clarification to U.S. university systems. In some high school courses, for example, 40% can be a pass and 75%-80% is frequently a distinction.

The local high school curriculum follows the same subject matter as in the U.S. (English, social science, foreign language, mathematics, etc.)

American students entering the matriculation process (Standard 9) at age 16 or 17 without previous earlier level study here may find little flexibility in course offerings. Students are required to take whatever language or social science is given in a particular school. World history is also a course that extends through the entire 2 year matriculation period and mainly focuses on South African and European history. Local schools do not teach American history which is required in the U.S. Matriculation courses are taught through the lecture method; students should take extensive notes and frequent examinations. The seminar or project educational method is rarely used in the public high school system. Examinations are given much emphasis and weigh heavily in determining the final grade. For these reasons, Americans with 17-and 18-year-old children (preparing for U.S. universities) may prefer to send their children to AISJ. AISJ enrollment as of June 1998 is approximately 600 students (K-12).

Contact AISJ directly (Tel 27-11-464-1505 and Facsimile 2711-464-1327). AISJ is accredited in all areas.

Commerce and Industry

Despite the introduction of democracy to South Africa in 1994, gross inequities continue to exist along racial lines in wealth, income distribution and education as a result of apartheid. In addition, the South African economy declined during apartheid's final decade and the increase since then has been too small to create the formal-sector jobs needed by the country's population. Nevertheless, much of the South African formal economy more closely resembles that of the United States or Western Europe than those of other African countries. There are modern transportation, communication and financial infrastructures that easily overshadow and dominate the economies of South Africa's neighbors. A large manufacturing sector produces a wide variety of consumer goods including automobiles, some of which are exported to Europe and Asia. Inflation has recently declined to about 5% and the decline of the Rand since 1996 has made prices on many items inexpensive in dollar terms. While tariffs on most items have declined considerably over the past few years, automobiles are still expensive relative to similar U.S. models. With the decline in the price of gold, mining is no longer the single most vital part of the economy. Agriculture, financial services and tourism are all strong and growing contributors to the South African GNP The economy is organized according to free market principles, but there remains from apartheid days considerable government involvement in many industrial sectors. The private sector remains dominated by six large industrial groups but the degree of dominance has declined considerably as the economy has opened to the outside world and local conglomerates restructure themselves in order to compete internationally.



Privately owned motor vehicles are essential in South Africa. Public transportation is available but does not serve all areas. Taxis must be called by phone but are not reliable and expensive.

Traffic moves on the left. Right hand drive imported Chryslers and Fords are now available (not US model) in South Africa. Other vehicles, which can be purchased from a bonded warehouse, are Saab, Volvo, Renault and Peugeot. Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, BMW and VW are available locally. 4 x 4 models currently available are Jeep, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Ford Explorer. Prices of new vehicles are competitive. Reconditioned vehicles can be imported from Japan. The quality of these vehicles seems satisfactory.

Leaded and unleaded gas is available locally and prices fluctuate regularly around R2.25 per liter.

The South African Foreign Ministry requires balance of third-party insurance for all vehicles, as a minimum. However, due to the high crime and accident rates in South Africa, comprehensive insurance is recommended. The Department of State requires personal liability insurance for all personal vehicles whilst vehicles are being driven in South Africa or any other African country. Local insurance companies offer the required coverage at good rates.


Public transportation to and from the city and around the suburbs is frequent and reliable during business hours. However, it does not serve all residential areas. Weekend and evening schedules are limited both in area of service and availability. Taxi service is available 24 hours daily by telephone because they do not service areas seeking passengers.


With few exceptions, international flights into South Africa land at Johannesburg International Airport located 16 miles from Johannesburg and 30 miles from Pretoria. However, there is a direct SAA/AA flight between Cape Town and Miami. International arrivals and departures with direct or connecting flights are scheduled to almost any point in the world. The American Airlines/South African Airlines code share provides daily flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to New York and Miami respectively. United/Lufthansa and North-west/KLM also provide daily service to the United States via Europe and return. South African Airways serves all major cities in South Africa. Service is good with numerous daily flights to Cape Town, Durban, and other cities. British Airways, operated by ComAir and Sun Air also serve major cities in South Africa as well as neighboring cities including Windhoek, Victoria Falls and Gaborone.

Railroad transportation with South Africa is available. The Blue Train from Pretoria or Johannesburg to Cape Town provides luxury service at very high cost but make reservations well in advance.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone communications in South Africa are good. International Direct-dial connects all major cities and connections to the U.S. are good but rates are higher than in the U.S. Many people use MCI, SPRINT, AT&T or a call-back service for their long distance carrier. Telegraph service is available at reasonable rates to all parts of the world.


International mail to and from the U.S. is reliable and takes 8-14 days. Air letter forms may be used in either direction at a reduced rate. International surface mail from the U.S. takes 4-8 weeks.

Radio and TV

South Africa's state-owned television service (SABC-TV) broadcasts daily on three channels. SABC 1 and SABC2 offer entertainment and news programs in all of South Africa's eleven official languages. SABC3 offers news, entertainment and educational programming in English only. All SABC-TV broadcasts are in the PAL-I system. American broadcast standard (NTSC) television sets will not work properly in South Africa. Cable TV (M-NET) and Direct Satellite TV (MultiChoice) are available at reasonable costs. These services offer movies, sports, and American and international news, and audio programming. South Africa's first privately owned free-to-air television station is scheduled to begin broadcasting in late 1998.

Video rental stores are common throughout South Africa. Rental tapes are all in VHS format and PAL system. Your VCR must either be a PAL or multi-system machine to view locally rented videotapes.

Radio in South Africa ranges from low-power community stations (broadcasting mostly in FM), to state-owned SABC stations throughout the country, to several new privately owned stations. There is a format for every taste. For local news, listen to Radio 702 (702 kHz) and SAFM (103 to 107 MHz). VOA reception at 909 kHz is very good in the evenings and early mornings.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

English-language newspapers are published daily in South Africa. The Star, Sowetan, Pretoria News, Business Day, Citizen (in the Johannesburg-Pretoria area), the Cape Times and the Cape Argus (in Cape Town), and the Mercury and Natal Witness (in Durban) are the main English-language dailies. Weeklies include the Weekly Mail

Guardian and City Press. The two main Sunday papers are the Sunday Times and the Sunday Independent. The International Herald Tribune, Time, and Newsweek are available at bookstores or by subscription at slightly higher than U.S. prices. Reader's Digest is also published in South Africa. Bookstores are well stocked with current books and magazines, including technical journals. U.S. editions of magazines may be received through the pouch or through international mail, but may arrive several weeks late. You may also use the Internet to access publications, news and information.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

South Africa medical and dental facilities in the major cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban, Cape Town, Nelspruit, Kimberly, Rustenberg, and Port Elizabeth are excellent.

Specialists of all types are available in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, and Durban. Many excellent private hospitals and clinics are available and most public university hospitals are also well equipped. Nursing care is excellent. Extremely modern and well-equipped laboratory and radiology facilities exist throughout the country. A highly developed pharmaceutical industry produces or imports a complete listing of medications.

Community Health

High standards for community sanitation exist in the major cities. The water is potable and in good supply. Sewage and refuse disposal is good. Electricity supply is excellent. Minor traffic congestion and city pollution exist.

Animals are immunized for rabies. A lowland, rainy season annual increase in malaria cases occurs requiring travelers to those areas to take malarial prophylactics. The AIDS virus has reached epidemic levels in South Africa. Because of the high caseloads of HIV disease, tuberculosis cases are also increasing.

Fresh water lakes and rivers are infested with the schistosomiasis (bilharzia) parasite that enters through the skin.

Restaurants in general are reputable and prepare good food with sanitary techniques.

Meat, poultry and seafood can be purchased locally and prepared normally. Insects and vermin are no major problems although occasional poisonous snake and scorpion exposure occurs.

Vegetables and fruits require no special treatment, and milk and milk products are pasteurized.

Preventive Measures

Pretoria and Johannesburg are between 5000 and 6000 feet above sea level causing some mild symptoms of increased fatigue upon arrival. These symptoms clear in a couple of weeks.

The climate is dry with increased dust in the highlands. Solar exposure is increased and sun block, protective clothing and sunglasses should be used.

Although malaria is not a problem in the major cities of South Africa, medication prophylactics is needed in lowland areas near the game parks and along the Zimbabwean/Mozambican borders.

In South Africa, precautions are mandatory for sexual and body fluid exposure due to the high incidence of AIDS. Unprotected sex must be avoided. Blood exposure should occur only in hospitals with HIV testing available.

Fresh water wading and swimming should be avoided due to schistosomiasis. Yellow fever immunizations are required for travel to tropical countries, and South Africa requires proof of immunization if you visit any of those countries.


Passage, Customs and Duties

When packing, remember that seasons are the reverse of those in the U.S. Spring and fall coincide approximately with fall and spring in the U.S.

South Africa has tightened its visa requirements for certain categories of visitors. Only visitors on tourism, short business consultations, or in transit do not require visas; others need visas or they will be refused admission and returned to their point of origin. Visitors who intend to work in South Africa must apply for work permits abroad at the appropriate South African embassy or consulate. Travelers entering South Africa from countries where yellow fever is endemic are often required to present their yellow World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination record or other proof of inoculation, or they must be inoculated at the airport in order to be permitted entry. Travelers may obtain further information from the Embassy of South Africa, 3051 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 232-4400, web site at, or, the South African consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest South African embassy or consulate.

Travelers should avoid nighttime travel and use caution when driving in the former "independent home-lands" of Transkei and Ciskei, which have been incorporated into the provinces of Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Some areas, such as the "wild coast" in the former Transkei, have significant levels of crime and inadequate medical services. This situation, though improving, has caused problems for foreign travelers to the area. Travelers may contact the U.S. Consulate General in Cape Town or the U.S. Consulate General in Durban for further information before embarking on trips to these areas.

Americans living in or visiting South Africa are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the nearest U.S. consulate and obtain updated information on travel and security within South Africa. The U.S. Embassy is located at 877 Pretorius Street Arcadia in Pretoria, telephone (27-12) 342-1048, fax (27-12) 342-5504. The U.S. Embassy web site is Note: The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg provides most consular services for Americans in the Pretoria area.

The Consulate General in Johannesburg is located at No. 1 River Street (corner of River and Riviera Road), Killarney, Johannesburg, telephone (27-11) 644-8000, fax (27-11) 646-6916. Its consular jurisdiction includes Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern, North West, and Free State provinces.

The Consulate General in Cape Town is located at Broadway Industries Center, Heerengracht, Fore-shore, telephone (27-21) 421-4280, fax (27-21) 425-3014. Its consular jurisdiction includes Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces.

The Consulate General in Durban is located at Durban Bay House, 29th floor, 333 Smith Street, telephone (27-31) 304-4737, fax (27-31) 301-8206. Its consular jurisdiction includes KwaZulu-Natal province.


At present, there is no quarantine imposed for pets being imported from the USA. Pets shipped from the US must be in possession of a valid rabies and health certificate and must be accompanied by the original import permit. The rabies vaccine must be older than 30 days and not older than one year. Your

local vet should carry out the health clearance, within 90 days prior to departure for South Africa. The area or Government vet must also clear the rabies and health clearance certificate within 90 days prior to departure for South Africa.

The following information must be furnished to obtain an import permit: Number and/or species and/or class of animal, Country and city of origin, Airport from which the animal will be loaded, Date of embarkation for South Africa, Address and telephone number to which the permit must be sent. Permits are sent via courier service at a cost of approximately $20.

Pets must travel as manifested cargo and may not be brought as excess baggage or in the cabin. Should you not comply with this regulation and/or provide the required documentation, the pet will be returned to the country of origin.

In addition to the above regulations, cats must be accompanied by a feline enteritis vaccination certificate and a rhinotracheitis vaccination certificate (snuffles vaccination).

Firearms and Ammunition

Those over age 16 or older may purchase locally from a reputable and licensed South African weapons dealer one rifle and one approved shotgun each for personal use provided they comply with all South African laws pertaining to the use and storage of such weapons. Under no circumstances is the purchase, possession or use of handguns permitted.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

South Africa's currency is the Rand (R). The rate of exchange in July 1998 was approximately $1 = R6.40; the rate is subject to frequent fluctuation. Banking facilities are adequate. With good Internet service available, Internet banking, for paying bills and transferring money in the U.S., is possible for an increasing number of people.

While Electronic Funds Transfers are not yet reliable enough to recommend within South Africa, FSC Paris does have the capability.

The South African Rand is a freely convertible currency and the rate against the US Dollar varies daily due to market influences. Many find it convenient to open a checking account with a local bank. Banks also have available Visa and MasterCard for your use, although the interest rates are high. Stateside credit cards can be used at most local stores including supermarkets, theaters, travel agencies and numerous retail outlets.

US Dollars and travelers checks as well as cashier checks are available from the banks given sufficient notice (usually two workdays).

The system of measurement in South Africa is primarily metric.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. 14 Valentine's Day

Feb/Mar. Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day*

Mar.(2nd Mon) Commonwealth Day*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday/Family Day*

Mar. 17 St. Patrick's Day

Mar. 21 Human Rights Day

Apr. 1 April Fool's Day

April 27 Freedom Day

May 1 Worker's Day

June 16 Youth Day

Aug. 9 National Women's Day

Sept. 24 Heritage Day

Oct. 31 Halloween

Nov 5 Guy Fawkes Day

Dec. 16 Day of Reconciliation

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Day of Goodwill



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.


Giliomee, H. and Schlemmer, L. From Apartheid to Nation-Building. Oxford University Press: Cape Town, 1989.

Gordon, L. (ed.). Survey of Race Relations in South Africa. South African Institute of Race Relations: Johannesburg, annual.

Gray, S. Modern South African Poetry. A.D. Donker Press, 1984.

Hope, C. White Boy Running. Secker and Warburg: London, 1988.

Malan, R. My Traitor's Heart. Bodey Head: London, 1990

McLachlan, G. R. and Liversidge, R. Roberts Birds of South Africa. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund: Cape Town, 1978. 4th ed.

Miller, P. Myths and Legends of Southern Africa. ABC Press, Ltd.: Cape Town, 1979.

Rose, P. The Wildlife of South Africa. Purnell: Cape Town, 1979.

Slabbert, F. van Zyl. The System and the Struggle: Reform, Revolt and Reaction in South Africa. Jonathan Ball Publishers: Johannesburg, 1989.

Sparks, A. The Mind of South Africa. Heinemen: London, 1990

Sparks, A. Tomorrow is Another Country.

Wilson, F. and Ramphele, M. Uprooting Poverty: The South African Challenge. David Philip Press: Cape town, 1989.

Art and Education

Auerback, E. Discrimination in Education. Centre for Intergroup Studies, University of Cape Town.

Bethlehem, R.W. Economics in a Revolutionary Society: Sanctions and the Transformation of South Africa. A.D. Donker (PTY) Ltd., 1988.

Carmner, D.J. and Woolston, VA. Southern Africa. World Education Series: Washington, D.C., 1980.

De Jager, E.J. Contemporary African Art in South Africa. Struik: Cape Town, 1979.

Biography and Autobiography

Biko, S. I Write What I Like.

Mandela, M. Long Walk to Freedom.

Mandela, N. The Struggle Is My Life. International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa: London, 1978.

Mathabane, M. Kaffir Boy.

Mattera, D. Memory Is the Weapon. Ravan Press: Johannesburg, 1987.

Mphalele, E. Down Second Avenue. Faber & Faber.

Rotberg, R. The Founder.

Woods, D. Biko. Henry Holt and Co.:New York, 1987.


Bethlehem, R. Economics in a Revolutionary Society. A.D. Donker Press: Craighall, 1988.

Lewis, S. The Economics of Apart-heid. Council on Foreign Relations Press: New York, 1990.

Wilson, E and Ramphele, M. Uprooting Poverty: The South African Challenge. David Phillip Press: Cape town, 1989.


Bosman, H. C. Bosnian at His Best. Human & Rousseau: Cape Town, 1965.

Brink, A. A Dry White Season. Fontana/Collins Publishing Group: London, 1989. 4th ed.

Brink, A. An Instant in the Wind. WH. Allen: London 1976.

Cloete, S. Rags of Glory. Fontana:London, 1974.

Coetze J.M. Waiting for the Barbarians Gordimer, N. A Sport of Nature. David Philip: Cape Town, 1987.

Gordimer, N. July's People. Viking Press: New York, 1981.

Gordimer, N. My Son's Story. David Philip/Taurus Publishers: Cape Town and Johannesburg, 1990.

Hooper, A.G. Short Stories from South Africa. Oxford University Press: Cape Town, 1973.

Joubert, E. The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena. Tafelberg: Cape Town, 1978.

Matshoba, M. Call Me Not A Man. Ravan Press: Johannesburg, 1979.

Michener, J. A. The Covenant. Random House: New York, 1980.

Nyatsumba, K. In Love with a Stranger Paton, A. Cry the Beloved Country. Scribner: New York, 1948.

Schreiner, O. Story of an African Farm. Schocken: New York, 1978 (First published 1883).

Smith, P. The Little Karoo. Jonathan Cape: London, 1972.

History and Geography

Adlridge, B. The Pictorial History of South Africa. Struik: Cape Town, 1973.

Boynton, G. Last Days in Cloud Cuckooland.

Crocker, C. High Noon in Southern Africa.

Davenport, T.R.H. South Africa-A Modern History. MacMillan: Johannesburg, 1978. 2d ed.

De Klerk, W. The Puritans in Africa A Study in Afrikanerdom. Collings: London, 1975.

Denoon, D. Southern Africa Since 1800. Longmans: London, 1972.

De Villies, M. White Tribe Dreaming. Viking Penguin Press: New York 1988.

Fage, J.D. and M. Verity. An Atlas of African History. Arnold: London, 1978. 2d ed.

Frederickson, G. M. White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History. New York, 1980.

Giliomee, H. and Schlemmer, L. From Apartheid to Nation-Building. Oxford University Press: Cape Town, 1989.

Lelyveld, J. Move Your Shadow. Penguin Press: Harmondsworth, 1985.

Lodge, T. Black Politics in South Africa since 1945. 1983, revised 1987.

Mathiane, Nomavenda. Beyond the Headlines. Truths of Soweto Life.

Meintjies, J. The Voortrekkers: The Story of the Great Trek and the Making of South Africa. Corgi: London, 1975.

Muller, C.F.J. Five Hundred Years: A History of South Africa. Academica: Pretoria, 1977. 2d ed.

Pakenham, T. The Boer War. Weidenfeldand Nicolson: London, 1979.

Pauw, J. In the Heart of Darkness.

Smith, A. H. (ed.). Africana Byways. Donker: Johannesburg, 1976.

Sullivan, D. South African Environment. MacDonald: Cape Town, 1977.

Thompson, L.A History of South Africa. Yale University Press: New Haven, Connecticut, 1990.

This is South Africa. Purnell: CapeTown, 1977.

Waldmeir, P. Anatomy of a Miracle.

Wilson, D.A. History of South and Central Africa. Cambridge University Press: London, 1975.

Wilson, M. and L. Thompson (ed.). The Oxford History of South Africa. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1969-71.


Becker, P. Trails and Tribes in Southern Africa. Hart-Davis MacGibbon: London, 1975.

Bims, C. T. The Warrior People. Zulu Origins, Customs, and Witchcraft. Hale: London, 1975

Breytenbach, B. The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist. Taurus: Johannesburg, 1984.

Hammond-Tooke, WD. (ed.). The Bantu Peoples of Southern Africa. Routledge Kegan Paul: London, 1974. 2d ed.

Innes, D. Disqualified. A Study of the Uprooting of the Coloured People in South Africa. Africa Publications: London, 1975.

Kuper, H. Indian People in Natal. Greenwood: Westport, 1974.

Mathiane, Nomavenda. Beyond the Headlines. Truths of Soweto Life.

Meer, E. The Ghetto People. A Study of the Effects of Uprooting the Indian People of South Africa. Africa. Publications Trust: London, 1975.

Munger, E.S. (ed.) The Afrikaners. Talefberg: Cape Town, 1979.

Venter, A.J. A Profile of Two Million South Africans. Human & Rousseau: Cape Town, 1974.


Adam, H. Modernising Racial Domination: South Africa's Political Dynamics. University of California, 1971.

Adam, H. H. Giliomee. The Rise of Afikaner Power. David Philip: Cape Town, 1979.

Carter, G. Which Way is South Africa Going? Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1980.

Crapanzano, Vincent. Waiting. The Whites of South Africa. Granada: London, 1985.

Gann, L.H. and P Duigan. Why South Africa Will Survive. Croom Helm: London, 1981.

Schneider, M. (editor) The Water-shed Years. Leadership Publications: Johannesburg, 1991.

Slabbert, E van Zyl. The System and the Struggle. Reform, Revolt and Reaction in South Africa. Johathan Ball Publishers: Johannesburg, 1989.

Starcke, A. Survival: Taped Interviews with South Africa's Power Elite. Tafelberg: Cape Town, 1978.

Van der Horst, S. (ed). A Review of Race Discrimination in South Africa. Jonathan Ball Publishers: Johannesburg, 1989.

Venter, L. South Africa After Mandela.

Wilkins, I. and H. Strijdom. Super-Afrikaners. Jonathan Ball Publishers: Johannesburg, 1978.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Cities of the World. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Cities of the World. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Cities of the World. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of South Africa
Region: Africa
Population: 43,421,021
Language(s): Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Literacy Rate: 81.8%
Number of Primary Schools: 20,863
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 7.9%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 12,625
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 8,159,430
  Secondary: 3,571,395
  Higher: 617,897
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 133%
  Secondary: 95%
  Higher: 17%
Teachers: Primary: 224,896
  Higher: 27,099
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 36:1
  Secondary: 29:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 131%
  Secondary: 103%
  Higher: 17%

History & Background

The Republic of South Africa is a constitutional parliamentary democracy of many years standing, which was dramatically transformed in 1994 when the previous Apartheid system of racist segregation was formally abolished. Situated at the southernmost end of the African continent, South Africa measures 1.2 million square kilometers. Bordered by Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe to the north and Mozambique to the northeast, South Africa's southern half is surrounded by water: the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. In its own northeastern region South Africa almost entirely encircles Swaziland; in its central eastern region South Africa territorially surrounds Lesotho. South Africa has a semi-arid climate, except for the east coast, where the climate is subtropical. The country's terrain consists of a large interior plateau surrounded by sharp hills and narrow coastal plain.

Cultural Background & History: Poised in a geographically strategic location, South Africa for centuries was the object of battles fought between European invaders and the indigenous Africans. South Africa today is a rich kaleidoscope of people, languages, and cultures. The first census of the post-Apartheid era, which began in 1994 with Nelson Mandela's election, was conducted in 1996 and indicated that South Africa had a population of 43 million people, 22 million of them women. While the next actual census would not be taken until October 2001, statisticians estimated South Africa's population in July 2001 to be approximately 44.6 million (not taking into account possible additional deaths due to HIV/AIDS), with the following composition of 'races' (i.e., socially determined categories invented by the European colonizers): 78.8 percent Africans/blacks, 8.7 percent "Coloureds" (i.e., persons of mixed 'race'), 2.5 percent Indians/Asians, 10.2 percent "Whites" (i.e., persons of European ancestry), and 0.1 percent "Others and unspecified." Regarding religious affiliation, 28.5 percent of South Africa's population at the turn of the millennium adhered to indigenous and animist beliefs while 68 percent of the population was Christian, 2 percent was Muslim, and 1.5 percent was Hindu.

With its extremely ethnically diverse population, South Africa has 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. Of the original African peoples who lived in the southern African tip, only a few members of the San ('Bushmen') and Khoi Khoi communities (Hottentots ) have survived. Anthropologists describe the majority of South Africa's indigenous people as Bantu-speaking people. (However, since aBantu refers to people and Isintu to language, this group of Africans should more accurately be designated Sintu-speaking people.) The Bantu include the Nguni, two-thirds of the African population who speak closely related 'languages' (more accurately, dialects of the Nguni languageisiZulu, isiXhosa, isiNdebele, and siSwati). The second largest group of indigenous South Africans is the Sothospeaking group, while the Tsonga and the Venda are smaller groups. The "Coloureds," along with the Afrikaaners (descendants of mainly Dutch, French Huguenot, and German settlers), speak Afrikaans, a language developed from Dutch by Khoi Khoi and Malaysian slaves as a pidgin language. South Africans of British and other European descent (notably, Jews from the Baltic states) identify themselves as English-speaking South Africans, while the Indian South African population mainly speaks Tamil, Hindi, and Gujarati.

Archaelogical sites in South Africa contain evidence of very early human settlements, invalidating the notion of terra nullius so beloved by the European colonial settlers who liked to consider themselves the first humans to inhabit the region. In the summer of 1995, geologist Dave Roberts discovered a set of fossilized footprints 117,000 years old in the sandy slopes of Langebaan Lagoon, on the Atlantic coast of South Africa, dating back to the period when the first anatomically modern humans emerged. For most of the past 100,000 years, the southern African region has been host to nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers living in nuclear familiesthe San. These groups lived in delicate ecological balance with their environment and knew, for example, how to aggregate and disperse in response to ecological necessity. They left posterity the benefit of their beliefs and rituals, outlooks, and activities in rock art found throughout the region. Some 2,000 years ago a group of agro-pastoralists, the Khoi Khoi, also took up permanent residence in the region. About 1,500 years ago, the iSintu-speaking people, who had migrated from the Great Lakes region of Africa, began to cultivate the soil, mainly in the summer rainfall river valleys of the southeastern part of Africa, introducing and developing techniques of growing edible crops such as millet and gourds. The domestication of cattle approximately 1,000 years ago in southern Africa created new possibilities for societal development, and political systems arose among the decentralized kingdoms of the region.

The arrival of Europeans in southern Africa was by far the most traumatic experience the indigenous communities had ever experienced by the 1600s. In 1652 the Dutch set up a mainland base in the territory of the Khoi Khoi for their East India Company (VOC) as a victualling station for their own passing ships. Observing the building of a stone castle and the settling of farmers on their land, the Khoi Khoi realized that the Dutch intended to stay and thus resisted bartering with them by withholding their own livestock and fought off the attempts of VOC expeditions to take their livestock by force. Thus began the systematic dispossession of indigenous populations that sparked off the Wars of Dispossession (the "Kaffir Wars") in the 1770s which lasted 100 years in the regionor more accurately, more than 3 centuries, terminating only with the establishment of South Africa's democratic government in 1994. Gradually the Dutch settlers overwhelmed the indigenous Africans by seizing their streams, land, and cattle and by incorporating the Khoi Khoi as farm laborers and into their militia, destroying the Khoi Khoi's political economy. The urgent need for labor experienced by the Dutch was reinforced by the 1688 arrival of French Huguenots, escaping religious persecution in Europe, and within the first decade of their arrival the Dutch brought in slaves from their Asian colonies, mainly from Malaysia, and from eastern and western Africa. These slaves became the nucleus of the subsequent "coloured" community.

The British occupied the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa in 1795 during the French revolutionary wars to prevent the southernmost part of Africa from falling into French hands. They returned it to the Dutch in 1803, only to reoccupy it in 1806. In 1820 British settlers came to live mainly in the eastern Cape, 1,000 kilometers east of Cape Town. As the original European settlements expanded from the coastal area into the interior, the Europeans inevitably came into conflict with the indigenous populations they encountered, due to the newcomers vying for the land and livestock of the original owners. The Kaffir Wars gradually gave the Europeans the upper hand, as the Europeans had more effective weapons of mass destruction than did the indigenous Africans. By the late 1800s they had managed to control all the territories previously belonging to the African people.

Although the British and Dutch shared a common purpose in oppressing and dispossessing the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, certain tensions between the European settlers soon resurfaced. In consequence, beginning in 1836, the Dutch settlers embarked on a more deliberate emigration to escape British colonialism. This event, called the Great Trek, moved them from the Cape Colony into the interior. The interior land, however, was not empty; rather, it already was inhabited by Africans, fertile and well watered, and provided a potentially cheap supply of labor, as the Dutch Voortrekkers soon discovered. This led the incoming Dutch to establish two republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, while the British took possession of the Cape Colony and Natal.

The discovery of diamonds in 1867 near the place where the Orange and Vaal Rivers meet and of gold in the Tati area, then in the eastern Transvaal in the 1870s, and in Witwatersrand brought the arrival in 1886 of European prospectors, mainly from Britain, and drew in African migrant workers as well. Resolving to extend their control to the new Boer republics of the Dutch settlers, the British eventually engaged the Dutch in the Anglo-Boer War, which lasted from 1899 until 1902 and ended with British victory in the battlefield, though the Boers officially won the peacea compromise to ensure the unity of the Europeans against the African indigenes to foster European control of the region. Agreement between the British and the Boers was reached in 1909 to establish a single country by combining the territories each group controlled into one nation. The Union of South Africa, known today as South Africa, came into being in 1910.

Racial differentiation in education took root from the beginning of European colonization in South Africa, with separate schools established for the different 'racial' groups. Essentially, the education system was designed to elevate Europeans above all other groups, who were programmed and socialized for subordinate roles in the European-dominated commercial and administrative systems to further the goals of South Africa's colonial overlords. As most of the early schools established for Africans were missionary institutions, an added objective was to proselytize to the Africans and assimilate them into Western culture and especially into Christian values of obedience and subservience to those in authority. By 1945 approximately 4,400 church-related schools were offering instruction in South Africa, compared with only 230 government schools. African culture, history, religion, values, botany, zoology, medicine, and so on provided no points of reference for African education, whether in the secular system or in missionary schools. European-administered education for Africans was designed for alienation and underdevelopment with all genuine educational opportunity reserved for the Europeans themselves.

To contest European domination, including in the schools, indigenous Africans established the South African Native National Conference (which later became the African National Congress) in 1912 as the first pan-tribal organization on the continent and resolved to gain their country back politically. Determined to master European learning as a tool to win the contest against the Europeans for control of southern Africa, the African poets and authors of the period, notably Citashe and W. B. Rubusana, voiced their new aspirations in their oft quoted slogan, Zemk' iinkomo magwalandini ("Your cattle are gone, you cowardly countrymen"). Their new call to arms favored the pen over the spear.

The uneasy coalition of the British and the Boers persisted further into the twentieth century and led to the formation of the National Party by the Boers, who by then were calling themselves Afrikaaners and their language Afrikaans. Organized politically in 1933, the National Party came into power in 1948 on a ticket of Apartheida policy of complete separation between Europeans and all others. This began the most intensive period of anti-African legislation South Africa had ever experienced. During the period of Apartheid, a system of so-called "Homelands" was established that relegated particular ethnic groups to separate parts of the country, and a pass system was set up that was strictly enforced to maintain official segregation shaped by the racist ideology of the National Party's adherents. By 1961 the National Party was withdrawing South Africa from the British Commonwealth. Over the next several decades South Africa witnessed its own increasing exclusion from world bodies and international fora, including representation in the United Nations, in response to its deliberate insistence on an unrelenting course of racism and the abuse of the majority of its citizens' human rights.

Resistance to segregation and Apartheid among Africans after the collapse of African kingdoms toward the close of the nineteenth century essentially emerged in several phases. During the first phase, the ANC, since the time of its formation, tried to petition the British crown against African exclusion from power and sent delegations to Britain to lobby the British government. Internally, the ANC sent the South African government similar pleas and even participated in Native Representative Councils set up as advisory councils to the South African government. All pleas to ameliorate the oppressive and exploitative conditions fell on deaf ears, however. When petitions and delegations failed to produce the desired effect, a group of powerful future leaders arose in 1944, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Robert Sobukwe, to form the ANC Youth League. Calling for a Program of Action to challenge European state control directly through protest, they launched the Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws in 1951-1952 and employed passive resistance to make their mark on the government and history of education in South Africa.

In 1960 the state outlawed the ANC as well as an ANC splinter group, the Pan African Congress (PAC), led by Robert Sobukwe which had been formed a year earlier to protest the inclusion of Europeans in the liberation movement, whom PAC members accused of watering down the demands of the oppressed African masses in order to safeguard the interests of whites. The broad liberation movement went underground and embarked on guerrilla warfare. The government had hoped that it had completely fragmented resistance from the disadvantaged and oppressed and that it had separated these downtrodden groups from their white liberal sympathizers, especially those from the "open universities." In reality, these universities became hotbeds of revolution. Calls for a "Black Consciousness" rose in the late 1960s from every segregated campus that were at first welcomed by the government because they seemed to accord with the government's own policy of complete separation of the races. The emergence of the South African Students' Organization in 1968, a breakaway group under the leadership of Steve Bantu Biko from the multiracial and patronizing National Union of South African Students was the harbinger of a new revolutionary spirit among the oppressed that was to sweep across South Africa and eventually bring Apartheid down to its knees. The students at the segregated universities, along with students in primary and secondary schools, far from being socialized to accept Apartheid and its design for them, offered what increasingly became the most potent challenge to white domination in South Africa.

Overt African resistance inside South Africa was mounted largely by the Black Consciousness Movement in its various formulations with a base among students mobilized to rise against Apartheid through such actions as the "Soweto" uprising of 1976. The following year, however, the Apartheid regime outlawed Black Consciousness just as it had done to the ANC and the PAC. The Movement's most eminent leader, Steve Biko, was murdered in police detention, an event that created a fresh outburst of anger. A final push began under the umbrella of the United Democratic Front formed in 1983, the labor movement that had been legalized in 1979 only "to bring the unions out into the open and crush them." Notwithstanding brutal repression under a State of Emergency first proclaimed by the South African government in 1985, the strategy to undermine workers failed and resistance on the ground swelled as never before with growing international support and economic sanctions, eventually leading to the capitulation of the Apartheid state. In February 1990 President F. W. De Klerk, South Africa's last non-indigenous head of state, removed the ban on the ANC and the PAC and announced the release of all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, as well as an amnesty on exiles associated with the liberation movement. This set the stage for a negotiated settlement finally reached in 1994.

The Homelands system was abolished with the end of Apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as president. However, the social and economic disruptions caused by the Homelands Act and the brutality of South Africa's official structures during the years of National Party rulenot to mention the resultant fragmentation of African families and communitiesare likely to take generations to overcome. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa during the 1990s and beyond has focused in large measure on repairing the extensive damage done not only to the physical integrity of South Africans and their country's social infrastructure but also on mending the South African soul, seeking the means to help heal the trauma caused by years of torture, murder, and abuse at the hands of a racist state that previously would not permit individuals of different 'races' even to legally marry.

Social Conditions: In 2001 approximately 52.7 percent of South Africa's population lived in urban areas. The major cities of the country include Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Pretoria, the national capital (though Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center. With an average population density of about 34 persons per square kilometer in 1999, South Africa has experienced rapid population shifts and changes in the age structure of its population with the demise of the Homelands system of the Apartheid era and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With the spread of this disease magnified by relative government inaction until the turn of the millennium, harsh discrimination and mistreatment often meted out by society to those infected with the disease, and certain dangerously mistaken beliefs and abusive practices concerning protection from the disease, the scale of infection and deaths in South Africa from HIV/AIDS exceeds that in most other countries, including those in the developing world.

South Africa had an infant-mortality rate of 62 per 1,000 live births in 1999 and an under 5 years child-mortality rate of 76 per 1,000 the same year. The total fertility rate was about three (i.e., a woman bearing children for her entire childbearing years at the current fertility rate would produce three children). Nearly one third of the population (32.5 percent) in the year 2000 was 14 years old or younger, more than three-fifths of South Africans (62.8 percent) were between 15 and 64 years of age, and less than 5 percent was 65 or older, although these figures varied markedly by racial group. The life expectancy at birth of the population in the year 2000 again varied significantly by race and was very difficult to estimate accurately due to South Africa's extremely high HIV/AIDS infection rate (by some counts, one person in eight in 2001) and the accompanying loss of life. The estimated years of life expectancy at birth for the population of the country as a whole in 1997 was 54 for males and 58 for females. Examining specific racial groups and gender categories separately, however, the following life expectancy figures for 1997 were obtained: Black men, 52; Black women, 55; Coloured men, 59; Coloured women, 68; Asian men, 65; Asian women, 72; White men, 70; and White women, 77. Life expectancy also differs considerably depending on income level and on the area of the country in which one lives. In 1999 the adult literacy rate for South Africa was estimated at 87 percent, although literacy actually varied widely, depending on income level, racial group, province, and gender.

Economic Status: South Africa has been both blessed and cursed with an abundance of natural resourcesblessed since the potential exists for rich development and the sustenance of a large population at adequate if not high standards of living, but cursed because the wealth endemic to the land attracted European invaders who subjugated the indigenous population for centuries, creating wide economic disparities and vast suffering for most of the country's population. The country's abundant natural resources include precious and industrial metals (including platinum, gold, and chromium), gem minerals such as diamonds, and valuable energy sources such as coal and natural gas. In 1999 about 25 percent of the labor force was employed in industry, 30 percent in agriculture, and 45 percent in services. The GDP at market prices was estimated at US$131.1 trillion with about 5 percent of the GDP derived from agriculture, 35 percent from industry, and 60 percent from services. Annual per-capita income in South Africa was US$3,170 (using the Atlas method of calculating GNI per capita). The unemployment rate in South Africa was roughly 30 percent, although again, as in nearly all population measures, wide discrepancies exist in unemployment rates across population groups.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

South Africa is a parliamentary democracy with a strong presidency, established in its most recent form by the new constitution adopted by the South African parliament in May 1996, certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, and signed by President Nelson Mandela six days later, coming into effect on 3 February 1997. South Africa has a legal system based on Roman-Dutch law and the British common law system. All citizens of South Africa 18 years and older are eligible to vote; men are also eligible for military service at age 18. According to the Bill of Rights contained in the new South African constitution, everyone has a right to basic education, including adult basic education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible to all citizens through a single, unified, national education system.

At the national level, the president is both head of the government and chief of state, democratically elected by the National Assembly to a five year term of office. On 16 June 1999, Thabo Mbeki became the second president under the new constitution, chosen by unanimous acclamation of the National Assembly. The executive branch of the national government also includes an executive deputy president, who since 17 June 1999 has been Jacob Zuma, and a cabinet appointed by the president.

The national legislative branch is a bicameral parliament composed of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. The National Assembly consists of 400 members elected through proportional representation by popular vote to 5 year terms in office; the National Council of Provinces has 90 seats filled by 10 members elected from each of the 9 provinces, also to 5 year terms. This second house of the national legislature replaced the previous Senate, when the new constitution came into effect, with the same representatives and party affiliations but a new responsibility: to look after the interests of the regions and the cultural and linguistic traditions of the ethnic minorities residing in each of the provinces. The third branch of the national government, the judicial branch, consists of a Supreme Court of Appeals, a Constitutional Court, High Courts, and Magistrate Courts. Sub-national affairs are administered through a system of nine provincesEastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Northern Province, and Western Capewhose peoples, levels of economic development, and characteristics differ widely.

Concerning interethnic and international relations, South Africa today is working actively to create a society built on mutual respect and cooperation. The country now enjoys very good relations with the international community, in contrast to the negative consequences of its poor reputation internationally during the Apartheid years. Belonging to numerous international organizations and conferences and working collaboratively with governmental actors and nongovernmental organizations from around the world, South Africa is finally beginning to reap the benefits of the many years of sacrifice and struggle by which indigenous South Africans threw off the bonds of social segregation and racist policies. Many international relationships grew out of efforts made during the Apartheid era to support South Africans working to break the Apartheid system and to realize social justice for the peoples of this southernmost African country. Banned for years from participating in international events, organizations, and conferences, due to the racist politics of the National Party, South Africa now participates in many regional and international organizations, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank, United Nations agencies, the Group of 77, and countless other bodies too numerous to name. Receiving international support in the form of technical and financial assistance to assist the country's democratic transformation and socioeconomic development, the South African government and people and a panoply of civil society organizations have drawn widespread support from abroad, especially in the area of education and in other social welfare domains.

With the start of the new era in South African governance and development in 1994 and the new South African constitution, the educational system of South Africa began a transformation of monumental proportions. Significant reforms have been required particularly because of the previously destructive policies, legislation, and practices implemented under Apartheid that kept black students and other ethnic and racial minorities apart from whites and at a severe educational, social, and economic disadvantage. Complete government control over African education had started with the passage in 1953 of the Bantu Education Act. One of Apartheid's chief architects, Dr. Verwoerd as Minister of Bantu Administration and Education, declared in the debate on the bill that Africans should be taught there was no place for them "above certain forms of labor" in areas of South Africa taken by European settlers for themselves. Verwoerd intended to devise an educational system for Africans that would ensure their perpetually remaining "hewers of wood and drawers of water." There was no point, others in the House said, in teaching African children mathematics or science for they had no need of such expertise. This Act formed the basis for the acute technical skills shortage post-Apartheid South Africa is experiencing. The Act did not propose free and compulsory education for African children such as that available to white children. Despite the appalling levels of poverty among Africans, education for indigenous Africans never was made free, and the state spent on African education only a small proportion of the money it lavished on the education of white children. Nonetheless, the 1953 Bantu Education Act was passed over the objections of Africans and began eroding even the small gains Africans had made through the education they had received from the missionaries, whose schools were taken over by the new Ministry of Bantu Education. Efforts by leaders of the African National Congress to open independent schools were frustrated through legislation that forbade such schools and prescribed severe punitive measures for flouting the law.

A series of South African government laws followed over the next two decades that placed indigenous Africans at a substantial disadvantage compared with whites in the area of education. By 1979 only 29 percent of black pupils were completing their primary and secondary schooling, compared with 81 percent of white pupils. A number of these legislative acts established separate universities for blacks, coloureds, and Asians and put higher education increasingly under the long arm of the state. The National Educational Policy and the Act on Educational Services passed in 1967, and the 1969 Act on the Training of Teachers established a new Department of National Education that retained control of all tertiary educational institutions: universities, colleges of advanced technology, technical colleges and institutes, and other colleges offering postsecondary certificates. This completed government encroachment on university autonomy especially on such matters as admission of people from other racially defined groups.

The Constitution of 1996 and a comprehensive, integrated series of education laws enacted under the administrations of Presidents Mandela and Mbeki have been transforming the South African educational system at all levels. For example, the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 provides for a uniform system for the organization, governance, and funding of schools. The Act is intended to "redress past injustices in educational provision, provide an education of progressively high quality. . ., advance the democratic transformation of society, combat racism and sexism and all other forms of unfair discrimination and intolerance, contribute to the eradication of poverty and the economic well-being of society, [and] protect and advance [South Africa's] diverse cultures and languages." The 1996 South African Schools Act also spells out the new democratic government's plans for educational reform. The Act provides for: 1) compulsory education for learners between the ages of 7 and 15 or learners reaching grade 9, whichever occurs first; 2) two categories of schools, namely public and independent schools, as well as the establishment and maintenance of public schools on private property; 3) criteria for the admission of learners to public schools; 4) governance and management of public schools, 5) the election of governing bodies and their functions; and 6) funding of public schools.

A new Higher Education Act passed in 1997 (Act 101) provides a policy and legislative framework for higher education. The Act established a Council of Higher Education (CHE) to advise the minister on the structure, planning, and governance of higher education; funding formulae; financial aid and student support services; quality control and assurance; and language policy. The Act requires the minister to provide reasons in writing for turning down the recommendations of the CHE on any of these matters. There are 21 universities and 15 technikons in South Africarelatively few for a population of 43 million people, although intense debate is underway over the "shape and size" of the higher education sector. Universities and technikons are autonomous and answerable to their councils. Private Acts of Parliament establish each university, and there is minimum interference from the government. The Higher Education Act also legislates the establishment of private technikons and universities, which must register, however, with the Ministry of Education. An earlier Technikons Act (Act 125 of 1993) had enabled technikons to offer degrees as well as their previous three year diplomas.

South African language policy as it applies to education is still evolving and the subject of intense debate. Under the Apartheid system South Africa had two official languages, English and Afrikaans, which were used as the languages of commerce, science, and higher learning. Indigenous languages were elevated to official status only after South Africa's first truly democratically elected government came to power in 1994. In July 1997, a new language policy was released that accords with the language clauses of the 1996 Constitution. The new language policy stipulates that students have a right to be taught in the language of their choice. When applying for admission to a school, a student may stipulate in which of South Africa's official languages the student wishes to be taught. Schools are expected to take the language preferences of students into account and, "within reasonable measures," respond to the language choice of the students they admit. According to the policy, only official languages may be used for instruction; from grade 3 onwards, learners have to study the language they are taught in, as well as at least one other approved language; language may not be used as a barrier to admission; governing bodies must stipulate how their schools will promote multilingualism; and failing a language will result in failing the grade one is in.

Concerning the new language policy in schools, under the new South African Constitution of 1996, all children and youth are allowed instruction in the language of their choice, as selected from among the 11 official languages of the country. It is left to the individual school districts and institutions to manage the practical accomplishment of this taskone of the great challenges yet to be adequately addressed by the school reform measures underway in the early twenty-first century. The new language policy nonetheless lays the groundwork for some of the potentially most empowering legislation the new government will pass to strengthen the previously marginalized African language communities.

Educational SystemOverview

In the year 2000 approximately more than 52 million children and youth (50.5 percent of them female) were enrolled in 29,386 primary and secondary schools in South Africa. In addition, 125,000 students (youth and adults) were enrolled in technical colleges, 300,000 students (54.6 percent female) were enrolled in universities, and 190,000 students (45.5 percent female) attended technikons (vocational and technical tertiary level schools). Formal education in South Africa falls into three categories:

  1. General Education and Training, incorporating a preparatory year and students up through grade 9.
  2. Further Education and Training, covering grades 10 through 12 for regularly enrolled youth, out of school students, adult learners, youth and adults enrolled in technical, youth, and community colleges, industry-based education and training initiatives, and other nonformal instructional programs.
  3. Higher Education, which includes a broad range of educational institutions and programs leading to certificates, diplomas, and degrees.

The three levels of education are integrated in a National Qualifications Framework as outlined by the South African Qualification Authority Act of 1996 that aimed to establish a seamless system of education for South Africans of all ages and instructional levels. Nearly all the schools at the primary and junior secondary levels were publicly funded. Enrollments in private primary schools represented only 1 percent of the total primary enrollment in 1995. At the preprimary, senior secondary, and tertiary levels, growth in the number of private institutions has been observed since 1994, particularly with the educational reforms stimulated by the various education acts passed in the 1990s and later.

Preprimary education for children up to age six is optional in South Africa. Nine years of government-paid, compulsory basic education is provided to pupils between the ages of 6 and 15, where 6 grades of primary schooling are offered to pupils generally between the ages of 6 and 12 (though many older students also are enrolled at this level), followed by 3 grades of junior secondary education for children between the ages of 12 and 15. The first year of junior secondary schooling takes place in the primary school setting while the next two years are delivered in senior secondary schools. Senior secondary schools provide either academic training or vocational and technical education and training. They are designed to accommodate students between the ages of 16 and 20 (though many older students attend), with general education programs generally lasting three years and vocational and technical training programs lasting 2, 3, or 4 years. Higher education institutions of various types provide education and training opportunities for students after the senior secondary level who have graduated with the appropriate secondary level certificates, diplomas, or degrees to qualify for admission.

In the South Africa of the post-Apartheid era, the education system has been undergoing major reforms to more equitably distribute educational opportunities to all South Africansblacks, coloureds, and Asians as well as whitesand to heighten educational quality at all levels. The most significant education innovation introduced since 1994 perhaps has been the new curriculum design, Curriculum 2005. Based on the concept of Outcomes Based Education (OBE), Curriculum 2005 identifies the new national curriculum framework introduced in grade 1 in 1998 and progressively being added to subsequent grades of basic education over several years. Intended to replace the "banking concept" of education characteristic of education in South Africa during the Apartheid era and first years of the new South African regime, OBE regards learning as an interactive process between and among educators and learners, with the learner at the center and the teacher as facilitator. Stressing cooperative learning, especially group work on common tasks, OBE focuses on what learners should know and do. The goal is to produce active, lifelong learners with a thirst for knowledge and a love for learning.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Although some provinces provide preprimary education, the scale is limited and the field of early childhood development is dominated by the nongovernmental sector in South Africa. Preprimary schools must be registered with local authorities, and their operations fall under the control of provincial educational departments, who oversee both public and private preschool programs. In reality, insufficient numbers of trained teaching staff at the preprimary level were available in 2001, whether through publicly or privately funded institutions, to mount an effective preprimary education program.

School enrollments in general are very difficult to specify and compare in South Africa due to the fact that ratios vary markedly by racial group, gender, income level, and geographical location. Additionally, the manner in which age levels are defined and students of particular ages are included or excluded further complicates the reliability of measures and their comparability across regions, sources, and time. That said, 1 estimate of South Africa's primary gross enrollment for 1995 was 131 percent, whereas a UNICEF fact sheet updated in December 2000 noted the gross enrollment rate at the primary level to be 98 percent for boys and 86 percent for girls, with corresponding net enrollment rates of 88 percent for boys and 86 percent for girls. In 1995 approximately 49 percent of pupils enrolled in primary school were girls. Under the new educational reforms of the 1990s the average class size at the primary level was to be 35 students, much lower than the earlier number in impoverished communities though significantly higher than the prevailing class size in white majority schools. This goal reportedly had been met by 2001, according to the Department of Education.

Children are admitted to primary school at age six. There is a junior primary school phase that lasts for three years and a senior primary school phase that also lasts for three years. In the first three years, children learn to read, write, and count. A start is also made at learning a second language. The next phase stresses reading and oral proficiency in one's first language and in the second language taught. In addition, primary pupils are taught mathematics, general science, history, geography, and skills such as needlework, woodwork, and art.

Secondary Education

A 1995 estimate of the gross enrollment ratio for South African secondary schools was 94 percent. About 54 percent of students enrolled at the secondary level were female that year. In December 2000 UNICEF reported secondary level gross enrollment ratios as 76 percent for males and 91 percent for females.

Secondary education in South Africa, like primary education, is divided into junior and senior phases. Senior secondary schools offering general knowledge last three years, broadening and deepening students' understanding and skills in various academic subjects to prepare them for their choice of career or for further study. In addition to studying languages (normally two to three per student), students choose a minimum of four subjects from the following mainstream areas: general studies, commercial studies, natural sciences, technical studies, the arts, and agricultural and domestic science. In grade 12 students take a qualifying examination at the higher, standard, and lower grades (i.e., the three tracks in which students have been studying). Because of the underpreparedness of mainly African students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, the failure rate in grade 12 has been dismal, reaching the 50 percent mark. Moreover, many students are taught virtually no science and mathematics, making the skills shortages in the science, engineering, and technology areas particularly acute. Besides the general education programs offered at the senior secondary level, vocational and technical programs lasting two, three, or four years can also be followed by senior secondary students.

Higher Education

A discussion of higher education in South Africa must begin with a retrospective look at how the university system was constructed, considering the powerful impact of segregation and Apartheid on the educational opportunities of South Africans at the tertiary level. The establishment of the South African College at Cape Town in 1829 for people of European descent marked the beginning of tertiary education in South Africa. During the nineteenth century, a number of secular and religious institutions of higher education were established in South Africa to serve the interests of the Europeans who resided there. The provision of higher education for Europeans was accelerated after the formation of the Union of South Africa to provide equitable training for both the English and the Afrikaaners. The University Act was passed in 1916, the same year the Joint Matriculation Board was established to design the matriculation curriculum and regulate examinations for entry into university. The board members were invariably drawn from among the white representatives of provincial, university, and other educational authorities. In 1918 the University of South Africa was established with its six constituent colleges.

Over the next 40 years new universities came into being, increasing the likelihood that Europeans would remain in power over the indigenous population, since the majority of university offerings were available only to whites. In 1955 control of European education was divided between the union government and the provincial legislatures, with the provinces governing primary and general secondary education and agricultural and teacher training colleges while vocational and technical training at the secondary level and higher education were placed in the central government's hands. The Vocational Education Act, also passed that year, placed tertiary education under the control of the Ministry of Education, Arts, and Sciences. In 1965 the University of Port Elizabeth was established, offering instruction in English and Afrikaans. Two years later, the Rand Afrikaans University opened. UNESCO figures from 1968 showed that after the United States, South Africa had the second largest number of white university students per 100,000 inhabitants in the world. At the time 30,000 students were enrolled in the segregated English language historically White universities alone while only 3,000 Africans studied in all the historically black universities put together. Before the demise of Apartheid, 11 universities in South Africa served predominantly white students. They were, as divided according to the language of instruction: five Afrikaans universities (Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Potchefstroom, Orange Free State, and Rand Afrikaans); four English language universities (Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Natal, and Rhodes); and two bilingual universities (Port Elizabeth and the University of South Africa). Several segregated colleges for advanced technical training also were created, mainly in the major urban areas, preparing students directly for work and offering a wide variety of programs in the agricultural sciences, commerce and industry, public service, military, and health sectors. Job reservation laws passed in the mid-1950s protected most of these professions for whites and ensured the employability of graduates of these programs.

The idea of higher education for Africans was first hatched around 1880 in the eastern Cape by James Stewart, head of the Lovedale Mission Station of the United Free Church of Scotland. Stewart was the first to forcefully articulate the need for an institution, run on Christian lines, that would provide university education for Africans. He garnered support for his idea from the churches, government, business, and some African leaders, notably John Tengo Jabavu (founder of Imvo zabantsundu, "African Opinion," an isiXhosa newspaper) and the Reverend Walter B. Rubusana. In 1916 the South African Native College at Fort Hare (across the river from Lovedale) was opened as the first university for Africans south of the equator. The college was subsidized by the government of South Africa. Like the secondary schools in the country that served as feeder institutions to the university, Fort Hare became a university of African leaders in east and southern Africa, producing in a single generation the heads of state of Botswana (Sir Seretse Khama), Lesotho (Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle), Uganda (Professor Yusuf Lule), Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe), and South Africa (Nelson Mandela). Many of the first cabinet ministers appointed after independence in Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia had been educated at Fort Hare. Before 1959, all of South Africa's English language universities, referred to as the "open universities," had admitted in all disciplines a small number of African students and others who were not of European descent. In 1950, a medical faculty for Africans, including those of mixed and Asian descent, was opened at the University of Natal, becoming the only medical school to admit them following their exclusion from the other open universities until the segregated Medical University of South Africa was founded. The University of South Africa continued to admit an increasing number of Africans who could not raise enough funds or otherwise afford to attend a residential university.

Self-governing status was granted in the mid-1970s and early 1980s to the territories of the Transkei, Ciskei, Venda, and Bophuthatswana, and three new ethnic universities were built for these newly "independent countries:" the University of Transkei, originally a satellite campus of Fort Hare later taken over by Ciskei; the University of Venda, similarly set up under the University of the North; and the University of Bopthutswana. Vista University was established with campuses in South Africa's sprawling dormitory towns in the segregated African townships around Johannesburg, Pretoria, Benoni, Port Elizabeth, and Bloemfontein to accommodate urban Africans the government had wished to pretend did not exist.

Now that the Apartheid system has ended, the imbalances in tertiary education across racial groups created through the unequal education system of the Apartheid years are being addressed but will be difficult to correct. The official languages of instruction at the tertiary level, for example, are English and Afrikaans, the two principal languages of the European colonizers, yet many South African students speak an alternative mother tongue. Figures for the mid-1990s released by South Africa's Human Science Research Council (HSRC) showed that even with the demise of the Apartheid system, groups describing themselves as white accounted for 85 percent of all university graduates in South Africa, despite the fact that their proportion as a percentage of the population was no more than 15 percent. The impact of the segregated educational system established under white majority rule and the Apartheid years has been enormous. The HSRC survey indicated that by the mid-1990s the unemployment rate in South Africa hovered around just 2 percent for white graduates of tertiary institutions but was nearly 25 percent for black tertiary graduates.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education released in August 1999 show that a growing number of South Africans are opting to study at technikons rather than universities, a phenomenon that may be attributed to a variety of factors including the vocational nature of most technikon qualifications and the lower entrance requirements at the technikons. Between 1993 and 1997, enrollments at the technikons increased by 46 percent, while at the universities they increased by only 8 percent. Overall enrollments in higher education grew from 496,000 in 1993 to 594,000 in 1997. African students enrolling at historically white institutions of higher learning rose from 41 percent to 57 percent but enrollments at the historically black universities began to fall quite considerably, causing concerns over their future viability. Private universities also have siphoned students away from the historically black universities. Technical colleges also offer postsecondary vocational training in a wide range of subjects, attracting career-oriented students and adult learners interested in improving their qualifications in marketable skill areas.

In 1998 the Ministry of Education started a process that is continuing and will take a few years to complete, namely, to incorporate colleges of education, agriculture, and nursing into the higher education system. A number of such colleges have chosen to affiliate with specific universities, thus enabling their students to earn college credits toward university degrees. Articulation among the various sectors of education is improving in South Africa with the National Qualifications Framework and the South African Qualifications Authority providing growing opportunities for cumulative learning and continuing accreditation.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

South Africa's Department of Education and the Ministry of Education are the primary government bodies that deal with education at the national level. The Constitution of 1996 has also vested substantial powers in each of the nine provincial legislatures and governments to run educational affairs, other than the universities and technikons, whose administration remains the responsibility of the national level organs. The national government is responsible only for matters that cannot be regulated effectively by provincial legislatures and others that need to be coordinated in terms of national norms and standards. The Ministry of Education has overall responsibility for government policy on education and training. Relations with provincial departments are regulated by a national policy framework and national legislation within which the provincial departments set their own priorities and programs. In addition, other government ministries such as the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health collaborate with the above government bodies in relevant areas, depending on the focus of educational work (for example, public private partnerships in training and apprenticeships to meet labor market needs and cooperative ventures to tackle the monumental problem of HIV/AIDS education and awareness among students and educators in the country). A full range of departments, commissions, and offices attached to the principal government bodies charged with formulating and implementing educational policies and practices also exists. Assisting with the development and implementation of higher education policies and practices and coordinating the provision of education at the tertiary level are the South African Universities' Vice-Chancellors' Association (SAUVCA) and the Committee of Technikon Principals, both located in Pretoria.

The budget for education is adopted at the national level and disbursed to the provinces. In 1996 public expenditures on education in South Africa equaled 7.9 percent of the gross national product (GNP). In 1999-2000, the education sector was allocated R46.84 billion (US$1= R7), 21.3 percent of the total government expenditure that year, equivalent to 6.5 percent of South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP). About one-sixth of the budget went to universities and technikons, including a National Student Financial Aid scheme.

About 85 percent of the national budget for education is allocated to the provinces. New National Norms and Standards for School Funding became policy on 1 April 1999, applying uniformly across the nine provinces. The norms and standards are aimed at achieving equity in the distribution of resources by progressively redistributing non-personnel expenditures in schools. Education departments in the provinces are required to direct 60 percent of their non-personnel and non-capital resources toward the poorest 40 percent of schools in the province. Schools are divided into five categories based on need, with the poorest 20 percent (i.e., the bottom quintile) receiving 35 percent and the richest 20 percent (i.e., the top quintile) receiving 5 percent of the resources available to each provincial department of education. New criteria have also been established by which independent schools are subsidized in inverse proportion to the fees they charge students, where the higher the fee a school charges, the lesser the subsidy it will receive.

Nonformal Education

A policy and legislative framework for Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) is being developed via a White Paper for ABET and a new Bill of Law. During 1999 provincial education departments provided services to an estimated 300,000 adult learners. Between the 1995-1996 and 1998-1999 school years, expenditures on ABET increased from R160 million to R343 million. The need for upgrading adult education in South Africa and for addressing the undereducated masses of South Africans of adult age who require basic and secondary level training before going on to higher education and training opportunities is clearly apparent and the subject of new government initiatives for the twenty-first century.

In terms of the inclusion of educational technology in school programming and the level of development of technology in the country, South Africa resembles developed Western countries in some respects much more than it does other sub-Saharan African states. For example, the telephone system in South Africa is more advanced than in some Western European states. By 1999 South Africa had 33 Internet hosts for every 10,000 persons, 58 Internet service providers operating in the country, and 55 personal computers for every 1,000 persons. Televisions and radios are in widespread use and have been incorporated in attempts to provide greater access to education to South Africa's population throughout the country. In 1998 there were 14 AM radio stations operating in South Africa, 347 FM radio stations (plus 243 repeaters), and 1 short-wave radio station. The previous year 556 television broadcast stations (plus 144 network repeaters) transmitted television programming in South Africa. In 1997 about 5.2 million televisions and 13.8 million radios existed in South Africa. Innovative educational programming using radio transmissions has been developed in South Africa and put to good use for a number of years through the Open Learning Systems Education Trust (OLSET), founded in 1990 to facilitate the application of educational technology for the benefit of impoverished South Africans. The main activity of OLSET is the Radio Learning Project, which is used to provide education to primary level pupils and to train teachers through a combination of radio broadcasts, printed materials, and face to face instruction.

Correspondence courses leading to formally recognized degrees and post-graduate qualifications are also widely available in South Africa, where about 35 percent of the students enrolled at the tertiary level in the late 1990s were taking courses of this type. The University of South Africa provides such coursework in English and Afrikaans through a modular education system that can yield degrees as high as the doctorate. Qualifications earned through this method are considered equivalent to those earned in more traditional tertiary settings and arrangements. The Technikon South Africa provides distance education via English or Afrikaans that leads to degrees at the Bachelor's and post-graduate level, as long as the Bachelor's program includes a component of inservice training.

Teaching Profession

Teacher training traditionally has been provided at Teacher-Training Colleges located in the provinces, but at the start of the twenty-first century South African educational reforms also included the relocation of teacher training to the National Department of Education and various Universities running three or four year diploma courses for those who wish to teach in primary schools. Certain universities and technikons also provide teacher education of this sort. Secondary school teachers are trained at universities and technikons through degree level courses. Tertiary level educators often receive their credentials at the same universities where they eventually become employed. In the late 1990s, for example, UNESCO noted, "40 percent of academic staff obtained their highest qualification at the University in which they are employed, 30 percent at another South African University, and 30 percent at a foreign university."

Teachers' unions and associations covering a wide range of political perspectives and advocating a variety of visions for the future of South African education have long been active in South Africa and continue to enjoy widespread popularity among professional educators in South Africa. Coming from a long tradition of labor organizing and civic activism, much of which developed out of the struggle to end Apartheid, many South African educators belong to unions and organizations representing their professional interests and intended to facilitate the negotiation of policies beneficial to them and their students as the country charts its course through new waters in the educational field.


South Africa faces a number of formidable challenges in the years ahead in the realm of education. Some of the newly proposed and developed educational reforms in South Africa, including OBE and Curriculum 2005, involve sophisticated educational concepts that require better-skilled teachers than were produced in South Africa under the Bantu education system as well as resources most schools cannot afford. Additionally, many of the new education policies are as yet unenforceable (e.g., provisions for free and compulsory education and the language policy), although they express the ideals and common values that underlie education in post-Apartheid South Africa and provide guidelines for further action. Resource constraints, both human and material, on implementing the new policies and their associated programs will limit the speed at which the educational system can be reformed and high quality education can be made accessible to all in South Africa, especially for the very poor. The major constraints in most sectors of South African education, as already noted, are trained personnel and adequate material resources. Strategies have to be evolved for training the trainers at just about every level education if the outcomes envisaged by the Ministry of Education are to be realized. Turning around the legacy of Apartheid education in South Africa in all probability will take several generations.

Furthermore, the as of yet immeasurable impact of HIV/AIDS will likely be devastating on the entire educational system, debilitating and destroying the lives of countless teachers, administrators, and other educational staff either directly or indirectly in the years to come and diminishing the number of students able to participate in education as the rates of infection and death from HIV/AIDS grow. The educational sector has a special obligation and responsibility to attend to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its various ramifications in South African society, including the schools. Designing and implementing a well-structured campaign to combat this ravaging disease is essential, and educators must take their part in the campaign, as the Department of Education has noted in its May 2001 report on the status of education in the new South Africa.

The funding available for education, even with donations from the United Nations, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Britain, U.S., and other international sources, currently is inadequate to address the scale of South Africa's education problems created by Apartheid in the near future. In August 1997, for example, the Schools Register of Needs was launched to determine the exact location of each school, the state of physical facilities, condition of buildings, services provided, and available resources. The survey of more than 32,000 schools found that no water was available within walking distance of 24 percent of the schools and that only 43 percent of the schools had electricity. In the northern province, where conditions are most severe, a staggering 79 percent of the schools had no electricity and 41 percent of the buildings were in a serious state of disrepair. More than half of the schools used pit latrines with 13 percent of them having no toilet facilities of any description. The survey also found the most appalling conditions imaginable in the estimated 5,400 schools countrywide located on land owned mostly by white farmers. The task alone of developing these schoolspublic schools on private propertyto the required level would require the country's entire education budget.

In its May 2001 review of educational accomplishments in the post-Apartheid era, South Africa's Department of Education underscored the importance of education for equalizing the opportunities and improving the future prospects of all South Africans. The report's authors emphasized that "education is pivotal to economic prosperity, assisting South Africanspersonally and collectivelyto escape the 'poverty trap' characterizing many of our communities. It has also to reach beyond economic goals, enabling South Africans to improve the quality of their lives and contribute to a peaceful, concerned, and democratic nation." The burden of attending to the requisite demands of the transformative process is Herculean indeed, and improving South Africa's education system will require the dedicated perseverance of South Africans from all backgrounds for many years to come. As the authors of the May 2001 Department of Education report observed,

The national project of education transformation is multi-faceted and complexrequiring systemic transformation at all levels and in all sectors. It takes account of widely disparate conditions, characterized by differing degrees of capacity, poverty, inequality, and privilege. It must go beyond mechanisms of delivery seeking to mobilize educators, young people, and communities to celebrate learning: as a celebration of human nature and as a means to personal and social development, employment, and opportunities for a better quality life.


Badat, S. Black Student Politics, Higher Education and Apartheid: From SASO to SANSCO, 1968-1990. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, 1999.

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, February 2001. Available from

Castro-Leal, Florencia. "Poverty and Inequality in the Distribution of Public Education Spending in South Africa." In Document 19330 of South Africa: Poverty and Inequality Information Discussion Paper Series. Washington, DC: The World Bank, Country Department I, Africa Region, February 1999.

Christiansen, Philip et al. "South Africa: Post-ApartheidTransformation of an Entire System." In Kids, Schools, & Learning: African Success Stories; A Retrospective Study of USAID Support to Basic Education in Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. Christiansen et al. Washington, DC: United States Agency for International Development, July 1997.

Christie, P. Right to Learn: The Struggle for Education in South Africa. 2nd ed. Randburg: Ravan Press, 1991.

Council on Higher Education, Shape and Size of Higher Education Task Team. Towards a New Higher Education Landscape: Meeting the Equity, Quality, and Social Development Imperatives of South Africa in the 21st Century. 2000.

Cross, Michael and et al. Dealing with Diversity in South African Education: A Debate on the Politics of a National Curriculum. Cape Town: Juta and Company, 1998.

Department of Education, Republic of South Africa. Curriculum 2005. Learning for the Twenty-first Century. Pretoria, 1997.

. Education for All: The South African Assessment Report. Pretoria, 2000.

. Education White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education. Pretoria, 1997.

. Education White Paper 4: Programme for the Transformation of Further Education and Training. Pretoria, 1998.

. Further Education and Training Act, No. 98. Pretoria: Government Printer, 1998.

. Implementation Plan for Tirisano, January 2000-December 2004. Pretoria, 2000.

. Implementation Plan for Tirisano, January 2000-December 2004. Pretoria, 2000.

. National Strategy for Further Education and Training. 1999-2001: Preparing for the Twenty-first Century through Education, Training, and Work. Pretoria, 1999.

. "South African Schools Act." Government Gazette 84 (1996).

. The HIV/AIDS Emergency: Guidelines for Educators. Pretoria, 2000.

. Values, Education, and Democracy. A Report of the Working Group on Values in Education. Pretoria, 2000.

. White Paper on Education and Training. Pretoria, 1995.

. Education in South Africa: Achievements Since 1994. Pretoria, May 2001. Available from

Department of Education and Labour, Republic of South Africa. Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa: A Nation at Work for a Better Life for All. Pretoria, 2001.

Gordon, Adele, Doris Nkwe, and Mellony Graven. "Gender and Education in Rural South Africa." In Women and Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Power, Opportunities, and Constraints, ed. Marianne Bloch, Josephine A. Beoku-Betts, and B. Robert Tabachnick. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998.

Government Communication and Information System (formerly South African Communication Service). South Africa Yearbook. 1995, 1998, and 2000.

Government of South Africa. Available from

International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Centre on Higher Education. South AfricaEducation System. World Higher Education Database 2000. Available from

Joint Education Trust (JET). Johannesburg: SACHED, 1996.

Hartshorne, K. Crisis and Challenge: Black Education, 1910-1990. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Kallaway, P. Apartheid and Education: The Education of Black South Africans. Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1990.

Kinsella, Kevin and Monica Ferreira. Aging Trends: South Africa. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, August 1997. Available from

The Macmillan Encyclopedia. Bantu Homelands (or Bantustans). Market House Books Ltd, 2001. Available from

Mboya, MM. Beyond Apartheid: The Question of Education for Liberation. Cape Town: Esquire Press, 1993.

Minister of Education, Republic of South Africa. Report to the President. 16 October 2000.

. National Plan for Higher Education. Pretoria, 2001.

Mncwabe, MP. Post-Apartheid Education. Lanham, Maryland: University of America Press, 1993.

Morrow, W. and K. King. Vision and Reality: Changing Education and Training in South Africa. Cape Town: University of Cape Town, 1998.

Mungazi, Dickson A. and L. Kay Walker. Educational Reform and the Transformation of Southern Africa. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1997.

Nkabinde, Zandile P. An Analysis of Educational Challenges in the New South Africa. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997.

Nkomo, Mokubung, ed. Pedagogy of Domination: Towards a Democratic Education in South Africa. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1990.

Pretorius, F, ed. Outcomes-based Education in South Africa. Randburg: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997.

Pretorius, Fanie and Eleanor M. Lemmer, eds. South African Education and Training: Transition in a Democratic Era. Johannesburg: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998.

Republic of South Africa. "The Constitution of South Africa." Government Gazette 108 (1996).

. "Education Laws Amendment Act." Government Gazette 100 (1997).

. Employment of Educators Act. Pretoria, 1998.

. The Higher Education Act (No. 101). Pretoria, 1997.

. "National Education Policy Act." Government Gazette 27 (1996).

. "National Policy on HIV/AIDS for Learners and Educators in Public Schools, and Students and Educators in Further Education and Training Institutions." Government Gazette 20372 (1999).

Statistics South Africa. Mid-year estimates 2001. Available from

Steyn, JC. Education for Democracy. Durbanville: Wachwa Publishers, 1997.

Task Force on Higher Education and Society, The World Bank. Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 2000.

UNICEF. South Africa. Available from

World Bank Group. South Africa at a Glance. Available from

. South Africa Data Profile. World Development Indicators database, July 2000. Available from

. South Africa and Country Brief: South Africa. Available from

World Bank, Human Development Network. Education Sector Strategy. Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 1999.

Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane and
S. D. Berkowitz

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." World Education Encyclopedia. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." World Education Encyclopedia. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." World Education Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa


Republic of South Africa
Republiek van Suid-Afrika



South Africa is situated at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. Ranging from west to east across its northern border are the neighboring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; Mozambique lies to the east, as does the small nation of Swaziland, which is nearly encircled by South Africa. Another small nation, Lesotho, lies entirely within the borders of South Africa, in the east central region. Total land borders measure 4,750 kilometers (2,952 miles). South Africa has a coastline of 2,954 kilometers (1,836 miles), with the cold Atlantic Ocean on the west coast and the Indian Ocean on the east coast. The area of the Republic of South Africa is approximately 1,219,912 square kilometers (471,008 square miles), making it slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas, or slightly bigger then Holland, Belgium, Italy, France, and Germany combined. The capital of Pretoria is located in the northeast central area of the country. Other major cities include Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban on the coast, and Johannesburg, Soweto, and Bloemfontein in the interior of the country.


The last official census taken in South Africa in 1996 revealed a population 40,582,573 people. In 2001, estimates are that the population of South Africa has grown to 43,586,097. The population of South Africa can be divided into the following main racial groups: Africans (blacks), whites, coloreds (mixed-race descendants of early white settlers and indigenous people), and Asians. The general indication is that the proportion of Africans has slowly been increasing and the proportion of whites decreasing. The proportion of Asians and coloreds has remained quite constant. In 1996, Africans made up76.6 percent of the population, whites made up 10.9 percent, coloreds 8.9 percent, and Asians 2.6 percent; the remaining 0.9 percent represented a variety of races.

The population growth rate for the entire population is a very low 0.26 percent. The birth rate in South Africa was estimated at 21.12 per 1,000 people in 2001, and the birth rate was estimated at 16.77 per 1,000 people. It is likely that the fertility and mortality figures could change due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa was very rapid in the 1990s. United Nations (UN) estimates indicate that currently 1 in 8 adult South Africans is infected with HIV. The epidemic has exacted tremendous social and economic costs. By affecting the population's most productive age group, it hampers the labor supply.

About 64 percent of the South African people live in urban centers, and that number is expected to grow because more people move to urban areas every year. The migration rate creates increasing demands on municipal services such as sanitation, water provision, safety, security, as well as schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities.

The population of South Africa is young, with 32 percent of people between the age of 0 and 14, 63 percent between 15 and 64, and only 5 percent over the age of 65. Life expectancy is fairly low, at 48.09 years for the entire population, 47.64 for males and 48.56 for females.


Emerging from a long period when it was a pariah nation because of its racial policies, South Africa is an attractive emerging economy that is both modern and diversified. Paradoxically, the country still exhibits many of the characteristics of a less developed nation, including a distorted distribution of wealth and a thriving informal sector economy whose interactions are outside the law. The agricultural, industrial, and service sectors are well developed, however, and government plans to improve services and economic access to the poor and dispossessed offer the promise of modernizing the lagging elements of the economy.

The dominant forces which shaped South Africa's economy in the modern era exhibited themselves in 8 main periods. From 1910 to 1922, British influence dominated in economic and political terms, and a racially-segregated community was structured. When economic nationalism was born from 1922 to 1933, white mineworkers and farmers tried to establish a welfare state in South Africa. Between 1933 and 1948 English political power dominated again, and industrialization in South Africa occurred with less government interference. From 1948 to 1960 was the period of Afrikaner ascendancy (Afrikaners were the descendants of the original Dutch and German settlers). Between 1960 and 1973, black urbanization became important as a strong social force, and attempts were made to impart further institutional force to apartheid (the nation's official policy of racial segregation) via the homeland policies of President Verwoerd. The sixth period, between 1973 and 1984, was characterized by industrialization and the realization that the racial policy was economically damaging to the country. The seventh period stretches from 1984 to 1994, and can be seen as a period of transition during which economic growth decreased, mainly due to economic sanctions placed on South Africa by many nations. The eighth period started when apartheid ended and a democratic election took place in April 1994. The new government elected at this time initiated economic reforms intended to establish South Africa as a dynamic and more internationally competitive economy.

The free elections of 1994 became possible thanks to changes that had been occurring for years, as the government slowly removed many of the barriers to black political and economic participation. A new constitution, approved in 1993, followed by a plea by African National Congress (ANC) president Nelson Mandela (the nation's foremost black political leader) for foreign nations to lift sanctions led to a pledge of US$850 million in economic aid for South Africa by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). International financing sources saw the IMF funding as a signal to international investors that South Africa was a safe place in which to invest. International investment bankers and large Wall Street investment companies began trading with South Africa, thus opening the way to the current economic era.

The development of the South African economy has seen a long-term transfer from production based on agriculture to production based on industries. Once this transition had been made there was a period of sustained accumulation of physical and human capital. Consumers' spending patterns changed from spending on basic items and essential goods to spending on diverse manufactured and luxury items.

The nation's geography and topography have a significant influence on the country's economic development. The fact that South Africa has vast mineral resources is one of the reasons for its economic survival. In many cases, the country possesses large percentages of the world's known reserves of certain minerals, for example 88 percent of platinum group metals, 83 percent of manganese, and 72 percent of chromium reserves.

Since its early history, South Africa was shaped by its location on major global trade routes. In fact the country's oldest city, Cape Town, grew from a catering station for passing ships, established almost 350 years ago by the Dutch East India Company. Given that relationships between South Africa and other African countries have improved, the country's location on the African continent has earned it the title, "Gateway to Africa." South Africa has a rich variety of natural assets, making it an important eco-tourist destination. The wide variety of habitats accommodate numerous animal species.

South Africa has vast farmlands and climatic conditions that are ideal for agricultural activities. Even though South Africa has an erratic climate, its relatively large supply of arable land and modern methods employed in commercial agriculture are major reasons why it is largely self-sufficient in food supply.

Despite many good economic indicators in South Africa, though, the crime rate has risen to unacceptable levels. Particularly the high occurrence of violent crimes has led to the widespread belief that the police, judicial system, and correctional services are unable to cope with the problem. Large-scale black-market activities further fuel the crime wave in South Africa. Affirmative action, high taxes, and the rising crime rate have contributed to a renewed skills drain as many highly trained workers leave the country, a movement of workers the government needs to stop in order to preserve and develop the tax base. The loss of economically active persons in professional, technical, and managerial positions is particularly discomforting. Moreover, in South Africa, AIDS is a fast growing problem. More than 3.2 million South Africans are infected and living with the disease, with an estimated 1,500 infections taking place everyday. This health crisis is slowing South Africa's economic development because it decreases the number of people who can work.


The political system of South Africa was reshaped following the 1994 elections. The African National Congress (ANC), which won the elections, governed under an interim constitution with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in what was known as the Government of National Unity (GNU). The GNU created a new constitution, which was signed into law by President Nelson Mandela on 3 February 1997. Under the new constitution, the South African Parliament has 2 houses, a National Assembly and a National Council of Provinces. The National Assembly has 400 members who are elected under a system of "list proportional representation ." Voters cast their ballot for a party, which in turn selects the actual members. The National Council of Provinces has 90 members, 10 each from the 9 provinces. Of the 10 delegates from each province, 6 are permanent and 4 are rotating.

The executive president is selected by the ruling party in the National Assembly. The president then selects a cabinet of 28 ministers who must be approved by the National Assembly. The judicial system is topped by a constitutional court and a supreme court of appeals, which rule on constitutional and nonconstitutional matters, respectively. The 1997 constitution provides for a bill of rights which protects the basic human rights of all South African citizens. Because of the high crime rate the general feeling in South Africa is that the legal/court system is insufficient. This belief causes economic instability, which discourages foreign investors from investing in the country. Due to low long-term foreign investments, the growth of the South African economy has slowed.

South Africa has many political parties but is dominated by just a few. In the 1999 elections, the African National Congress gained the vast majority of the seats in parliament, with 266. The ANC formed a coalition with the Inkatha Freedom Party, which gained 34 votes. The Democratic Party (DP), with its 38 seats, and the New National Party, with its 28 seats, formed an opposition coalition called the Democratic Alliance. In 1999 the ANC's Thabo Mbeki was elected president.

As the ruling and most powerful party in South Africa, the ANC has had to balance a number of difficult challenges in managing the economy. On the one hand, the ANC wished to honor the alliance it made with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and labor federation COSATO for the purposes of the 1994 election. This alliance would imply that government policies will be characterized by Marxist tendencies, favoring the nationalization of industry, collective ownership of land, equalization of after-tax income, and direct intervention in the economy. However, the realities of trying to rule over a modern economy while at the same time addressing the problems of decades of racial inequity have pushed the ANC in other directions. The ANC has since dropped its commitment to nationalizing industries and has in fact privatized a number of state-owned firms. Reflecting its still growing commitment to a free market economy, the ANC has committed itself to maintaining fiscal discipline, an anti-inflationary monetary policy , and a stable exchange rate , and the relaxation of exchange controls. The ANC also hopes to lower import tariffs , to expand tax incentives, and to privatize some public sector assets. Perhaps the more pressing of the jobs before the government, however, are the dual tasks of providing for the nation's many impoverished or economically disadvantaged people and dealing with the growing problem of violence and corruption.

The ANC government supports an open economy and has attempted to enter into a variety of trade agreements to ease international trade. The openness of the economy makes the country highly dependent on events in the outside world. This fact was clearly illustrated by the Asian economic crisis and by the increased price of oil after 1999; both events affected the South African economy negatively.

The government levies a variety of taxes, which together amounted to 24.1 percent of the GDP in 2000-01. The largest share (43 percent) of tax revenues come from individuals, who pay a progressive income tax that ranges from 18 to 42 percent. Corporate taxes contributed 10 percent of the total. Indirect taxes , such as customs and excise duties , a value-added tax , a fuel levy, and stamp duties and fees, account for 40 percent of revenues. The government has committed itself to lowering the tax burden on individuals in the coming years.


Compared to the rest of Africa, South Africa has a good infrastructure , including a highly developed network of some 358,596 kilometers (222,831 miles) of roads (only 17 percent of which are paved, however) and 21,431 kilometers (13,317 miles) of rail track. There are a number of international and national airports; a highly developed system of bulk water supply; a power supply parastatal , ESCOM, that supplies

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
South Africa 32 317 125 N/A 56 3.5 47.4 33.36 1,820
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Namibia 19 144 37 N/A 12 N/A 18.6 11.73 6
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

roughly half of Africa's electricity at rates that are among the cheapest in the world; a telephone utility company, TELKOM, that provides services for about 4 million main telephones and network links for one of the fastest growing cellular telephone industries in the world; and broadcasting services. However, the infrastructure in the areas occupied by the black majority is generally undeveloped or badly maintained. The Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) program provides the private sector with unique opportunities to exploit the potential of under-utilized areas by identifying public-private partnerships in bulk and municipal infrastructure projects.

South Africa's modern and extensive transport system plays a very important role in the national economies of several other African states. A number of countries in Southern Africa use the South African transport infrastructure to trade. Private motorcars are an important mode of personal travel. In 1998, there were some 6.55 million registered motor vehicles, of which more than 3.8 million were motorcars. Minibus-taxis provide a vital service to nearly 50 percent of South Africa's commuters. More than 480 taxi associations are operating throughout the country. SPOORNET, the largest railroad operator in Southern Africa, has 3,500 locomotives and 124,000 wagons. There are 30 international airports, where the necessary facilities and services exist to accommodate international flights. About 15 million passengers use these airports every year. SAA, Com Air, Sun Air, SA Express, and SA Air Link operate scheduled international air services within Africa and to Europe, Latin America, and the Middle and Far East.

Telecommunications, the lifeline of modern business and industry, is one of the fastest growing industries in South Africa. With a growth rate of 45 percent prompted largely by the introduction of cellular telephones and the partial privatization of TELKOM, this sector is a vital component in the strategy to modernize and increase international competitiveness.

South Africa has approximately 5.3 million installed telephones and 4.3 million installed exchange lines. This figure represents 39 percent of the total lines installed in Africa. By November 1998, more than 1.5 million South Africans were using the Internet with service providers increasing their customer base by 10 percent a month. A 1-channeled television service was introduced on 5 January 1976. Currently, the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) offers 3 television channels in 11 languages. It also operates 2 pay-television channels, broadcasting into Africa by satellite. About 14 million adults watch SABC television daily, making South Africa the country with by far the largest television audience on the continent.


In the primary sector South Africa's abundant natural resources, especially in the mining and agriculture-based categories, provide noteworthy opportunities for companies to add value prior to export. Export earnings associated with the value added to primary products represented 29 percent of total exports in 1995, as compared to 21 percent in 1988, indicating that South African companies are learning to extract more economic value from their natural resources. On average, the contribution of the primary sector to the GDP grew at less than 1 percent per year from 1960 to 1985, and at a negative rate after 1980. However, forecast assumptions yield a positive growth rate for the next 10 years. This sector (agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, and quarrying) contributed 12 percent to the GDP in 1997.

The secondary sector had stronger growth than the primary sector in the period after 1960. However, due to economic adversity during the struggle against apartheid, the average annual growth rate was only 0.5 percent. This sector (manufacturing electricity, gas, water, and construction) contributed 31 percent to GDP in 1997. Although the tertiary sector showed slower growth than the primary and secondary sectors in the entire period since 1960, its growth was higher after 1980, propped up by government spending. It is expected that this sector will grow at an average rate of about 3.0 percent per year to 2005.

The tertiary sector (trade, catering, accommodation, transport, storage, and communications) is expected to grow at roughly the same rate. The lackluster domestic demand should be countered by the rapidly expanding tourist industry. Rising tourism should boost passenger transport, while technological improvements should continue providing impetus to the communications industry.

Financial and business services have been growing at above-average rates and should continue to do so as the traditional and informal sectors become more formalized and make use of these services. Community and social services and general government services are unlikely to show high real growth, due to the expected tight fiscal situation.


In monetary terms, agriculture's share of the economy has long since been outstripped by those of the mining and secondary industries. In 1960, agriculture contributed 11.1 percent of the GDP, down from about 20 percent in the 1930s. By 1999, however, agriculture's share of the GDP had dropped to 5 percent. Despite the farming industry's declining share of the GDP, it remains vital to the economy, development, and stability of the Southern African region. The various sectors of the industry employ approximately 1 million people, or 30 percent of the workforce.

Agriculture in South Africa has changed radically in recent years. Formerly, it was a highly regulated sector with subsidies and financial concessions available to farmers. But farming has been deregulated since the 1980s, and the agricultural sector is now expected to respond to free market conditions. Farmers seek the most competitive suppliers and purchasers and are increasingly using the South African Futures Exchange to exchange futures contracts and hedge prices for their products.

South Africa has what is known as a dual agricultural economy. On the one hand, there is a well-developed commercial sector; on the other hand, the majority of people engaged in agriculture are involved in subsistence-oriented practices in rural areas. In the predominantly white-controlled commercial sector, applied research and improved farm management have nearly doubled agricultural production during the past 30 years. Currently, South Africa is not only self sufficient in virtually all major agricultural products but in a normal year is also a net food exporter, making it 1 of 6 countries in the world capable of exporting food on a regular basis. Because South Africa's summer harvest season coincides with winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the country is well positioned to supply agricultural goods to a number of wealthy countries in the more developed world.

South Africa has developed 1 of the largest man-made forestry resources in the world. These plantations cover more than 1.4 million hectares with exports accounting for 35 percent of total turnover of forestry products. The 2 private pulp and paper manufacturers rank among the largest companies of their kind in the Southern hemisphere.

About 13 percent of South Africa's surface area can be use for crop production. Some 1.3 million hectares are under irrigation. The most important factor limiting agricultural production is the availability of water. Rainfall is distributed unevenly across the country. Almost 50 percent of South Africa's water is used for agricultural purposes.

The largest area of farmland is planted in maize, followed by wheat and, on a lesser scale, sugar cane and sunflowers. About 15,000 farmers produce maize, mainly in the northwest, the northwestern, northern, and eastern Free State, the Mpumalanga Highveld and KwaZulu-Natal midlands. Local consumption of maize amounts to approximately 6.5 million tons, and surplus maize is usually exported. Wheat is produced in the winter rainfall areas of the western Cape and the eastern parts of the Free State. The 1998-99 season yielded 1.5 million tons. Barley is produced mainly on the southern coastal plains of the western Cape, accounting for more than 98 percent of locally produced barley. The 1998-99 season yielded 215,100 tons. Sorghum is cultivated mostly in the drier parts of the summer rainfall areas. Groundnuts are grown in the northern province, Mpumalanga, the northern Free State, and the northwest.

South Africa is the world's tenth largest producer of sunflower seeds with an annual harvest of between 186,300 and 780,000 tons. South Africa is also the world's tenth largest sugar producer. The bulk of the sugar crop is cultivated on the frost-free coastal areas and the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. However, about 10 percent is grown under irrigation in the southern parts of Mpumalanga. Deciduous fruit trees are grown mainly in the western Cape, as well as in the Langkloof Valley in the eastern Cape. This industry's export earnings represent 21 percent of the country's total earnings from agricultural exports.

South Africa's wine and spirits industry is one of the most developed in the world. About 4,500 grape producers had 103,300 hectares of land under cultivation, making South Africa the 20th largest wine growing area in the world. The average size of the country's harvest is around 900 million liters, ranking it seventh in the world. Exports of South African wine grew from 23 million liters in 1991, to 50 million liters in 1994, and to 100 million liters in 1998. The industry provides income to 3,000 cooperative cellar staff and 45,000 farm workers.

Citrus production is largely limited to the irrigated areas of the northern province, Mpumalanga, the eastern and western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Pineapples are grown in the eastern Cape and northern KwaZulu-Natal. Other subtropical crops such as avocados, mangos, bananas, litchis, guavas, pawpaws, grenadillas, and macadamia and pecan nuts are produced mainly in Mpumalanga and the northern province. About 40 percent of the country's potato crop is grown in the higher-lying areas of the Free State and Mpumalanga. About two-thirds of the country's total potato crop is produced under irrigation. In terms of gross income to the grower apart from potatoestomatoes, onions, green mealies, and sweet corn are probably the most important crops.

Cotton, produced mainly in the northern province, constitutes 74 percent of the natural fiber and 42 percent of all fiber processed in South Africa. About 75 percent of local production is harvested by hand. Virginia tobacco is produced mainly in Mpumalanga and the northern province. There are more than 1,000 growers in the country who produce an annual average of 33 million kilograms on about 24,000 hectares of land. The crop represents 173 different grades of Virginia and 5 different grades of Oriental tobacco.

Rooibos tea is an indigenous herbal beverage produced mainly in the Cederberg area of the western Cape. There are some 280 producers, and about 580 tons of tea are exported annually. Ornamental plants are produced throughout the country. They include nursery plants, cut flowers, and potted plants. The industry creates jobs for about 15,000 people. Proteas are the country's top export flowers.

Livestock is farmed in most parts of South Africa, though the numbers vary according to climatic conditions. The 1998 estimates for head of cattle and sheep are 13.8 million and 29.3 million, respectively. South Africa normally produces 85 percent of its meat requirements while 15 percent is imported from Namibia, Botswana, and Swaziland. In 1998, 1.7 million heads of cattle were slaughtered, and the gross value of the red meat industry was estimated to be about R4,954 million. Most sheep are fine-wooled Merinos (50 percent). The Dorper, a highly productive, locally-developed mutton breed for arid regions, and the Merino account for most of South Africa's mutton production. Marketing of wool is free of any intervention. The indigenous meat-producing Boer goat accounts for about 40 percent of all goats, and the angora goat, used for mohair production, for the remaining 60 percent. South Africa has about 3,500 angora farmers. Compared with the extensive cattle and sheep industries, the poultry and pig industries are more intensive and are located on farms near metropolitan areas. The predominant pig breeds are the South African landrace and the large white. South Africa accounts for 80 percent of world sales of ostrich products, including leather, meat, and feathers. In October 1997, Parliament approved legislation to allow the export of breeding ostriches and fertile eggs, which was previously forbidden. Dairy farming also occurs throughout South Africa.

The volume of agricultural production has been erratic in the last decade primarily because of severe droughts. The country is, however, still self-sufficient as far as most primary foods are concerned, with the exception of wheat, oilseeds, rice, tea, and coffee.


In 1999, industry provided approximately 30 percent of the GDP and employed 25 percent of the workforce.

MINING. South Africa has a natural competitive advantage in both mining and adding value to mined products thanks to its immense concentrations of reserves of important minerals, its low cost coal-based electricity supply, its excellent infrastructure, developed skills and technology base, and the entrepreneurial abilities of its people. South Africa's mineral wealth is found in its diverse and extensive geological formations. The unique Witwatersrand Basin contains a considerable portion of the world's gold reserves, as well as uranium, silver, pyrite, and osmiridium. It also yields some 98 percent of South Africa's gold output. The Bushveld Complex, a sill-like geological feature occupying about 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles), contains more than half of the world's chrome ore and platinum-group metals (PGMs). It also contains vanadium, iron, titanium, copper, nickel, and fluorspar. South Africa holds the world's largest reserves of ores of manganese (possessing 80 percent of the total world reserves), chromium (68 percent), PGMs (56 percent), vanadium (45 percent), gold (39 percent), and alumino-silicates (37 percent). It is also the leading holder of reserves of ores of vermiculite, andalusite, zirconium, titanium, antimony, fluorspar, and phosphate rock.

As a result of this large reserve base, South Africa is the world's leading producer of PGMs, vanadium, and vermiculite, contributing about 50 percent of the world's total of these commodities. South Africa is also the largest world supplier of alumino-silicates, chrome ore, ferrochromium, and gold, for which its contribution ranges between 20 and 60 percent.

The domestic market for most of these minerals is relatively small, so South Africa's mineral industry is strongly export-oriented. For example, South Africa provides 96 percent of world exports of vermiculite, 76 percent of vanadium, 55 percent of alumino-silicates, 53 percent of ferrochromium, 47 percent of PGMs, 41 percent of chrome ore, and 27 percent of manganese ore and ferro-manganese. For these commodities, as well as for gold, it is also the world's largest exporter. The more notable imports into South Africa in 1997 were diamonds, precious metals, alumina, certain ferro-alloys, nickel, coking coal, phosphate rock, sulphur, magnesite, and magnesia. With some gold mines exceeding a depth of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), the South African mining industry has become a world leader in developing deep-level mining technology.

In 1997, some 695 mines and quarries employed about 552,000 people, many of whom are workers from neighboring countries, representing about 10.5 percent of all workers in the non-agricultural, formal sectors of the economy. More than R18.1 million was paid out in wages. Over the past 5 years, South Africa's goldmines have been plagued by low productivity, diminishing reserves in some mines, and labor unrest. More than 25,000 workers have lost their jobs through retrenchments in the industry since 1987. On 8 July 1999, the gold price slumped to US$257.20 per ounce, the lowest in 20 years. During 1998, 370 miners were killed, and during 1997-98, 6,064 were injured in mine accidents. Through the Rand Mutual Assurance Company, the mining industry provides care and compensation in the case of accidents. The medical infrastructure of the industry includes group hospitals in all the mining areas, as well as clinics and stations on mines for emergency treatment. The Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996 was put into operation on 15 January 1997 to protect mine workers.


The energy sector is critical to the South African economy, contributing about 15 percent of GDP and employing about 250,000 people. South Africa's energy resource base is dominated by coal. Many of the deposits can be exploited at extremely favorable costs, and as a result, a large coal-mining industry has developed. In fact, South Africa ranks as the world's fifth largest coal producer. In addition to the extensive use of coal in the domestic economy, large amounts are exported. South Africa is the second largest exporter of steam coal. South Africa produces 5,000 to 1 million tons of coal per month.About 55 percent of South African coal-mining is done underground. The coal-mining industry is highly concentrated, with 3 companies, namely Ingwe, Amcoal, and Sasol, accounting for 80 percent of local production.

South Africa has 1 nuclear power station in operation. The Eskom nuclear power station, Koeberg, is located in the western Cape and operates 2 reactors with a capacity of 1,840 megawatts. Nuclear power contributed 6.87 percent of the country's electricity supply in 1999; the remainder was supplied by fossil fuels, both coal and petroleum.

South Africa consumed some 21 billion liters of liquid fuels in 1998. About 36 percent of the demand is met by synthetic fuels (synfuels) produced locally, largely from coal and a small amount from natural gas. The rest is met by products refined locally from imported crude oil. Sasol is the largest petrochemical corporation in the country. Apart from limited gas and oil reserves in the Mossel Bay area, the country does not have significant commercially exploitable gas or crude oil reserves. In addition to coal gas and liquid petroleum gas, South Africa produces about 1,237,000 tons of gas and 250,000 tons of condensate liquid fuels.

South Africa, which supplies two-thirds of Africa's electricity, is one of the 4 cheapest electricity producers in the world. About 92 percent of South African electricity is produced from coal, with generation dominated by the utility Eskom. It is the world's fifth largest electricity utility, with an installed generating capacity of about 39,870 MW. All told, South Africa produced 186.903 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in 1999.


Exports of manufactured goods experienced growth between 1988 and 1995. The driving forces behind this growth included the introduction of the General Export Incentive Scheme (GEIS) and consecutive phases of the motor industry development scheme; the real depreciation of the Rand; excess manufacturing capacity as a result of recessionary conditions forced on the domestic markets after 1985; and the opening up of international markets as sanctions subsided from the early 1990s. The average annual growth rates in the real output of the manufacturing subgroups from 1995 to 2005 are expected to vary between 0.5 percent in the cases of tobacco products and leather products to 7.5 percent in the case of plastic products. Other industries with good growth potential are industrial chemicals, rubber products, and paper.

The basic iron and steel industry is relatively important within South African manufacturing. There are unprecedented opportunities for growth and prosperity in the global steel industry across the globe, the common thread being privatization and free market focus. The already privatized South African steel industry will have to position itself to compete in the global steel economy and to provide goods for the increasingly segmented market. Possibilities are links with overseas producers and greater specialization, which will bring about greater exports as well as imports of steel products.



In the context of the country's economic and political transformation, tourism has been accepted by the government, business, and labor as one of the key drivers for job growth, wealth creation, and economic empowerment. After years of isolation, South Africa has emerged as a highly attractive tourist destination.

There are some major strengths operating in South Africa's favor which can facilitate further growth in tourism. Among the top tourist attractions are Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, Cape Point, Table Mountain, the wine region in the western Cape, and numerous other attractions. South Africa attracts more tourists than any other country in Africa. The country's scenic beauty and wildlife remain the biggest attractions for international tourists. Tourism is the fourth biggest industry in South Africa, supporting some 1,200 hotels, 2,000 guesthouses, and 8,000 restaurants. Between January and August 1998, there were 871,414 foreign visitors to South Africa. During 1998, economic conditions, in particular the devalued rand, made South Africa one of the cheapest places in the world to visit.

According to a report released in September 1998 on the direct and indirect effect of tourism on South Africa's economy, the tourism industry provided jobs to more than 737,600 people. It was estimated that the number could increase to 1.25 million by the year 2010.

The fastest growing segment of tourism in South Africa is ecological tourism (eco-tourism), which includes nature photography, bird-watching, botanical studies, snorkeling, hiking, and mountain climbing. Village tourism is becoming increasingly popular, with tourists wanting to experience South Africa in the many rural villages across the country.

With tourism currently contributing approximately 5 percent of GDP against an international norm of between 8 and 9 percent, the potential for significant growth in international tourism and its contribution to GDP is immense.


South Africa has a well-developed financial system. Legislation governing the financial sector has been streamlined to meet international norms and provides for the introduction of major foreign financial institutions into the local market. The banking industry in South Africa currently has 55 banks, including 12 branches of foreign banks, and 4 mutual banks are registered with the Office of the Registrar of Banks. Furthermore, 60 foreign banks have authorized representative offices in South Africa. Several major groups dominate the South African banking sector: ABSA Group Limited, Standard Bank Investment Corporation Limited, First National Bank Holdings Limited, and Nedcor Limited. These groups maintain extensive branch networks across all 9 provinces and together hold 70 percent of the total assets of the banking sector.

The major banks offer a wide range of services to both individual and corporate customers. A single relationship banking, with its emphasis on universal banking, instead of isolated services, has gained importance. Nevertheless, several banks specialize in providing merchant banking services, securities underwriting, or services in other niche areas.

On 31 December 1998, the 55 registered banking institutions collectively employed 123,272 workers. Their offices (including both branches and agencies) totaled 3,251, that is, approximately 1 office for every 13,000 inhabitants. If the 2,442 post offices through which the Postbank offers its services are included, banking services are provided at some 5,693 offices throughout the country, or 1 location for every 7,500 inhabitants.

Several new banks have been registered, and competition has intensified, both among banks and between banks and other financial service providers. As a result, the assets held in the banking sector have expanded rapidly, from R39 billion in 1980 to R654 billion in December 1998.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), formed in 1887 and a member of the Federation of International Stock Exchanges since 1963, is the tenth largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization . The South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX), established in 1990, trades in equity futures contracts, options on equity futures, and a variety of other futures contracts.

The growing momentum in the field of public-private partnerships in project financing and the emergence of powerful black economic empowerment groups continue to drive innovation and efficiency in this sector.

Including the contributions of other services, the services industry provided 65 percent of the GDP in 1999 and employed 45 percent of the workforce.


South Africa's trade and industrial policy is moving away from a highly protected, inward looking economy towards an internationally competitive economy, capitalizing on its competitive and comparative advantages. For years, South Africa's ability to trade with the outside world was severely limited by the sanctions placed on

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): South Africa
Exports Imports
1975 8.719 8.226
1980 25.525 19.598
1985 16.293 11.319
1990 23.549 18.399
1995 27.860 30.555
1998 26.322 29.268
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

the country by most developed countries as a punishment for South Africa's commitment to apartheid. With the end of apartheid in the early 1990s, international trade has expanded dramatically so that in 2000 international trade constituted 16 percent of the GDP.

South Africa's economy is still largely reliant on the export of primary and intermediate commodities to industrialized countries. However, manufactured goods account for about 70 percent of exports to Africa. Net gold exports are responsible for a large part of foreign exchange earnings. Earnings from this source, however, fluctuate with the shifting international gold price. Imports mainly consist of capital goods , raw materials, semi-manufactured goods (approximately 76 percent of total trade imports), and consumer commodities.

South Africa maintains formal trade relations with various countries by means of treaties, trade agreements, and membership in international trade institutions. The centerpiece of South Africa's foreign economic policy is the Southern African Development Community (SADC), comprising Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The government's key policy objective is to strengthen trade and investment linkages between South Africa and the other SADC countries.

Trade with SADC countries increased dramatically during the period 1988 to 1997. At present, the ratio of South Africa's exports to imports to SADC countries stands at 6:1. Exports to the region are concentrated in high value-added sectors, such as minerals and base metals, chemicals, machinery, transport equipment, and food and beverages. The most important SADC purchaser of South African exports is Zimbabwe, followed by Mozambique, Zambia, Mauritius, Malawi, Angola, and Tanzania. Zimbabwe is also the largest source of imports, followed by Malawi, Angola, Zambia and Mozambique. The member states of the SADC are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to strengthen trade, investment, and industrial linkages within the region.

Europe is the biggest source of trade for South Africa. In fact, 7 out of 10 of South Africa's top trading partners are European countries. Britain is South Africa's largest single trading partner. British exports to South Africa were worth R14 billion in 1998 while South African exports to Britain totaled R22 billion. Trade between Germany and Africa rose in 1997: German exports to South Africa were valued at DM5.9 billion in 1997, while German imports from South Africa were up almost 16 percent to R9 billion in 1998. There has been a steady increase in bilateral trade between France and South Africa, and at the end of 1998, France was the fifth largest supplier of goods to South Africa. South African exports to France totaled more than R2 billion. Bilateral trade between South Africa and Switzerland is worth R6.384 billion a year. Almost 400 Swiss companies are represented in South Africa. Italy is one of the top 5 major trading partners of South Africa, with the 2-way trading relations amounting to R8 billion in 1997. In March 1999, South Africa concluded an historic trade agreement with the European Union (EU) that will result in the abolition of tariffs on more than 90 percent of trade between the 15 EU countries and South Africa within 12 years.

The United States is another of South Africa's largest trading partners. South Africa is a beneficiary of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which grants duty-free treatment for more than 4,650 products. South Africa's exports to the United States increased from R5.2 billion in 1993 to R14.8 billion in 1998. South Africa also has important trading relations with Japan, South Korea, and countries in South America.

In 2000 South Africa enjoyed a trade surplus of US$3.2 billion on exports of US$30.8 billion and imports of US$27.6 billion.


The South African rand was a very strong currency until the early 1980s. Due to political unrest the rand declined slowly but was controlled artificially by the government. After the first democratic elections in April

Exchange rates: South Africa
rand (R) per US$1
Mar 2001 7.60
2000 6.93983
1999 6.10948
1998 5.52828
1997 4.60796
1996 4.29935
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

1994, the value of the rand dropped dramatically. In 1996 the South African rand was valued at R4.30 per U.S. dollar, but by May 2001 the rand was valued at R7.90 per U.S. dollar. The very weak rand causes imports to South Africa to be very expensive and almost unaffordable. However, the devalued rand does make it far easier to export South African products, which seem a bargain to foreign buyers.

The South African financial sector is very modern and can be compared with the best banking systems in the world. The central bank in South Africa is the South African Reserve Bank. The South African Reserve Bank is responsible for monetary policy, and for ensuring that the South African money and banking system is sound, meets the requirements of the community, and keeps abreast of developments in international finance.

South Africa has one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) was established on 8 November 1887. The JSE provides a market where securities can be freely traded under a regulated procedure. It not only channels funds into the economy but also provides investors with returns on investments in the form of dividends. All buying and selling of stocks on the JSE is done via computer.


Due to South Africa's history of apartheid, a period when blacks were oppressed both politically and economically, the country's poverty and wealth profile is highly skewed to favor the white population. According to a study conducted in 1995, whites in South Africa, with per capita income of US$32,076, made 11.8 times more per capita than blacks (who had a per capita income of US$2,717), 5.1 times more than people of mixed-race (with an income of US$6,278), and 2.5 times more than Asians (with an income of US$12,963). In fact, South Africa has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth and income in the world. Recent research indicates that 40 percent of the households with the lowest income in South Africa earn less than 6 percent of total income, while the 10 percent with the highest income earn more

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
South Africa 4,574 4,620 4,229 4,113 3,918
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Namibia N/A 2,384 2,034 1,948 2,133
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: South Africa
Lowest 10% 1.1
Lowest 20% 2.9
Second 20% 5.5
Third 20% 9.2
Fourth 20% 17.7
Highest 20% 64.8
Highest 10% 45.9
Survey year: 1993-94
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

than half the total income. The average income of the top-earning 20 percent of the households is 45 times that of the bottom earning 20 percent.

The general population has high expectations of improvement in their quality of life, particularly concerning housing, education, healthcare, jobs and income. These expectations are the result of election promises by the ANC alliance, formalized in the so-called Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). The RDP came into being as an ANC election document in the run-up to the 1994 election, and reflected the party's then dominant commitment to state intervention in the economy. According to the U.S. Department of State's Background Notes: South Africa, "The RDP was designed to create programs to improve the standard of living for the majority of the population by providing housinga planned 1 million new homes in 5 yearsbasic services, education, and health care."

In 1996, as the government shifted to embrace free-market economic practices, it announced new plans to deal with poverty under a market-driven plan called Growth, Employment and Redistribution: A Macroeconomic Strategy. This plan took the a more market-based approach to economic improvement, using fiscal and trade policy to create jobs and lending less direct government aid to the impoverished.


South Africa has 17 million economically active people but a high unemployment rate of 30 percent in 2000. The unemployment problem is mainly related to structural factors, such as the high rate of population growth and the existence of large sectors of the economy that are poorly developed. The new government has pledged to reduce inequality in the job market by means of affirmative action in favor of non-whites, the disabled, and women. It has begun with a vigorous program of affirmative action in the public sector. A strong influx of illegal aliens from neighboring countries, particularly since 1990, has added to the rapid growth rate of the domestic population and the high unemployment rate. According to news reports, the ranks of squatters and criminals have been swelled by illegal aliens.

Affirmative action policies, high tax rates, and the rising crime rate have all helped to drive more highly skilled workers out of the country. The net loss of economically active persons in professional, technical, and managerial positions is very disturbing. Exact figures are difficult to determine, however, because many South Africans leave the country permanently without stating it clearly.

Both governments elected since 1994 have taken steps to secure and protect the rights of workers, especially black workers, in the South African economy. Among the rights listed in the Bill of Rights in the 1996 constitution were provisions guaranteeing workers the right to fair labor practices, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, and other labor friendly practices. Since that time, the government has created a number of laws friendly to workers, including a Labor Relations Act (which sets parameters for workplace bargaining and entrenches the right to strike); the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (which prescribes the maximum number of hours in a work week, leave, and overtime pay provisions, etc.); the Employment Equity Act (which sets out to eliminate discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, race, or disability); and the Skills Development Act (which aims to improve the general skills level throughout industry).

According to the U.S. Department of State Country Commercial Guide for FY2000: South Africa, "In 1997 there were 3.4 million union members in South Africa, or nearly 35 percent of the economically active population" (with the latter using a lower figure of 9.8 million workers used by the International Labor Organization). "The largest labor federation, the 1.8 million-strong Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), is in a formal alliance with the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP)." Many union leaders play a prominent role in government, contributing to the generally labor friendly reputation of the government. Unions have used strike threats to persuade employers to pay higher wages, and unions are particularly strong in the mining and industrial sectors. However, the recent tendency of the government to favor free market solutions to economic problems has led to tensions with organized labor.


1652. The first Dutch settlement is established on the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company.In the coming decades, French Huguenots, the Dutch, and Germans establish settlements along the coast. Eventually, they go to war with indigenous peoples to establish their claims to the land.

1795-1803. First British occupation of the Cape, leading to tensions between the British and the Afrikaners, the name for the original European settlers in the area.

1806. Second British occupation of the Cape occurs.

1814. Holland cedes the Cape to Britain.

1836. Afrikaner farmers, known as Boers, undertake a "Great Trek" to establish settlements in the South African interior. They battle the native Zulus for control of the area. The Zulus retain control of some parts of the interior until 1879.

1847-49. British immigrants arrive in Natal, and soon sugar is grown in the area.

1852-54. The independent Boer Republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State are created, straining relations with the ruling British.

1869. Diamonds are discovered near Kimberley.

1880-81. The first Anglo-Boer War is fought between British troops and Afrikaner settlers (Boers).

1886. Gold is discovered in the Witwatersrand region of the Transvaal.

1887. Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is established

1899-1902. The second Anglo-Boer War breaks out, with the British gaining control of the Boer republics.

1910. The 2 republics and British colonies become the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire with Louis Botha as prime minister.

1912. Native blacks establish the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which later becomes the African National Congress (ANC), to protest the creation of laws and practices based on color.

1927. Compulsory segregation is announced.

1930. White women get to vote.

1948. The victory of the National Party (NP) in all-white elections leads to the creation of a strict policy of white domination and racial separation known as "apartheid."

1950-52. Passage of strict racial laws.

1960s. Following protests in the town of Sharpeville that leave 69 black protestors dead and hundreds injured, the ANC and the Pan-African Congress (PAC) are banned and ANC leader Nelson Mandela is imprisoned in 1962 on charges of treason. From this time onward the ANC functions as an illegal but powerful opposition force for black rights in South Africa.

1961. The nation leaves the British Commonwealth and becomes the independent Republic of South Africa.

1984. Revisions to the constitution give colored and Asian people a limited role in the national government, but power remains in white hands.

1990. Following years of mounting black protest and increasing sanctions against South Africa because of apartheid, President F.W. De Klerk announces the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the legalization of the ANC, PAC, and other anti-apartheid groups.

1991. The so-called "pillars of apartheid"the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and Population Registration Actare officially rescinded.

1994. First democratic elections take place in April under a new constitution. The ANC wins a majority in the legislature and elects Nelson Mandela as president.

1996. National Party pulls out of the Government of National Unity (GNU). First official census occurs in post-apartheid South Africa.

1999. In the country's second democratic elections the ANC increases its majority in the legislature and selects Thabo Mbeki as president.


South Africa's GDP is expected to grow at a modest rate of 3.0 percent a year in the decade from 1996 to 2005, well higher than the 1.7 percent annual growth registered in the years of economic adversity from 1975 to 1995. However, economic problems inherited from that period and the challenges of the political transformation will prevent the growth rate from reaching levels associated with more vigorous growth.

South Africa should enjoy a high level of foreign direct investment in the coming years, especially in comparison to the near total lack of such investment during the years when it was an outcast nation due to its apartheid policies. Years of underinvestment in infrastructure and housing among disadvantaged communities, coupled with government social spending targets set in the RDP, are likely to lead to a relatively high average growth rate of 6.5 percent in government expenditures. Even though unemployment is expected to increase, labor unions are likely to persist in demanding wage and salary increases to compensate them for inflation in the recent past. Both exports and imports are likely to be stimulated by trade liberalization .

Long-term interest rates are expected to remain high because of inflation and continued deficit spending by the government. Monetary discipline and the globalization on the money market will also keep upward pressure on short-term interest rates. The current political transformation makes it very difficult to forecast trends in the financial system, however.

As with any major political and economic transition, problems of adjustment are evident in the incidence of crime and violence in the major metropolitan centers. The concerns of foreign visitors are shared by all South Africans and are addressed by a comprehensive national crime prevention strategy focusing on all components of the criminal justice system. Solutions are also provided by the resurgence of urban renewal and re-development projects in the inner city areas of Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town, public works and programs in under-developed areas, and community development projects linking the youth to meaningful income generating opportunities.

Against the background of a rapidly transforming national economy, striving to expand and increase its competitive edge in world markets, the South African government has implemented a variety of incentive programs aimed at easing and accelerating the transition to competitive and sustainable manufacturing industries. These programs are geared to provide support for training and education, technology development, competitive prices for manufacturing inputs, and investment in competitive machinery and equipment.

A level of economic liberalization has accompanied South Africa's political transformation and is reinforced by a restructured civil society. The new constitution provides a solid foundation for political stability as a key cornerstone to long-term real economic growth.


South Africa has no territories or colonies.


Arnold, Guy. The New South Africa. New York: St. Martin'sPress, 2000.

Bond, Patrick. Elite Transition: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa. London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of Natal Press, 2000.

Du Toit, J., and A. J. Jacobs. Southern Africa: An Economic Profile. South Africa: Southern Book Publishers, 1995.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: South Africa. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Ginsberg, Anthony Sanfield. South Africa's Future: From Crisis to Prosperity. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

National Treasury. <>. AccessedOctober 2001.

Naude, W. A., and E.P.J. Kleynhans. Economic Development Decisions and Policy: A South African Manual. Potchefstroom, South Africa, 1999.

South Africa Government Online. <>. AccessedOctober 2001.

South African Embassy, Washington, D.C. USA. <>. Accessed October 2001.

South Africa Yearbook. Cape Town: The Rustica Press, N'dabeni,1999.

Statistics South Africa. Stats in Brief. Pretoria, South Africa, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: South Africa, April 2000. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Country Commercial Guide FY 2000: South Africa. <>. Accessed October 2001.

WEFA. South Africa Long Term Economic Outlook, 1996-2005 .WEFA Group, Pretoria, South Africa, 1996.

WEFA. South African Macroeconomic Outlook. WEFA Group, Pretoria, South Africa, 2001.

Whiteford, A., D. Posel, and T. Kelatwang. A Profile of Poverty Inequality and Human Development. Pretoria, South Africa: Human Research Council, 1995.

World Economic Forum. The Africa Competitiveness Report, 2000/2001. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Wilma Viviers

A. Tromp

L. Campbell


Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial).


South African rand. One rand equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 rand. There are notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 rand.


Gold, diamonds, other metals and minerals, machinery, equipment.


Machinery, foodstuffs and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments.


US$369 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$30.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$27.6 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Worldmark Encyclopedia of National Economies. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of South Africa
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 43,586,097
Language(s): Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Literacy rate: 81.8%
Area: 1,219,912 sq km
GDP: 125,887 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 16
Circulation per 1,000: 40
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 101
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 2,240 (Rand millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 28.40
Number of Television Stations: 556
Number of Television Sets: 5,200,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 119.3
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 390,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 8.9
Number of Radio Stations: 362
Number of Radio Receivers: 13,750,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 315.5
Number of Individuals with Computers: 2,700,000
Computers per 1,000: 61.9
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 2,400,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 55.1

Background & General Characteristics

South Africa, which covers 470,462 square miles of the southern tip of the African continent, is home to more than 43 million people. It is bordered by Namibia in the northwest, Zimbabwe and Botswana in the north, Mozambique in the northeast, Swaziland in the east, and the Indian and Atlantic oceans in the south, southeast, and southwest. The small Kingdom of Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa.

South Africa is probably the only country in the world to boast four capital cities. Johannesburg, the country's largest city, is the commercial capital. It is located in the midst of the country's gold and diamond mining industry. Nearby Pretoria is the country's administrative capital. Cape Town is the legislative capital, where the South African Parliament meets. Bloemfontein is the country's judicial capital.

South Africa is considered one of the most developed countries in Africa. According to the 2001 Global Competitiveness Report, South Africa was ranked number 34 in the world in terms of national economic growth prospects, placing it in the upper echelons of world countries. This also made it the highest ranked African country in that category. Some have said white South Africans belonged in the Second World in terms of economic growth, industrialization, and prospects, while the country's African majority pulled the country into Third World membership.

Literacy is more than 90 percent for whites and about 60 percent for blacks, directly affecting newspaper read-ership. The average annual income is US$3,170, but this figure is somewhat misleading because whites make up to 10 times more than their black counterparts.

South Africa has a varied racial and ethnic makeup. For much of its recent history, whites dominated its political, economic, and military setup. Coloreds (mulattoes or those of racial mixed descent), Asians (mostly Indians, Pakistanis, and Chinese), and some Arabs, served as a buffer between the whites who occupied the top rungs of the ladder and the black majority, which was exiled to the lowest rungs of the ladder. Today, South Africa's population is 75 percent black Africans, 14 percent whites, 9 percent coloreds, and 2 percent Indians and other races.

English is the official language. Most whites speak English or Afrikaans. Many Africans speak English, some speak Afrikaans, and all of them speak African languages, especially Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Pedi, Tsonga, Sotho, Swazi, and Tswana. South Africa has 11 recognized languages, including English and Afrikaans. South African radio and television broadcast in the 11 recognized languages. Most newspapers, however, are published in English and Afrikaans. Those that cater to the African majority are almost entirely in English, since many Africans refuse to speak Afrikaans, which they regard as the language of their former oppressors.


South Africa is an old country, but its modern, recorded history is sometimes traced to the trade between European sailors who were plying the route to India. Under white rule, it was claimed that Portuguese navigators Bartolomeu Dias, in 1488, and Vasco da Gama, in 1497, were among the first European sailors to sail around the southern tip of South Africa. The Portuguese, therefore, were the first Europeans to establish a presence at what would become known as the Cape of Good Hope, which was central to the route between Europe and India. They were followed by the Dutch, who were also on their way to the east, when they decided to establish a presence at the cape. Unlike the Portuguese, who remained on the coast, the Dutch began to move inland. More Europeans followed, establishing the Cape as an integral part of trade with the East. French Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution in Europe, arrived at the Cape and began to establish settlements, all without consulting with the indigenous Africans in the surrounding communities, which would lay the seeds for future conflicts.

By the 1770s, the northward expansion of the white colonialists began to produce clashes with the indigenous Africans. For a while, the British controlled the Cape and Natal provinces, while those of Dutch and French Huguenot descent occupied what became known as Transvaal and Orange Free State. As diamonds and gold were discovered in South Africa, the white population continued to rise. War was inevitable, as English immigrants and their Dutch counterparts clashed. Britain was victorious, leading to the creation of the Union of South Africa, as a white-ruled self-governing entity. Also at this time, in 1912, the South African Native National Congress was formed to champion the views and interests of the African majority, whose presence was ignored as the whites fought among themselves. By 1923 the South African Native National Congress was transformed into the African National Congress (ANC), which is today's ruling party.

In the early years of the struggle, however, the fight was between English-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking whites. Afrikaans was the guttural language founded by whites from the Netherlands, Germany, and the French Huguenots. It was distinctly different from English. It also served to separate Afrikaans speakers from their English-speaking counterparts.

Until World War II, the United Party was dominated by English speakers, who were also better educated and were running the government, commerce, and industry. Although they had no clear policy over what to do about the black majority, by South African standards the United Party was considered moderate in its treatment and views of the African problem. United Party domination of South African politics ended in 1948 when the National Party won that year's elections. Voting then was limited to whites. Blacks had no political role within the white-dominated system. The National Party was dominated by Afrikaners, who were mostly farmers and miners. They wanted to create a white-dominated country in which blacks had no part. They named their system apartheid, which meant separate racial development. Under apart-heid, South Africa was divided into separate and unequal communities.

Under apartheid, blacks were denied South African citizenship. All political, economic, industrial, agricultural, military, and social power resided in the hands of the white minority. Blacks working as miners, domestic workers, factory, and farm hands were regarded as immigrants who were available as temporary workers, who could stay in the white areas as long as their labor was needed. They could not vote, could not organize or strike, could not build homes in the urban areas, and could not compete for jobs set aside by law for whites.

The National Party's agenda was to force all blacks to become citizens of what came to be known as "Black Homelands." These were largely barren pieces of land, with no cities, often no electricity, no industry, and no mines that were randomly established in remote parts of the country. These homelands would one day become "Independent States" where Africans who collaborated with apartheid could rule their own people. Most black South Africans, including Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress, rejected apartheid and independent homelands and instead demanded a unitary South Africa that accepted all South Africa, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, creed, or national origin. Most blacks, led by the ANC, its rival, the Pan-Africanist Congress, and other militant groups categorically and unconditionally rejected the homeland solution, insisting instead on their South African citizenship.

These were the conditions South Africa faced as the 1980s ended. South Africa was confident that with its strong and well trained military, police, and undercover forces, it could hold on to power indefinitely and keep the black majority oppressed. There was no immediate fear that the ANC and its allies could militarily overthrow the apartheid regime, at that time led by P.W. Botha and his National Party. It was also equally clear that the ANC, although banned, enjoyed massive support among black South Africans and that it was capable of continuing indefinitely its low-level campaign of guerrilla warfare and sabotage.

The South African economy was suffering, Mandela had been transformed into an international icon, and foreign governments were pressuring Pretoria to end apart-heid. With Zimbabwe independent and Namibia following suit, South Africa faced increasing international isolation, while the ANC was gaining more allies and more territory from which to operate. Some of South Africa's leaders were beginning to warn South Africa that unless it scrapped apartheid, there was no chance of the country ever gaining international acceptance and recognition, that its economic plight would worsen as multinational companies were forced to leave the country and banks became more reluctant to lend money to South Africa. It was clear the ANC was winning the battle for the minds of black South Africans, as well as economic, diplomatic, and political support from the international community.

Botha had been replaced as ANC and South African president by F.W. de Klerk, who proved to be a much more pragmatic leader. In 1989 De Klerk stunned South Africa and the world, by unconditionally releasing many senior ANC leaders; Nelson Mandela, by then the world's best-known political prisoner, left prison on February 11, 199027 years after he had been incarcerated. A new South Africa was dawning. In September 1989, the South African government announced that the banned African National Congress, the Pan-Africanist Congress, and the South African Communist Party and other anti-apartheid groups were no longer banned, almost 30 years after they had been initially banned.

De Klerk proposed a new political dispensation in which blacks and whites would be treated as equals, with equal political rights for all. He scrapped all apartheid rules, laws, and policies, and ended the political chasm between the ruling white minority and the black majority. He dared to negotiate with Mandela and others to bring about a democratic, multiracial South Africa. Mandela and De Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in bringing about a new South Africa that was no longer a prisoner to its apartheid past. Mandela and De Klerk became the country's co-leaders until the country's first democratic and multiracial elections in April 1994. As expected, the ANC won with 62.7 percent of the vote, followed by the National Party at 20.4 percent; the Inkatha Freedom Party won 10.5 percent. The radical Pan-Africanist Congress and other smaller white and black groups shared the remaining votes.

During elections held June 1999, the ANC again swept the field. Mandela's deputy, Thabo Mbeki, became the country's second democratically elected president. Mbeki is expected to serve until 2004, when he is likely to run for a second and final term as South African president. In less than 10 years, South Africa has been transformed from an exile nation to one that is internationally accepted and looked upon as a beacon of democratic hope and opportunities.

Media History

The media history of South Africa can be divided into two main phases: during apartheid and after apartheid. These two categories define the fundamental changes that have reshaped South Africa since it was reaccepted into the international community of nations. South Africa is also different from other countries in Africa because of its long tradition of newspaper journalism that dates back to when the whites arrived at the Cape of Good Hope. It is also worth noting that South Africa and Nigeria are the only two African countries with a history of competing newspapers under multiple ownerships.

Almost all South African newspapers are published in English or Afrikaans. The English newspapers generally tend to be more influential and are read by more people. Radio and television, through the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is in English, Afrikaans, and the country's nine African languages. English is the official language and the language of business and commerce. South Africa wants to be sure that its SABC electronic services reach those who are fluent in many of the country's non-white languages.

The media changes that occurred in South Africa were so dizzying that even some of the editors and journalists had a hard time adapting to the changes. Under apartheid, the media operated in a minefield of laws designed to make it almost impossible to publish any information without authorization from the government, especially on political and national security issues. Newspapers were prevented from publishing the names of banned people, who included almost all the anti-apartheid leaders. Names and pictures of people such as Nelson Mandela disappeared from news pages, as did the names of banned organizations and groups. When South Africa rejoined the community of nations after the end of apartheid, it had a new constitution that protected freedom of expression and of the press. South Africa had moved from having one of the most oppressive media systems in the world to one where the media could publish almost anything, without fear of punishment from the government. The press in South Africa today is free to criticize the government and to publish articles about opposition groups, even when those views are harshly critical of the ANC and its government.

The earliest South African newspapers can be traced to the days of the earliest white settlements in South Africa, especially around the Cape of Good Hope, around the mid-1600s. Those early papers were written and edited by whites for whites; they included stories from England, the Netherlands, France, and Germanythe home countries of the whites who settled in Africa. There was virtually nothing in those early newspapers about the indigenous people. Therefore, it was not surprising that virtually all the early South African newspapers were in English or Afrikaans, the two languages spoken by the dominant white groups in the country. Over time, the number of newspapers rose to 12 in English and 4 in Afrikaans, reflecting the dominance of English and English-speaking whites in early South Africa, even though in terms of population there were more Afrikaners than their English counterparts. Even some of the Afrikaners also preferred to read the English language press.

The first newspaper published in sub-Saharan Africa appeared in Cape Town in 1800. The Cape Town Gazette and African Advertiser, which carried English and Dutch news, began appearing almost 150 years after the first Dutch settlers had arrived in South Africa. It was the arrival of British settlers, however, that seems to have resulted in the publication of the country's first newspaper. Despite initial opposition from colonial authorities, eventually the paper began to enjoy a measure of freedom and autonomy. This was followed by the appearance, in 1869, of another newspaper in the Cape area, when diamonds were discovered in the region. Not to be outdone, in 1876 Afrikaners began publishing their own newspaper, called Di Patriot. Die Zuid Afrikaan, a Dutch language newspaper, began publishing in Cape Town in 1828.

The continuing political problems between those of English and Dutch descent spilled over into the media arena. Those of Dutch descent were unhappy about being under British influence and control. When the Dutch moved north, they also decided to establish newspapers in the areas that fell under their control. To promote and protect their interests in the mining areas, the Dutch descendants two more newspapers, De Staats Courant in 1857 and De Volksten in 1873.

As the number of white settlers in South Africa increased, chain newspapers arrived in South Africa with the launch of the Cape Argus in 1857 and Cape Times in 1876. As relations between the Dutch and the English speakers worsened, the press became more partisan, taking sides in the disputes between the two groups. But after the 1889-1902 Anglo-Boer ended, with the English victorious, the Union of South Africa was born, which brought together English-speaking Natal and Cape Town on one side with the Dutch republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State.

By the time this came about, English-language and Dutch language newspapers were pretty much in place. On the English side were the Eastern Province Herald, first published in 1845; the Natal Witness, 1846; the Natal Mercury, 1852; the Daily News, 1854; The Argus, 1857; Daily Dispatch, 1872; Cape Times, 1876; Diamond Fields Advertiser, 1878; and The Star, 1887.

The first non-English and non-Dutch newspapers also emerged at this time, with Indian Opinion in 1904; and two African newspapers, Imvo Zabantsundu in 1884 and Ilanga Losa in 1904.

Although aimed at English-speaking merchants, professionals, and civil servants, the English press also found some ardent readers among the Dutch. This was also the time that the English press established its dominance in many of South Africa's largest cities. Among such newspapers was the Rand Daily Mail, which was founded in 1902. For a while it became one of the most influential newspapers in South Africa. The South African Associated Press, now Times Media, became the biggest chain of Sunday and daily morning newspapers in the country.

Meanwhile, there was a parallel movement among the Dutch descendants, who founded newspapers to promote their political, economic, and cultural interests. The Dutch felt oppressed by the English, after losing the Anglo-Boer war, so they started Die Burger in 1915 to promote their interests. Die Burger was a different kind of newspaper because it depended on support from numerous small shareholders. It had links to political interests, especially to the National Party, which ruled South Africa from 1948 until apartheid was dismantled. Die Burger also was influential in the founding of National Pers, which is now South Africa's second largest newspaper chain. Perskor, a second Afrikaans newspaper chain, appeared in Transvaal in 1937. It also supported the National Party and promoted its political agenda, language, and culture.

During the days of apartheid and since that time, alternative newspapers have made their appearance in South Africa to challenge the country's emergency, censorship, and national security regulations. They often frequently challenged the government of the day by carrying stories that challenged or contradicted the official view, especially on controversial issues. Although the banned ANC and some of its allies and rivals often published underground publications to spread their version of events among their followers, many of the alternative newspapers did not have a partisan political agenda. Instead, they tended to produce and publish stories that were at variance with the official version and would often include details not available in the mainstream media, which were usually reluctant to go too far in challenging the apartheid regime.

Among the more prominent such publications were the English language Weekly Mail and Sunday Nation and the Afrikaans language Vrye Weekblad and South.The Weekly Mail had a circulation between 25,000 and 50,000. These alternative publications played a crucial role in the waning days of apartheid because they provided an alternative point of view and were a source of information on the thinking and activities of those groups that sought to dismantle apartheid and everything it stood for. They also played another equally important role, by showing blacks and other anti-apartheid groups that not all whites were monolithic and unquestioning supporters of the idea of forced racial segregation and separate racial development.

However, the end of apartheid was not good news for such publications. Foreign funding largely dried up. Such publications could no longer sell themselves or attract attention because of their anti-apartheid views. Among the survivors, however, is the Weekly Mail, which now calls itself the Weekly Mail and Guardian. It is still an alternative to the mainstream media with criticisms of the ANC government

Influential Newspapers

It is estimated that more than 5,000 newspapers, journals, and periodicals are produced regularly, almost all of them using the most modern technology and equipment. The Johannesburg Star, an English language daily paper, has a circulation in the 200,000 to 250,000 range. It is one of the best circulating newspapers in sub-Saharan Africa and is South Africa's largest and most influential newspaper. It is, by far, the most influential newspaper in South Africa. The Star is part of the Argus Group, the biggest publishing company in South Africa and, indeed, in all of Africa. It has publishing interests in other African countries. At one time, it owned the single largest stable of daily, weekly, and Sunday newspapers in Zimbabwe, although these were later sold to the government-controlled Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust.

Another influential newspaper in South Africa is the Sowetan, an English language black newspaper that circulates primarily in Soweto, a sprawling Johannesburg township, and in Johannesburg proper. The Sowetan, established in 1981, has a daily circulation in the 200,000 to 250,000 range. Most of its readers are blacks. Despite that, it has not been afraid to take on and challenge the ANC government led by Mbeki.

Other influential South African newspapers include Beeld, a daily Afrikaans language newspaper published in Johannesburg, and Die Burger, an Afrikaans daily published in Cape Town. Both Beeld and Die Burger have daily circulations in the 100,000 to 125,000 range. They are the two largest and most influential Afrikaans newspapers in South Africa.

The Sunday Times, an English language newspaper published in Johannesburg, has a circulation in the 450,000 to 500,000 range. It is the largest and most influential weekly paper in South Africa, and it is also the largest Sunday paper in sub-Saharan Africa. Behind it in Sunday circulation and influence is the Sunday Tribune, published since 1937 with a circulation in the 100,000 to 125,000 range.

The City Press, an English language weekly established in 1983 in Johannesburg, has a circulation in the 250,000 to 300,000 range, while the Rapport, a weekly Afrikaans language paper established in 1970 in Johannesburg, circulates 250,000 to 300,000 newspapers. Both of these are considered influential among Afrikaners.

Economic Framework

South Africa is a rich country. It is one of the world's major producers of gold, industrial, and gem diamonds, and it has the world's largest-known gold reserves. De Beers, a South African-based company, has a monopoly on the global sale of gold and diamonds. About 80 percent of the world's known manganese reserves are in South Africa.

South Africa also has a well-developed agricultural sector that includes corn production and cattle ranching. Agriculture is also a major employer, although both it and farming have employed workers from neighboring African countries, especially Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Chemicals, food, textiles, clothing, metals, transportation, communications, roads, and railways are also important to the South African economy and labor force. As a result, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) became politically and economically muscular. It is allied with the ANC, which operated through COSATU during apartheid days to pressure the Pretoria regime through strikes and other labor actions. Even today, COSATU has not hesitated to use its power to wring concessions from its ruling ANC allies.

In June 1988 COSATU and its allies had defied the apartheid regime and staged a massive strike, supported by more than 2 million black workers, which brought the country to a standstill. Soon after that, P.W. Botha resigned as president of South Africa and the National Party.

Newspaper Chains

South Africa has four major newspaper chains: Argus Newspapers, which accounts for 45 percent of all daily South African newspaper sales, especially in the major cities. Its properties include its flag-ship property, The Johannesburg Star, The ArgusThe Cape Times, the Daily News and Natal Mercury, and the Pretoria News and the Sunday Tribune. Next, in terms of size and influence, is Times Media, formerly South African Associated Newspapers, the country's second largest English language newspaper chain. Its other properties include Business Day, the Eastern Province Herald, and the Evening Post in Port Elizabeth. The Sunday Times is also part of the Times Media stable. Times Media is ultimately owned by the giant Anglo-American Corporation, the country's largest company.

The two Afrikaans language chains are Nasionale Pers (Naspers, whose properties include Beeld, Die Bur ger, and Die Volksblad. Naspers also has a 50 percent share in Rapport and also owns City Press, a large Sunday paper that targets black readers. Meanwhile, Perskor the second largest Afrikaans chain, also has a 50 percent interest in Rapport, and it owns The Citizen, a politically conservative English language.


The National Party used censorship freely to control what the media published. The Publications Act of 1974 gave the South African government the power to censor movies, plays, books, and other entertainment programs, as well as the right to decide what South Africans could or could not view. Books critical of apartheid or racial discrimination were routinely barred. Movies showing interracial relationships were banned from television and from the movies. The National Party government had appointed itself as the guardian of public morals and behavior.

The new constitution did away with these old behaviors. Censorship laws, policies, and regulations from the apartheid era were scrapped. South Africa, which had become notorious because of its prudish standards, was now open to all types of media, movies, and entertainment. Writers and producers no longer have to worry about censorship or how to beat it. The government has basically left it to the public to decide what it wants to see or read.

Because the new South African constitution protects freedom of expression and of the media, South African Broadcasting Corporation employees are finally free from the strictures and controls imposed on them during the apartheid days. Although the South African government appoints the SABC board of directors, it has not tried to choose only those who support its policies and programs. This has produced an ironic situation where the ANC has allowed and tolerated the use of SABC for the airing and exchange of various views, including those whose views are anathema to the ANC government. So far, South Africa has escaped a problem afflicting many African countrieswhere presidents and their governments have taken over radio and television and used them as propaganda agencies, often denying opposition groups, parties, and critics access to the airwaves, even when the broadcast media are subsidized by license fees and public funds. So far, the ANC government has resisted the temptation to interfere with the running and programming of SABC television and radio.

State-Press Relations

Under apartheid, the government controlled the media. The government decided what was news. For example, if a journalist witnessed a shootout between security forces and guerrilla fighters, that story could not be reported until it was verified or confirmed by official sources. If the journalist saw bodies of slain soldiers or police officers, he or she could not report that information until it came from official sources. If the police or army denied that any security force personnel had been killed or wounded or that the skirmish had occurred, then such news, regardless of how much information the journalist had, could never be published or broadcast.

During apartheid, foreign and domestic journalists operating in South Africa had to walk through a minefield of legislation designed to prevent the independent publication of information that might embarrass the government. It was the job of journalists and editors to check the laws before deciding what information could be published. Many journalists were reduced to self-policing and self-censorship to avoid breaking the law. Fines, imprisonment, even banning awaited those publications that dared break or challenge these laws. Under the new constitution, South African media and journalists are enjoying unparalleled freedoms. Except for libel laws, they are free to publish any type of news, without having to worry about what laws they may be violating.

In most other African countries, the government has instituted a domestic news agency to serve as the procurer or disseminator of news from other parts of Africa and/or the world. The South African Press Association (SAPA), the country's domestic news agency, transmits about 100,000 words of domestic and foreign news daily to its members. Additionally, the Associated Press (American), Reuters (British), Agence-France Presse (French), and Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German) operate from South Africa. SAPA also cooperates with the Pan African News Agency (PANA), an organization that receives news from all over the continent to distribute within the country. SAPA also sends South African stories to PANA for distribution to other African countries.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

South Africa always has welcomed the foreign media, except when articles critical of apartheid (during the days of apartheid rule) were published. At the height of the apartheid era, many African, American, and European journalists and editors were placed on a prohibited list. Those who had written or published articles critical of apartheid and what it stood for often found themselves unable to obtain visas to visit South Africa.

In the 1980s and 1990s, apartheid was a major story. Many American newspapers, including The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, had correspondents permanently stationed in South Africa. Many European journalists were also in South Africa. The major American television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) also had correspondents stationed in South Africa or in nearby countries.

Time and Newsweek also sold their magazines in South Africa. South Africans could listen to news broadcasts from the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and other Western short wave radio outlets. The ANC and its allies also had access to radio waves in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania, and other countries from which they broadcast messages to their colleagues in South Africa. Although it was illegal to listen to such broadcasts, many people tuned in to them.

The Mbeki government has allowed the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and other international broadcast media, as well as journalists from the world's print media, to come to South Africa and to operate freely, even when they sometimes highlight embarrassing storiessuch as the one about the government's failure or reluctance to confront the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has ravaged that country. Laws from the apartheid era, which controlled, censored, and intimidated journalists, have disappeared. Foreign journalists and media are freely welcomed in South Africa today and given access to government officials. They are also able, without licensing or accreditation, to roam freely around the country, interviewing whomever they want.

Broadcast Media

Radio and television remain the main means of getting news and information in South Africa. Radio started in South Africa in 1923. Since then, it has spread throughout the country. The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was established in 1936 to handle the country's broadcast needs. Over the years, radio was used as a propaganda instrument to force South Africans to accept apartheid and everything it stood for. For a long time, until the 1990s, blacks and others who opposed apartheid were regularly denied access to the country's public airwaves. After the 1960s, the ANC, the PAC, the Communist Party, and other groups that opposed apart-heid could not be mentioned, except derogatorily, on South African radio. They were banned from ever being mentioned, as SABC became more and more part of the government's propaganda machinery.

Even though anybody who owned a radio or television outlet in South Africa was required to obtain an annual listening license, the apartheid rulers saw nothing wrong with using the airwaves to support their National Party and to air nothing but apartheid propaganda. South African Radio today tries to cater to the various interests of its diverse population. It broadcasts in English, Afrikaans, and many of the major African languages.

Radio stations reach virtually every corner of the country. About 12 percent of airtime is set aside for news. In addition to the broadcasts in English, Afrikaans and selected African languages, there is a youth-oriented commercial station and Radio RSA (Republic of South Africa), also called the Voice of South Africa. Radio RSA externally broadcasts 177 hours a week in English, French, Swahili, Tsonga, Lozi, Chichewa, and Portuguese to audiences in other parts of Africa. South Africa is one of the few African countries to allow privately-owned commercial radio broadcasts. Radio 702 and Capital Radio 604 operate outside of the confines of the SABC and, in fact, compete with it. There are also plans to offer more privately owned outlets.

Television came late to South Africa because of the government's fears over what were seen as its corrupting influences. The first TV broadcast was in 1976, long after it had reached many developing African countries. Like radio, television is under the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which collects license fees from viewers and listeners. There are three major channels: TV1, which broadcasts daily in English and Afrikaans; Contemporary Community Values Television (CCV), which has programs in African, Asian, and European languages; and National Network Television (NNTV), which specializes in sports and public service programming. SABC television fare comes from local programming, as well as programs coming from the United States and Britain. Many of its programs, especially the talk show variety, are borrowed from similar series in the United States.

Electronic News Media

South Africa is among the best African countries in providing its citizens with Internet access. As of 2000, there were 44 Internet service providers.

Education & Training

South African colleges and universities, newspapers, and American and British foundations have been the main sources for the training of future journalists. Many of the leading universities do offer journalism programs and degrees. Workshops and seminars have also been held in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other African countries to offer training in environmental, economic, and investigative reporting.


The future looks very bright for the South African media. A new constitution protects a Bill of Rights and also guarantees freedom of expression and of the media. Although the Mbeki government has been unhappy about how it has sometimes been treated by the media and how the president has been caricatured, there has been no attempt to censor or punish the media or to pass laws to regulate the media or to prevent them from doing their job of making the government accountable for its actions. The South African media are emerging from their days of battling and suffering under apartheid laws to become true defenders of media freedom in a democratic society.

Today's South African journalists now operate in a country where they are free to criticize the government, scrutinize its actions, and even make fun of the country's political leaderswithout the prospect of prison and hefty fines hanging over their heads. South Africa has emerged from being a journalistic pariah to one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world. The experience has been dizzying for the media, the public, and the new government. The public seems to have become more accommodating to the idea that journalists have a duty to be responsible, without betraying their values, training, and commitment to being the purveyors of information and news, to a public that needs to be informed, educated, and entertained.


"Africa South of the Sahara." Europa World Survey, 2002.

British Broadcasting Corporation. Country Profile: South Africa, 2002.

Davis, Stephen M. Apartheid's Rebels: Inside South Africa's Hidden War. New Haven: Yale University Press,1987.

Faringer, Gunilla L. Press Freedom in Africa. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Frederiske, Julie. A Different Kind of War. Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, n.d.

Hachten, William A. The World News Prism: Changing Media, Clashing Ideologies. Ames, IA: The Iowa University Press, n.d.

Jeter, Phillip, Kuldip R. Rampal, Vibert C. Cambridge, and Vornelius B. Pratt. International Afro Mass Media. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Merril, John C., ed. Global Journalism: Survey of International Communication, Second Ed. New York: Long-man, 1991.

Ungar, Sanford J. Africa. Simon & Schuster, 1985.

World Geography Encyclopedia, Vol. 1. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 2002.

Tendayi S. Kumbula

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." World Press Encyclopedia. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." World Press Encyclopedia. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." World Press Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa, Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2011 pop. 51,770,560), 471,359 sq mi (1,220,813 sq km), S Africa. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean in the west, on Namibia in the northwest, on Botswana and Zimbabwe in the north, on Mozambique and Swaziland in the northeast, and on the Indian Ocean in the east and south. Lesotho is an independent enclave in the east. The largest city is Johannesburg. Cape Town is the legislative capital, Pretoria the administrative capital, and Bloemfontein the judicial capital.


Physical Geography

South Africa has three main geographic regions: a great interior plateau; an escarpment of mountain ranges that rims the plateau on the east, south, and west; and a marginal area lying between the escarpment and the sea. Most of the plateau consists of highveld, rolling grassland situated at 4,000 to 6,000 ft (1,220–1,830 m). In addition, in the northeast are the Witwatersrand (a ridge of rock where gold has been mined since 1886), the Bushveld Basin (a zone of savanna situated at 2,000–3,000 ft/610–910 m), and the Limpopo River basin.

In the north are the southern fringes of the Kalahari desert; and in the west is the semiarid Cape middleveld, which includes part of the Orange River and is situated at 2,500 to 4,000 ft (760–1,220 m). The escarpment reaches its greatest heights (10,000–11,000 ft/3,050–3,350 m) in the Drakensberg Range in the east. The marginal area varies in width between 35 and 150 mi (60–240 km) and most of it is bordered by a narrow, low-lying coastal strip. The region also includes considerable stretches of grassland in the east; mountains and the semiarid Great and Little Karroo tablelands in the south; and desert (a southern extension of the Namib desert) in the west. Kruger National Park is in NE South Africa.

Political Geography

South Africa is divided into nine provinces—Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga. Before 1994, there were four provinces: Cape Province, Natal (largely coextensive with KwaZulu-Natal), Orange Free State (largely coextensive with Free State), and Transvaal. In addition, during apartheid rule about 14% of the country's land area was set aside for blacks in pseudoindependent territories (originally called "bantustans" ), allegedly to allow them self-government and cultural preservation. In fact, these "homelands" were used to give the white government greater control and to exclude blacks from the political process. Gazankulu, Kangwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa were Bantu national homelands that existed under South African sovereignty. Transkei, the first homeland (1963), Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, and Venda were all granted "independence" by the early 1980s and existed as nominal republics, although none were recognized internationally. With the end of white minority rule in 1994, the black homelands were abolished.


The population of South Africa is about 80% black (African) and 10% white (European), with about 9% people of mixed white and black descent (formerly called "Coloured" ), and a small minority of South and East Asian background. Although these ethnic divisions were rigidly enforced under the policy of apartheid [Afrikaans,=apartness], racial distinctions are often arbitrary. People of African descent fall into several groups, based on their first language.

South Africa has 11 official languages, nine of which are indigenous—Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, Swazi, Venda, Ndebele, Pedi, and Tsonga. Many blacks also speak Afrikaans (the first language of about 60% of the whites and the majority of those of mixed race) or English (the first language of most of the rest of the nonblacks). A lingua franca called Fanagalo developed in the mining areas, but it is not widely used today. About 80% of the population is Christian; major groups include the Zionist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Dutch Reformed, and Anglican churches. There are small minorities of Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and followers of traditional African religions.


Until about 1870 the economy of the region was almost entirely based on agriculture. With the discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 19th cent., mining became the foundation for rapid economic development. In the 20th cent. the country's economy was diversified, so that by 1945 manufacturing was the leading contributor to the gross national product (GNP). By 2006, services contributed some 67% of the GNP, while industry contributed over 30% and agriculture only about 2.5%. The economy is still largely controlled by whites, but nonwhites make up more than 75% of the workforce. Working conditions and pay are often poor, and many nonwhites are subsistence farmers.

South Africa has a limited amount of arable land (about 12%) and inadequate irrigation; production is diminished during periodic droughts. The chief crops are corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, sorghum, potatoes, peanuts, cotton, and tobacco. In addition, large numbers of dairy and beef cattle, sheep, goats (including many Angora goats), and hogs are raised. There is a large fishing industry, and much fish meal is produced. Tourism also contributes significantly to the economy.

The main industrial centers are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria, and Germiston. There is food processing and a large wine industry. Principal manufactures include machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, and forest products. South Africa is a world leader in the production of platinum, gold, chromium, diamonds, aluminosilicates, manganese, and vanadium. Other leading minerals extracted are copper ore, coal, asbestos, iron ore, silver, titanium, and uranium. Automobile assembly, metalworking, and commercial ship repair are also important.

The country has good road and rail networks. The chief seaports are Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Saldonha Bay, and Mossel Bay, where natural gas is now extracted offshore. The Orange River Project, a major hydroelectric and irrigation scheme, began in 1963 in central South Africa and was fully operational by the mid-1980s. By 2008, however, the lagging development of electrical power generation capacity led to power shortages within South Africa.

The main imports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, and foodstuffs. The chief exports are gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, equipment, chemicals, and arms. The principal trade partners are Germany, the United States, Japan, and Great Britain. South Africa carries on a large-scale foreign trade and generally maintains a favorable trade balance.


South Africa is a federal republic. Until 1994 it was governed by the white minority with minimal mixed-race and Asian representation and virtually no black representation. In Apr., 1994, the country became a fully multiracial democracy, under an interim constitution; a permanent constitution was adopted in 1996. It provides for a strong central government headed by a president, who is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term and serves as both the head of state and head of government. The bicameral Parliament consists of a 400-member National Assembly, which is elected by proportional representation, and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces, which is elected by the provincial legislatures. Legislators serve five-year terms. The constitution contains an extensive bill of rights and provides for an independent judiciary; the Constitutional Court is the highest court of appeal. The leading political parties are the African National Congress, the predominantly white Democratic Alliance, and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom party. Administratively, the country is divided into nine provinces. Provinces are given exclusive powers in only a few areas, such as roads and recreation.


Early History

The San (Bushmen) are among the oldest indigenous peoples of South Africa. About 2,000 years ago, the pastoral Khoikhoi (called Hottentots by Europeans) settled mainly in the southern coastal region. By at least the 8th cent., Bantu speakers moving southward from E central Africa had settled the N region of present-day South Africa. These Bantu-speaking groups developed their own complex community organizations. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese navigator, became the first European to round the Cape of Good Hope (so named by King John II of Portugal). The diaries of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors attest to a large Bantu-speaking population in present-day KwaZulu-Natal by 1552.

Colonialism and African-European Relations

Although European vessels frequently passed by South Africa on their way to E Africa and India, and sometimes stopped for provisions or rest, no permanent European settlement was made until 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck and about 90 other persons set up a provisioning station for the Dutch East India Company at Table Bay on the Cape of Good Hope. Soon van Riebeeck began to trade with nearby Khoikhoi, gave Europeans land for farms, and brought in Africans (from W and E Africa) and Malays as slaves. By 1662, about 250 Europeans were living near the Cape and gradually they moved inland, founding Stellenbosch in 1679. In 1689 about 200 Huguenot refugees from Europe arrived; they established a wine industry and intermarried with the earlier Dutch settlers. By 1707 there were about 1,780 freeholders of European descent in South Africa, and they owned about 1,100 slaves.

By the early 18th cent., most San had migrated into inaccessible parts of the country to avoid European domination; the more numerous Khoikhoi either remained near the Cape, where they became virtual slaves of the Europeans, or dispersed into the interior. A great smallpox outbreak in 1713 killed many Europeans and most of the Khoikhoi living near the Cape. During the 18th cent. intermarriage between Khoikhoi slaves and Europeans began to create what became later known as the Coloured population. At the same time white farmers (known as Boers or Afrikaners) began to trek (journey) increasingly farther from the Cape in search of pasture and cropland.

By 1750 some farmers had migrated to the region between the Gamtoos and Great Fish rivers, where they encountered the Xhosa. At first the whites and blacks engaged in friendly trade, but in 1779 the first of a long series of Xhosa Wars (1789, 1799, 1812, 1819, 1834, 1846, 1850, 1877) broke out between them, primarily over land and cattle ownership. The whites sought to establish the Great Fish as the southern frontier of the Xhosa.

The British and the Boers

During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars the British replaced the Dutch at the Cape from 1795 to 1803 and again from 1806 to 1814, when the territory was assigned to Great Britain by the Congress of Vienna. In 1820, 5,000 British settlers were given small farms near the Great Fish River. They were intended to form a barrier to the southern movement of the Xhosa, but most soon gave up farming and moved to nearby towns such as Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown. They were the first large body of Europeans not to be assimilated into the Afrikaner culture that had developed in the 17th and 18th cent.

Great Britain alienated the Boers by remodeling the administration along British lines, by calling for better treatment of the Coloured and blacks who worked for the Boers as servants or slaves, by granting (Ordinance 50, 1828) free nonwhites legal rights equal to those of the whites, and by restricting the acquisition of new land by the Boers. In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British Empire, an act that angered South African slaveowners, but the freed slaves remained oppressed and continued to be exploited by white landowners.

To escape the restrictions of British rule as well as to obtain new land, about 12,000 Boers left the Cape between 1835 and 1843 in what is known as the Great Trek. The Voortrekkers (as these Boers are known) migrated beyond the Orange River. Some remained in the highveld of the interior, forming isolated communities and small states. A large group traveled eastward into what became Natal, where 70 Boers were killed (Feb., 1838) in an attack by Dingane's Zulu forces. Andries Pretorius defeated (Dec., 1838) the Zulu at the battle of Blood River, and the Boers proceeded to establish farms in Natal. After Britain annexed Natal in 1843, however, most of the Boers there returned to the interior. In the 1850s the Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were established. In 1860 the first indentured laborers from India arrived in Natal to work on the sugar plantations, and by 1900 they outnumbered the whites there.

Natural Riches and British Victory

Diamonds were discovered in 1867 along the Vaal and Orange rivers and in 1870 at what became (1871) Kimberley; in 1886 gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. These discoveries (especially that of gold) spurred great economic development in S Africa during 1870–1900; foreign trade increased dramatically, rail trackage expanded from c.70 mi (110 km) in 1870 to c.3,600 mi (5,790 km) in 1895, and the number of whites rose from about 300,000 in 1870 to about 1 million in 1900.

At the same time there were complex political developments. In 1871 the British annexed the diamond-mining region (known as Griqualand West), despite the protests of the Orange Free State. Britain annexed the Transvaal in 1877 but, after a revolt, restored its independence in 1881. In 1889, Cape Colony and the Orange Free State joined in a customs union, but the Transvaal (led by Paul Kruger) adamantly refused to take part.

In 1890, Cecil J. Rhodes, an ardent advocate of federation in S Africa, became prime minister of Cape Colony, and by 1894 he was encouraging the non-Afrikaner whites (known as the Uitlanders) in the Transvaal to overthrow Kruger. In Dec., 1895, Leander Starr Jameson, a close associate of Rhodes, invaded the Transvaal with a small force, planning to assist a hoped-for Uitlander rising; however, the Uitlanders did not revolt, and Jameson was defeated by early Jan., 1896. Tension mounted in the following years as British Prime Minister Joseph Chamberlain and the British high commissioner in South Africa, Alfred Milner, supported the Uitlanders against the dominant Afrikaners. In 1896, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State formed an alliance, and in 1899 they declared war on Great Britain. The South African War (Boer War; 1899–1902) was won by the British.

The Union of South Africa

In 1910 the Union of South Africa, with dominion status, was established by the British; it included Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal as provinces. Under the Union's constitution, power was centralized; the Dutch language (and in 1925 Afrikaans) was given equal status with English, and each province retained its existing franchise qualifications (the Cape permitted voting by some nonwhites). After elections in 1910, Louis Botha became the first prime minister; he headed the South African party, an amalgam of Afrikaner parties that advocated close cooperation between Afrikaners and persons of British descent. In 1912, J. B. M. Hertzog founded the Afrikaner-oriented National party. By 1914, largely as a result of the efforts of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Indians living there were receiving somewhat better treatment. Botha led (1914) South Africa into World War I on the side of the Allies and quickly squashed a revolt by Afrikaners who opposed this alignment.

In 1915, South African forces captured South West Africa (present-day Namibia) from the Germans, and after the war the territory was placed under the Union as a League of Nations mandate. In 1919, Botha was succeeded as prime minister by his close associate J. C. Smuts. In 1921–22 skilled white mine workers on the Witwatersrand, fearful of losing their jobs to lower-paid nonwhites, staged a major strike, which Smuts ended only with a use of force that cost about 230 lives. As a result, Hertzog was elected prime minister in 1924 and remained in office until 1939; from 1934 to 1939 he was supported by Smuts, with whom he formed the United South African National party.

Hertzog led an Afrikaner cultural and economic revival; was influential in gaining additional British recognition of South African independence (through the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931); took (Dec., 1932) South Africa off the gold standard, thus raising the price of gold and stimulating the gold-mining industry and the economy in general. He also curtailed the electoral power of nonwhites and furthered the system of allocating "reserved" areas for blacks as their permanent homes, at the same time regulating their movement in the remainder of the country.

The Smuts-Hertzog alliance disintegrated over whether to support Great Britain in World War II. Winning a crucial vote in parliament (Sept., 1939), Smuts became prime minister again and brought South Africa into the war on the British (Allied) side; Hertzog, who was not alarmed by Nazi German aggression and had little affection for Great Britain, went into opposition. South African troops made an important contribution to the Allied war effort, helping to end Italian control in Ethiopia and fighting with distinction in Italy and Madagascar.

National Party Ascendancy and Apartheid

The National party won the 1948 elections, partly by criticizing the more liberal policy toward nonwhites associated with Jan Hofmeyr, Smuts's close aide. D. F. Malan of the National party was prime minister from 1948 to 1954, and he was followed by J. G. Strijdom (1954–58), H. F. Verwoerd (1958–66), B. J. Vorster (1966–78), and P. W. Botha (1978–89)—all members of the National party, which won the general elections between 1953 and 1979. These governments greatly strengthened white control of the country. The policy of apartheid in almost all social relations was further implemented by a varied series of laws that included additional curbs on free movement (partly through the use of passbooks, which most blacks were required to carry) and the planned establishment of a number of independent homelands for African ethnic groups.

Black South Africans had long protested their inferior treatment through organizations such as the African National Congress (ANC; founded 1912) and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (founded 1919 by Clements Kadalie). In the 1950s and early 60s there were various protests against the National party's policies, involving passive resistance and the burning of passbooks; in 1960 a peaceful protest against the pass laws organized by the Pan-Africanist Congress (an offshoot of the ANC) at Sharpeville (near Johannesburg) ended when police opened fire, massacring 70 protesters and wounding about 190 others. In the 1960s most leaders (including ANC leader Nelson Mandela) of the opposition to apartheid were either in jail or were living in exile, and the government proceeded with its plans to segregate blacks on a more permanent basis.

The Republic of South Africa and Racial Strife

In 1961, South Africa left the Commonwealth of Nations (whose members were strongly critical of South Africa's apartheid policies) and became a republic. The first president of the new republic was C. R. Swart; he was succeeded by T. E. Donges and J. J. Fouché. In the 1960s there were international attempts to wrest South West Africa from South Africa's control, but South Africa tenaciously maintained its hold on the territory. In 1966, Prime Minister Verwoerd was assassinated by a discontented white government employee. From the late 1960s, the Vorster government began to try to start a dialogue on racial and other matters with independent African nations; these attempts met with little success, except for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Malawi and the adjacent nations of Lesotho, Botswana, and Swaziland, all of which were economically dependent on South Africa.

South Africa was strongly opposed to the establishment of black rule in the white-dominated countries of Angola, Mozambique, and Rhodesia, and gave military assistance to the whites there. However, by late 1974, with independence for Angola and Mozambique under majority rule imminent, South Africa, as one of the few remaining white-ruled nations of Africa, faced the prospect of further isolation from the international community. In the early 1970s increasing numbers of whites (especially students) protested apartheid, and the National party itself was divided, largely on questions of race relations, into the somewhat liberal verligte [Afrikaans,=enlightened] faction and the conservative verkrampte [Afrikaans,=narrow-minded] group.

In the early 1970s, black workers staged strikes and violently revolted against their inferior conditions. South Africa invaded Angola in 1975 in an attempt to crush mounting opposition in exile, but the action was a complete failure. In 1976, open rebellion erupted in the black township of Soweto near Johannesburg as a protest against the requirement of the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black schools. Over the next months rioting spread to other large cities of South Africa, resulting in the deaths of more than 600 blacks. In 1977, the death of black leader Steve Biko in police custody (and under suspicious circumstances) prompted protests and sanctions.

After Botha became prime minister in 1978, he pledged to uphold apartheid as well as improve race relations. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the government granted "independence" to four homelands: Transkei (1976), Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979), and Ciskei (1981). In the early 1980s, as the regime hotly debated the extent of reforms, it launched military strikes on the exiled ANC and other insurgent groups in neighboring countries, including Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

In 1984, a new constitution was enacted which provided for a tricameral parliament. The new Parliament included the House of Representatives, comprised of Coloureds; the House of Delegates, comprised of Indians; and the House of Assembly, comprised of whites. This system left the whites with more seats in the Parliament than the Indians and Coloureds combined. Blacks violently protested being shut out of the system, and the ANC, which had traditionally used nonviolent means to protest inequality, began to advocate more extreme measures as well.

A Regime Unravels

As attacks against police stations and other government installations increased, the regime announced (1985) an indefinite state of emergency. In 1986, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, a black South African leader, addressed the United Nations and urged further sanctions against South Africa. A wave of strikes and riots marked the tenth anniversary of the Soweto uprising in 1987. In 1989, President Botha fell ill and was succeeded, first as party leader, then as president, by F. W. de Klerk. De Klerk's government began relaxing apartheid restrictions, and in 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years of imprisonment and became head of the recently legalized ANC.

In late 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), a multiracial forum set up by de Klerk and Mandela, began efforts to negotiate a new constitution and a transition to a multiracial democracy with majority rule. In Mar., 1992, voters in a referendum open only to whites endorsed constitutional reform efforts by a wide margin. However, there was continuing violence by opponents of the process, especially by supporters of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Zulu-based Inkatha movement, with the backing and sometimes active participation of South African security forces. There were also reprisals by supporters of the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress. In Sept., 1992, government-backed black police fired on a crowd of ANC demonstrators in Ciskei, killing 28. In Apr., 1993, the secretary-general of the South African Communist party was murdered by a right-wing extremist.

The New South Africa

Despite obstacles and delays, an interim constitution was completed in 1993, ending nearly three centuries of white rule in South Africa and marking the end of white-minority rule on the African continent. A 32-member multiparty transitional government council was formed with blacks in the majority. In Apr., 1994, days after the Inkatha Freedom party ended an electoral boycott, the republic's first multiracial election was held. The ANC won an overwhelming victory, and Nelson Mandela became president. South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth in 1994 and also relinquished its last hold in Namibia, ceding the exclave of Walvis Bay.

In 1994 and 1995 the last vestiges of apartheid were dismantled, and a new national constitution was approved and adopted in May, 1996. It provided for a strong presidency and eliminated provisions guaranteeing white-led and other minority parties representation in the government. De Klerk and the National party supported the new charter, despite disagreement over some provisions; Inkatha followers had walked out of constitutional talks and did not participate in voting on the new constitution. Shortly afterward, de Klerk and the National party quit the national unity government to become part of the opposition, after 1998 as the New National party. The new government faced the daunting task of trying to address the inequities produced by decades of apartheid while promoting privatization and a favorable investment climate.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996–2003), headed by Archbishop Tutu, sought to establish the truth about atrocities committed during the country's apartheid era, while avoiding the expense and divisiveness of trials. The commission's final report said the apartheid government had institutionalized violence in its fight against racial equality but was also critical of most of the groups involved in the liberation struggle, including the ANC. By the end of the 1990s, many blacks had entered the middle class, often through government jobs. Unemployment remained critically high, however, and crime and labor unrest were on the rise. In the 1999 elections Thabo Mbeki, who had succeeded Mandela as head of the ANC, led the party to a landslide victory and became South Africa's new president. The liberal Democratic party became the leading opposition party, and in 2000 it joined with the New National party to form the Democratic Alliance (DA). That coalition, however, survived only until late 2001, when the New National party left it to form a coalition with the ANC.

The end of apartheid led as well to a reemergence of South Africa on the international stage, particularly in Africa. The country has become active in the African Union (the successor of the Organization of African Unity) and the nonaligned movement, and has helped broker peace agreements in strife-torn Burundi (2001) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2002). In Apr., 2002, the small Federal Alliance party joined the Democratic party in the Democratic Alliance; and in Nov., 2003, the Alliance agreed to form a coalition with Inkatha against the ANC in the 2004 elections. AIDS has become a significant health problem in South Africa, and in late 2003 the government finally agreed to provide a comprehension anti-AIDS prevention and treatment program through the public health system.

Parliamentary elections in Apr., 2004, resulted in a resounding victory for the ANC, which won nearly 70% of the vote; the DA remained the largest opposition party and increased its share of the vote. The new parliament subsequently reelected President Mbeki. As a result of its poor showing, the New National party merged with the ANC, and voted to disband in Apr., 2005. In June, Mbeki dismissed Deputy President Jacob Zuma after Zuma's financial adviser was convicted of paying the deputy president bribes. The ANC, however, refused to remove Zuma from his deputy party leadership post, even after he was arraigned on corruption charges later in the month; he was formally indicted in November. In Dec., 2005, Zuma was also charged with rape in an unrelated case, and suspended his participation in the ANC leadership for the duration of that case. After his acquittal on the rape charge in May, 2006, he resumed his ANC duties; the corruption case was dismissed in Sept., 2006, for procedural reasons. Zuma was elected head of the ANC in Dec., 2007, defeating Mbeki; the result reflected widespread unhappiness with South Africa's president within the ANC. In May, 2008, there were a series of attacks on foreigners in various South African cities and towns, apparently sparked by frustrationss over economic issues; thousands of immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Nigeria were displaced and many fled South Africa.

In Sept., 2008, a judge again dismissed (for procedural reasons) the renewed corruption case against Zuma, but the trial judge also stated that it appeared that Mbeki's government had interfered with the prosecution of Zuma for political reasons. Although Mbeki strongly denied that accusation, the ANC called for him to resign as president and he did. Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC's deputy leader and a Zuma ally, was elected as South Africa's interim president. The decision in the Zuma case was overturned on appeal in Jan., 2009, and the charges were dropped three months later.

In the Apr., 2009, National Assembly elections the ANC again won by a landslide, but it narrowly failed to secure a two-thirds majority, which would have enabled it to amend the constitution without support from another party. The DA, which again increased its share of the vote, remained the largest opposition party, and the Congress of the People (COPE), formed by ANC members who left the party after Mbeki resigned the presidency, placed a distant third. The victory assured Zuma's election as president by the legislature, which occurred the following month. In July, as South Africa suffered through its worst recession in some two decades, township protests against poor living conditions and inadequate services turned violent in a number of provinces. The murder of Eugene Terreblanche, a white supremist leader, by two black farmhands in Apr., 2010, raised fears that the incident would spark racial violence.

The important mining industry was affected by strikes and violence in the second half of 2012 that began in part as a conflict between two competing labor unions; the labor unrest in the mining industry continued into 2014. A Mar., 2014, anticorruption report that ordered Zuma to repay the government for opulent property improvements that were not an appropriate part of the security upgrade of his private home did not significantly affect the results of the May, 2014, national elections in which the ANC run 62% of the vote. The DA again increased its share of the vote and remained the largest opposition party, and Julius Malema's leftist Economic Freedom Fighters placed third.


See M. Wilson and L. Thompson, ed., The Oxford History of South Africa (2 vol., 1969–71); T. Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 (1983); S. R. Lewis, The Economics of Apartheid (1989); L. Thompson, A History of South Africa (1990); R. H. Davis, ed., Apartheid Unravels (1991); P. Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle (1997); T. R. H. Davenport and C. Saunders, South Africa (5th ed. 2000); M. Meredith, Diamonds, Gold and War: The British, the Boers and the Making of South Africa (2007); R. Ross et al., ed, The Cambridge History of South Africa (2 vol., 2009–11).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa

South Africa, with its 40 million residents, is a multicultural society with eleven official languages. Although most residents (76.7%) speak an indigenous African language (Xhosa 23.4%; Zulu 29.9%; and Sepedi 12%), English is the language that most people understand (Statistics South Africa 1996). Family life must thus also be seen against the background of cultural diversity and extreme socioeconomic differences. Most families—primarily nonwhites—are poor and struggle to satisfy their daily needs. Contributing in complex ways to different types of family structures are traditional practices, historical events—especially the racially discriminatory and disruptive effect of apartheid laws, which placed restrictions on movement, provided inferior education and limited employment opportunities, and enforced compulsory shifting of families—and the demands of modern society (Ross 1995).

When the first whites arrived from Europe in the seventeenth century, there were various dominant black groups with established cultural patterns in the country. After some internal conflicts between whites and black races (for example, the nine border wars on the Cape's eastern boundary between 1778 and 1878 and the Anglo-Zulu war of 1878), two wars were also fought against domination by the United Kingdom, originally from December 1880 to February 1881 and then again from 1899 to 1902 (Davenport 1978). The Union of South Africa, with a white minority government in power, was established in 1910. Afrikaner nationalism (supported by a white group with Afrikaans as its mother tongue) reached a climax with the formation of the Republic of South Africa in 1961. The National Party had come into power in 1948, and this is viewed as the beginning of legal apartheid (separate development), which lasted until 1994. With the first true democratic election in 1994, a predominantly black political party came into power and immediately began to transform society at all levels—economical, social, and educational. The main focus of this transformation process had as its objective the empowerment of nonwhite South Africans in particular.

Although the white population flourished economically and progressed in various ways during the greater part of the twentieth century, various factors had a negative effect on nonwhite families. Urbanization increased rapidly, especially after the abolishment of the influx control regulations—legislation prohibiting people from moving and settling freely to any part of the country—in 1986. However, with the precarious circumstances in which many families had to live (in cities and rural areas), as well as physical separation between husband and wife in many cases (primarily as a result of the migrant labor system), large-scale family disruption occurred in traditional black, colored, and Indian families.

The arrival of political freedom and power in 1994 did not automatically bring about economic power for the nonwhite majority. Most nonwhite families still cannot satisfy their basic needs. The consequences of the previous political era are, therefore, still visible in the low educational and living standard of many nonwhite South Africans (uneducated 21.6%; Statistics South Africa 1996). As a result, the high crime statistics are ascribed to, among other things, poor socioeconomic circumstances, high unemployment (24%), circumstantial frustration, and the failure of politicians to meet campaign promises. Signs of tension are evident in many families in high divorce rates (whites 357 per 100,000 of the population; Indians 142 per 100,000; coloreds 116 per 100,000; and blacks 23 per 100,000; Statistics South Africa 1996), family violence that takes place in many households, and the high rate of teenage pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births. At the same time, the adverse effects of the AIDS epidemic (11% of the population) are already affecting many families and will continue to do so. Given this context, a general description will be given of family structures as they occur in the various population groups.

Family Life in Black Communities

Anthropologically, the black people (77.5% of the population) are viewed as belonging to four ethnic groups, the Nguni, the Sotho, the Tsonga Shangaan, and the Venda. The groups differ in size and origin and have their own cultures, speak their own languages, and have different dialects within the groups.

Black families are traditionally extended, with a dominant father at the head. Large changes in urban families have taken place primarily as a result of urbanization, housing problems, political factors (the migratory labor system), and economic underdevelopment coupled with poverty. However, nuclear families have formed within the high socioeconomic group. The high incidence of outof-wedlock births has resulted in the replacement of the nuclear family with other structures. In many cases the daughter and child live with the mother, which means that many multigenerational families exist (Steyn 1993).

Economic development in the areas of mining, harbors, and industrial growth resulted in the migrant labor system. This meant that the workers (men) moved to other areas alone to work there to earn an income. A portion of the money was then sent to the family in the rural area. In the course of time, family members were allowed to live together near the workplace under certain conditions. However, traditional family structures could not continue in this industrial environment. Differences between families in urban and rural areas can be ascribed to the effect of industrialization, urbanization, and the migrant labor system (Nzimande 1996).

Although ethnically different, all black families share some characteristics: the importance of children, a happy family life, strong family ties, and the nature and implication of being married (Viljoen 1994). Certain practices, such as polygamy and lobola (the giving of something valuable or the payment of money by the groom to the family of the bride), are viewed as strengths because they prevent divorce and marital disintegration. The decrease in the incidence of payment of lobola can be ascribed to the diminishing of parents' authority over their daughters and is an indication of how traditional practices are making way for Western values (Manona 1981). Traditionally, the family unit is viewed as consisting of the husband, wife, and unmarried children, who form part of a larger family structure, the extended family. This is the ideal structure, and when a married son leaves the extended family to begin his own household, the process is known as fission. Viewed over time, black family life can be seen as moving from the extended to the nuclear type. However, the one has not replaced the other.

General extended family patterns are vertical (multigenerational) or horizontal (when brothers with their families live with the oldest brother). A further dimension, also known as composite families, occurs when the husband has more than one wife, and they all live together (with their children). These various extended family forms exist in all African cultures (Nzimande 1996). Generally in extended families, there is a wider group of people who are related by blood or marriage and who identify with and care for one another. The extended family is usually more stable than a nuclear family and extends over longer periods. The development and shrinkage of the extended family is affected by fertility, marriages, divorces, and deaths; in many communities it serves as a social service system that cares for and provides support to various categories of dependents. Notwithstanding the longer lifetime of the extended family, its existence is influenced especially by the greater economic independence of individual members, who tend to move out in order to live more independently in their own nuclear family.

Although the nuclear family functions more independently, its members usually do not totally break ties with the family of origin or other important family members. During problems and in times of crises, members of the extended family are still expected to help and support one another. In many nuclear families a niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle is also present because he or she needs support.

The support system in black communities is based upon regulations, values, and socialization patterns through which a feeling of social responsibility and reciprocal support is created and practiced (Nzimande 1996). The main purpose is to maintain the group's character throughout the extended family. There are indications of a continual decrease of family involvement within the extended family system, which results in a decrease of support resources, especially for those who need them. Because the individual worker becomes economically independent, the extended family increasingly becomes a smaller supportive factor for his or her survival.

Some of the strongest influences changing traditional family life in black communities are poverty, poor housing, urbanization, rising divorce rates, and a decline in traditional institutions, customs, and values (Viljoen 1994). Obedience and respect for parents (or parentlike authority) are among the key values and socialization processes of traditional black families that are being affected in particular. This is why a reformulation of the role of the father in the family (in terms of authority and involvement) is one of the most crucial issues in black family life. Along with these factors is the changing external environment, which, in itself, sets new challenges and presents other values for the younger generation of black families.

Family Life in Asian Communities

Between 1860 and 1911, a total of 152,184 Indians (Hindus and Muslims) came to South Africa from various parts of India to work as laborers on sugar plantations in the Durban area. They formed a diverse group in terms of language and culture, and their ranks included twice as many men as women. Although in their native lands some of these people would not have interacted because they belonged to different castes, common work and problems (e.g., poor working conditions and health care) resulted in the demise of the caste system and other traditional practices. Once their working contracts had expired, some continued their involvement in farming, while others moved to towns and cities and began their own businesses, some of which are still thriving as family businesses. Indian families live all over South Africa (2.6% of the population), with the greatest concentration in Natal ( Jithoo 1996).

The joint family was originally the norm for Indian families. However, nuclear families are increasing as a result of modernization. Poverty and unemployment affected and still affect many families, making it hard for parents to pass down traditional values in the nuclear family within the context of greater freedom of thought and new opportunities (Steyn 1993).

Although many joint families exist today (with the father or senior brother as undisputed head), with different generations living together (with different interests and power structures), there has been a transition to families that are more nuclear, especially in the cities. Unlike typical Western nuclear families, traditional values and obligations bind an Indian nuclear family, and its members maintain good contact with the extended family. Nevertheless, there has been a loss of the traditional understanding that promotes cohesion, solidarity, and loyalty in the joint family. The decrease in the incidence of joint families can be ascribed to an increase in kinds of housing, the building of roads, more professional work opportunities as a result of better educational opportunities, and the influence of Western values, with their emphasis on individuality. One of the greatest challenges for Indian families is to adapt to a changing sociocultural environment. The great distances between children, parents, and grandparents as a result of nuclear family life patterns has resulted in a decline in the traditional values and associated support networks. This places greater demands on family members to adapt as a result of less continuity and more uncertainty. Exposure to the media, a more integrated educational system, and the dominant influence of Western culture have all contributed to a culture of family transition for Indians in South Africa. Nevertheless, although structural changes have occurred in Indian families, many remain conservative, and many traditional values and morals have been maintained ( Jithoo 1996).

Family Life in Colored Families

The colored people in South Africa (8.9% of the population) stem from slaves, Asians, Europeans, Khoi, and Africans. Consequently, conspicuous differences exist within the colored group with regard to religion, language, and socioeconomic status (SES). Two distinct groups can be differentiated in terms of SES: the high class with stable family relationships as well as social and economic security, and the low socioeconomic class that, as a result of forced moves, inadequate education, and the like, lived in poverty for generations. The low SES group usually lives in precarious conditions that are characterized by social problems, such as street violence, unemployment, overcrowding, many out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and a poverty-stricken lifestyle. These factors usually contribute to feelings of despair and limited expectations for the future (Rabie 1996).

How the colored family originated differs substantially from that of the Indian family. Colored families and African-American families, however, have in common many factors that shaped them. These promoted a high out-of-wedlock birth rate as well as an unstable family life. Today there are large differences in social class within the colored population. The nuclear family is common in the high-income groups, whereas single-parent families, as part of an extended family with a dominant woman, are common in low-income groups. Living together and desertion are also common in low-income groups (Steyn 1993).

The following are some of the most predominant characteristics and contributing factors to the socioeconomic circumstances of many colored households (Rabie 1996). First, poverty entails that housing with associated services is lacking or inadequate. Units are small, and children are often left alone at home unsupervised. In high-density areas, two or more nuclear families live together, which strains normal family relationships and places excessively high demands on families with inadequate resources. These circumstances are thus largely responsible for the prevalence of well-organized gang syndicates in many neighborhoods. Gang activities are common (especially in the Western Cape, where large concentrations of colored people live) and even schoolchildren are recruited to join these complex competing power structures that have a large influence on many households. Gang membership can last until late adolescence and even early adulthood. A second factor is that approximately 43 percent of births take place outside marriage. This has implications for stable supportive relationships.

Supportive networks in poorer communities are mostly built around gender roles (Rabie 1996). Adolescents spend a lot of time with peers of the same gender. In marriages where the relationship between the husband and wife is not one of attachment, the husband spends almost all of his time with his friends, while the wife directs her affection to their children and family. In addition to the economical contributions that these women make to the households and wider network in many cases, these women also hold the families and networks together. They do so on a daily basis, for example, by lending to others or borrowing from others what is needed (e.g., cash, household ingredients) and providing emotional support when necessary.

A substantial proportion of nuclear families have adopted Western lifestyles. In many of these families both parents work, but in other cases, there is a single breadwinner while the wife (in most cases) looks after the family and household.

Family Life in White Communities

Historically, the family life of whites (11% of the population) is similar to that of the Christian, western European style. Although extended families did exist originally, white families were mostly characterized by large nuclear families, with strong family ties, who were involved in their community and church. The husband was traditionally also the undisputed head of the family. Industrialization and urbanization (especially after World War II) brought about large changes in the family life of white people. The nuclear family became more autonomous from the extended family and began to function independently from it (Steyn 1993).

The Incidence of Distinguishable Family Structures

In a comprehensive study involving 1,746 white, 2,024 colored, 2,411 Asian, and 1,199 black families, it became evident that the pure nuclear family is still the most prevalent, although masked differential proportions exist between the groups (Steyn 1993), with the smallest proportion of nuclear families occurring among black people. Although the nuclear structure is the most common among both black and colored people, they make up less than half of the total. Multigenerational families, with either a man (coloreds 11.6% and blacks 16. 2%) or a woman (coloreds 8.2% and blacks 12.6%) as head of the family occur most commonly in these two population groups. For Asians and whites, the incidence of multigenerational families with either a man or a woman as head is 12 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. The incidence of single-parent families, primarily with the woman as parent, is as follows: coloreds 15 percent, blacks 14.8 percent, Asians 7.7 percent, and whites 6.2 percent. Steyn (1993) concludes that the nuclear family is the predominant family form for whites, while single-parent and multigenerational families are also legitimate family units for both the colored and black communities. For Asians, only the multi-generational family structure (after the nuclear family) has a relatively high incidence.

Another family type that exists is where other relatives live with a family. This occurs mostly among black families (21.3%), followed by Asians (20%), coloreds (18.3%), and whites (6%). The incidence of reconstituted families (man or woman marries for the second time) is as follows: whites 13 percent, blacks 6.1 percent, coloreds 6 percent, and Asians 2.3 percent.

Sean Jones (1991) provides a good description of how the movement of family members between urban and rural areas occurs in families of migrant black workers. This gives families a movable characteristic, with support resources dependent on locality and the nature of the crisis. Research done by Fiona Ross (1995) confirms Jones's description of mobility between areas (rural to cities and vice versa). However, Ross also provides a description of the mobility of family members from colored families within settlements (rural). Support for family members comes from friends, neighbors, and even a fictitious family—the people in the immediate environment who help from time to time in order for the family members to survive. This fluidity questions the existence of the conventional family for these people.

Women in the Labor Market

Most white women enter the labor market after the completion of their education, although a small percentage between the ages of twenty and thirty years stay at home during their childbearing years. An increasing number of women also re-enter the labor market at a later stage. Black women tend to enter the labor market later in life than do others. Many of them are single mothers upon whom high demands are made by the extended family. Colored and Asian women tend to work until the birth of their first child and then remain at home (Gerdes 1997).


The heterogeneity of the South African society is reflected in the many different family structures and ways of family life. Traditions (cultural), changing values, political events, economic developments, modernization, and globalization contribute in a complex way to ever-changing family forms and family relationships. Greater economic independence has resulted in more nuclear families, while poorer conditions force families to unite for the sake of survival and to support one another emotionally and economically.

See also:Extended Families


davenport, t. r. h. (1978). south africa, a modern history, 3rd edition. johannesburg: macmillan.

gerdes, l. c. (1997). "general perspectives." in familyrelations, ed. l. c. gerdes, t. le roux, and j. d. van wyk. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers.

jithoo, s. (1996). "family structure and support systems in indian communities." in marriage and family life in south africa: research priorities, ed. s. jones. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers.

jones, s. (1991). "assaulting childhood: an ethnographic study of children in a western cape migrant hostel complex." masters thesis. cape town: university of cape town south.

manona, c. w. (1981). "labour migration, marriage and family life in a ciskei village." masters thesis. grahamstown, south africa: rhodes university.

nzimande, s. v. (1996). "family structure and support systems in black communities." in marriage and family life in south africa: research priorities, ed. l.c. gerdes. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers.

rabie, p. j. (1996). "family structure and support systems in coloured communities." in marriage and family life in south africa: research priorities, ed. l. c. gerdes. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers.

ross, f. c. (1995). the support network of black families in southern africa. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers. statistics south africa. (1996). south african census. pretoria: central statistics.

steyn, a. f. (1993). family structures in the rsa. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers.

viljoen, s. (1994). strengths and weaknesses in the family life of black south africans. pretoria: human sciences research council publishers.


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa


Traditional Biltong and Dried Fruit Snack .................. 152
Mealie Soup (Corn Soup).......................................... 153
Carrot Bredie............................................................. 154
Green Bean Salad...................................................... 154
Komkomer Sambal (Cucumber Relish) ..................... 156
Geel Rys (Yellow Rice) ............................................... 156
Corn on the Cob....................................................... 157
Bobotie ..................................................................... 157
Pineapple Sherbet (Pineapple Smoothie)................... 158
Putupap (Cornmeal Porridge) ................................... 158


South Africa is a large country at the southern tip of the African continent. It is slightly less that twice the size of Texas. The country has large areas of plateaus, with some areas of higher elevations in the eastern Drakensberg Mountains, near the border with Lesotho. Over 80 percent of South Africa's land could be farmed, but only about 12 percent is devoted to agriculture. The main crop is corn (called "mealies" in South Africa). Wheat can only be grown in winter, when the climate is like the Northern Hemisphere's summer. "Kaffir corn," which is really sorghum (a grass similar to Indian corn), is another important crop. South African farmers also raise livestock, but their herds do not produce enough meat to feed the population. Meat is imported in the form of live animals from neighboring Namibia and Botswana.


Early South Africans were mostly hunter-gatherers. They depended on foods such as tortoises, crayfish, coconuts, and squash to survive. Biltong, meat that is dried, salted, and spiced (similar to jerky), and beskuits (dried sweetened biscuits, like zwiebeck or rusks) were popular food among the original pioneers and are both still enjoyed by twenty-first century South Africans. Dried fruits, eaten whole or ground into a paste, are also popular treats. The practice of modern agriculture was introduced by the Bantu, natives of northern Africa. They taught inhabitants to grow vegetables such as corn ("mealies"), squash, and sweet potatoes. Modern Zulu people, most of whom live in northeastern South Africa, enjoy a soft porridge made from mealie-meal (cornmeal), and dishes combining meat and vegetables such as dried corn and yams.

Nearly 200 years after the Portuguese first arrived in South Africa, Dutch settlers, known as Boers, built the first European settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652. The Dutch planted gardens with pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, pineapples, and potatoes. Meanwhile, the Dutch East India Company increased trade between South Africa, Europe, and India, bringing new and unfamiliar people and cuisines to South Africa's culture. Slaves from the east, mostly from Malaysia, helped work as farmers or fishermen. They brought with them various spices that added flavor to commonly bland Dutch and English stews and dishes.

Other countries also brought diversity to South African cuisine. The French, known for making wines, began establishing vineyards. The Germans introduced baked goods and pastries and the British brought meat pies. Foods from India, China, and Indonesia also influenced the South African diet.

Early settlers simmered potjiekos (stew) for hours in a three-legged iron pot over a very small open fire. Ingredients would be added to the pot of potjiekos as they became available, such as animals caught by hunters or trappers and vegetables or wild plants harvested from the open fields.

Traditional Biltong and Dried Fruit Snack


  • Beef jerky, any style (commercially packaged)
  • Dried apricots or plums (prunes)


  1. Cut beef jerky strips into bite-sized pieces (½- to 1-inch)
  2. Put pieces of biltong in a baggie or wax-paper sandwich bag.
  3. Put a few pieces of dried fruit in the baggie.
  4. Carry the biltong (jerky) and dried fruit as traditional South African snacks to enjoy anytime.


Seafood, a staple food in South African diets, is plentiful along the country's Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines. Hake is the most common fish, caught in the Atlantic Ocean waters. It is sold as "fish and chips" (pieces of deep-fried fish with French fries) and pickled. Rock lobster, mussels, octopus, and cod are also popular seafood selections, particularly at the country's southern tip.

South Africa's mild climate produces a variety of fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, cabbage, corn ("mealies"), sunflower, peppers, and green beans are commonly grown. The abundance of rain in the northern tip of the country allows tropical fruits to grow, including bananas, pineapples, and mangoes. Such fruits make delicious desserts.

Dishes of British origin are seasoned and flavorful in South Africa. Spices were added to popular meals, such as the meat pie. The Boer (Dutch) Chicken Pie is a crusted chicken potpie with plenty of seasonings, topped with eggs and ham. Bobotie, a beef or lamb potpie, contains raisins, apples, almonds, and curry powder, a savory seasoning.

Sausages (made of beef or pork) and sosaties, seasoned lamb on a skewer, are commonly eaten at meals. Sosaties are most frequently served at a barbecue, or braai, party and served with sauce and biscuits. South Africans make sosaties in different ways, with a variety of seasonings to make the meal more flavorful. Other meat favorites are ostrich and chicken. Frikkadels ("little hamburgers" usually seasoned with nutmeg) are sometimes served wrapped in cabbage leaves. Bredies, meat and vegetable stews of all kinds, are usually named for the primary vegetable ingredient (such as carrot bredie or tomato bredie). Wine, water, mechow (a fermented beer-like drink made from cornmeal), and tea are often served with meals. Rice pudding, melktert (milk custard tart), and cookies remain popular desserts.

Mealie Soup (Corn Soup)


  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups canned whole corn, well drained
  • 2 cups creamed corn
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 3 cups chicken broth (about 1½ cans)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper.


  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the corn, milk, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with crackers.

Serves 6 to 8.

Carrot Bredie


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 8 carrots, washed, scraped, and chopped
  • 2 potatoes, washed, scraped, and chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 cup water


  1. Measure the oil into a skillet, and heat over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped onion, and cook until the onion is golden brown.
  3. Add the vegetables and the seasoning.
  4. Add the water and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and place a cover on the pot, but leave it ajar, to allow steam to escape.
  6. Let the bredie simmer until the water has evaporated and the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and mash.
  7. Serve immediately with a little butter stirred in.

Serves 8 to 10.

Green Bean Salad


  • 2 pounds fresh, whole green beans, trimmed at ends
  • 1 cup white onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup salad oil
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, freshly-ground
  • ¼ cup stuffed olives, sliced


  1. Heat a saucepan full of salted water to boiling. Add green beans and simmer, covered, until green beans are tender (about 15 minutes).
  2. In a separate bowl, combine onions, salad oil, lemon juice, salt, ground pepper, and stuffed olives.
  3. Drain the cooked green beans, and while still hot, toss quickly with onion mixture.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  5. Serve as a main course for lunch or light supper.

Makes 8 servings.


More South Africans practice Christianity than any other religion. Like other Christians around the world, South African Christians celebrate Christmas Day on December 25 and Good Friday and Easter in either March or April. Such occasions are normally celebrated with family and close friends.

A typical holiday menu may include rock lobster tail or seasoned lamb or pork accompanied by cabbage. Serving appetizers depends on the size of the dinner. People want to save room for dinner, dessert, and after-dinner drinks. Sambals (condiments such as chopped vegetables and chutneys), atjar (pickled fruits and vegetables), yams, geel rys (yellow rice), and green bean salad are popular side dishes. Mealie bread (corn-bread) is a South African favorite and is often served before or during the meal. Wine, beer, tea, or water may be refreshing to adults, while children may enjoy soft drinks or other non-alcoholic beverages. Rooibos tea (pronounced roy boy), a strong, caffeine-free herbal tea made from a plant that is native to South Africa, is served without milk, sugar, or lemon. Rice pudding is a common dessert. No matter what meal is chosen, it is certain to be full of flavor.

A much smaller number of South Africans are either Muslim or Hindu. Muslims celebrate the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, a movable month-long holiday. During Ramadan, Muslims fast (avoid eating and drinking) from sunrise to sunset to worship and practice self-control. After sunset, people gather together to enjoy dinner, called iftar. Dinner may include rice, dates, and a variety of spiced dishes. Hindus celebrate Diwali, or Festival of Lights. On this important day, the Hindus eat a small portion of lamb, chicken, or fish with beans or lentils. Their festive dishes often contain up to fifteen different spices and are accompanied by bread.

Komkomer Sambal (Cucumber Relish)


  • 3 medium-sized fresh cucumbers, peeled and seeded
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, finely minced


  1. Grate the cucumbers on the large holes of a hand grater into a salad bowl.
  2. Sprinkle them with the salt and let them stand for 2 hours.
  3. Drain them in a colander, pressing out the liquid.
  4. Add the vinegar, garlic, and jalapeno pepper and mix well.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Serves 6.

Geel Rys (Yellow Rice)


  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind
  • 2 cups white rice


  1. In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add all the ingredients (except rice) to the boiling water and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the rice, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon rind before serving.


South Africans eat three meals per day. For breakfast, most eat some kind of hot cooked cereal, such as putupap (cornmeal porridge, similar to grits), served with milk and sugar. Putupap and mealie bread (corn bread) are frequently also served as part of a main meal and lunch or dinner, too. Other breakfast foods might be beskuit, a crusty, dried sweet bread (similar to rusks). Tea and coffee are popular morning beverages.

South Africans are known for their hospitality and love to cook for visitors. During a hearty meal featuring a main course such as bobotie, seafood, or mutton stew, accompanied by vegetables and rice, it not uncommon for a host to offer guests a variety of drinks, such as wine, homemade beer, or tea. Fruits, puddings, and cakes round off a great meal.

Corn on the Cob


  • 6 large ears of fresh corn
  • Butter, salt, and chile powder, to taste


  1. Bring 2 quarts (8 cups) of water to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Strip the corn of its husks and silky strings and place the ears in the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Serve hot and season to taste with butter, salt, and chile powder.

Serves 6.



  • 1 pound ground beef or ground lamb (or may use half and half)
  • 1 cup onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 2 slices of white bread soaked in milk
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • Turmeric, dash
  • 2 bay leaves

Ingredients for topping

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Brown ground meat in a large skillet. Drain off fat.
  3. Add the chopped onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are softened.
  4. Add the chopped apple.
  5. Squeeze out excess milk from bread slices and add them to skillet, tearing the softened bread apart to blend it with the meat mixture.
  6. Add curry powder, raisins, almonds, lemon juice, 1 egg, and turmeric. Stir well to combine.
  7. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. Pour mixture into the dish and lay bay leaves on top.
  8. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven.
  9. Mix egg and milk together for topping, and pour over meat mixture.
  10. Return dish to oven and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Unlike in the United States, foods are seldom packaged for convenience. Bread is rarely pre-sliced and preservatives are not widely used. National laws determine store hours, particularly for meat sellers, who often open as early as 5:30 A.M. and close as early as 1 P.M. For those who can afford it, a servant may be hired to help prepare meals and travel to the stores at early hours.

Lunch may be a simple meal, such as a sandwich or soup. Students returning from school may enjoy a fruit drink, similar to a smoothie, as a between-meal snack. Fresh fruits such as pineapple are often the basis for these refreshing beverages.

Pineapple Sherbet (Pineapple Smoothie)


  • 1 medium-sized ripe pineapple (Canned may be substituted.)
  • 8 cups water (approximately)
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • Sugar, to taste


  1. Peel and core the pineapple. Cut up the fruit, and place it in a blender. Blend to a thick pulp. (Canned pineapple may be substituted.)
  2. Place the pulp in a large pitcher, add the water, lemon juice, and sugar, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Put the pitcher in the refrigerator to chill the sherbet beverage.
  4. Just before serving, stir well. Serve over ice in tall glasses.

Serves 6 to 8.

Dinner may be simple or formal. South Africans may serve dinner on their finest dishes and silverware, placed on a white tablecloth with a centerpiece of flowers or fruit. Salt and peppershakers are almost always available, along with various condiments. In addition, several beverage options are usually on the table. Tea is enormously popular in South Africa, particularly in the early morning. Guests may be awakened by their hostesses as early as 5 or 6 A.M. to enjoy morning tea.

South Africans also like to eat out, whether it is a back porch barbecue (braai ), at a restaurant, or at a sporting event. Biltong, similar to strips of jerky, is as popular a snack as popcorn is in a movie theater in the United States.

Putupap (Cornmeal Porridge)

Note: Although not authentic, instant polenta may be prepared as an approximate substitute.


  • 3 cups water, boiling
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound fine white corn meal
  • ½ cold water


  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Pour meal into center of water to form a pile. Add salt, but do not stir.
  3. Remove pot from stove. Put lid on and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir, return to heat and simmer over very low heat until putupap is fine-grained and crumbly.
  5. Stir with a fork or wooden spoon, add cold water, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  6. Serve with tomato sauce or gravy.


From 1948 until 1994, South African society was strictly divided according to racial groups in a structure called apartheid, or racial separation. While the government officially referred to this structure as "separate development," there were, in reality, few resources devoted to development of the black portions of the country. In 1994, the policy of apartheid ended and a multiracial government was elected. Since then, the economy has been adjusting to the new structure of society. Some areas of the economy, such as tourism, suffered because people were concerned that the changes might lead to instability. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the white minority population enjoyed a high standard of living, but the 85 percent majority black population still lived with low health and economic standards of living.



DeWitt, Dave. Flavors of Africa: Spicy African Cooking from Indigenous Recipes to those Influenced by Asian and European Settlers. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998.

Hachten, Harva. Best of Regional African Cooking. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1998.

Harris, Jessica B. The African Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Sandler, Bea. The African Cookbook. New York: First Carol Publishing Group, 1993.

Web Sites

Eating the South African Way. [Online] Available: (accessed January 31, 2001).

Ethnic Cuisine: Africa. [Online] Available: (accessed January 30, 2001).

Islamic Holidays and Observances. [Online] Available: (accessed January 31, 2001).

South Africa: What to Eat. [Online] Available: (accessed January 30, 2001).

The South African Expat's One-Stop On-Line Resource. [Online] Available: (accessed August 17, 2001).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Foods and Recipes of the World. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa

Official name: Republic of South Africa

Area: 1,219,912 square kilometers (471,011 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Njesuthi Mountain (3,408 meters/11,181 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,821 kilometers (1,132 miles) from northeast to southwest; 1,066 kilometers (662 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: 4,750 kilometers (2,952 miles) total boundary length; Botswana 1,840 kilometers (1,143 miles); Lesotho 909 kilometers (565 miles); Mozambique 491 kilometers (305 miles); Namibia 855 kilometers (531 miles); Swaziland 430 kilometers (267 miles); Zimbabwe 225 kilometers (140 miles)

Coastline: 2,798 kilometers (1,739 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


South Africa is located at the southern tip of the African continent. It covers 1,219,912 square kilometers (471,011 square miles), or nearly twice as much area as the state of Texas.


South Africa has no territories or dependencies.


The climate of South Africa ranges from Mediterranean-like in the southwest to temperate in the interior plateau, to subtropical in the northeast. Snow is rare, although winter frosts do occur in the higher areas of the plateau. Average January temperatures in Durban fall between 21°C and 27°C (69°F and 81°F); in Johannesburg, between 14°C and 26°C (58°F and 78°F); and in Cape Town, they range from 16°C to 26°C (60°F to 78°F). Winter temperature ranges follow the same regional pattern. The average July temperature range is 11°C to 22°C (52°F to 72°F) in Durban, 4°C to 17°C (39°F to 63°F) in Johannesburg, and 7°C to 17°C (45°F to 63°F) in Cape Town.

Nearly all of South Africa enjoys a mild, temperate climate. Except for the extreme southwest, most of the country is under the influence of the easterly trade winds that originate over the Indian Ocean, bringing about 89 centimeters (35 inches) of yearly precipitation to the Eastern Lowveld and the Eastern Uplands as far west as the Drakensberg. The Highveld receives from 38 to 76 centimeters (15 to 30 inches) of precipitation each year. On the western coast, annual rainfall is often as low as 5 centimeters (2 inches). The rainfall deposited by the trade winds occurs mainly between October and April. In the drier regions of the plateau, the amount of rainfall and the beginning of the rainy season vary greatly from year to year. The extreme southwest receives about 56 centimeters (22 inches) of rainfall annually, most of it between June and September.


South Africa's general topography consists of a broad central plateau edged by a prominent escarpment overlooking slopes that descend to the eastern, southern, and western coasts. The mountainous edges of the plateau extend in a sweeping arc from the country's northeastern tip to its southwestern extremity. Collectively, these edges are known as the Great Escarpment. Inland from the crest of the Great Escarpment the country consists generally of rolling plains that gradually descend to an altitude of about 900 meters (2,952 feet) in the center.


The Indian Ocean borders South Africa on the east; the Atlantic Ocean borders it on the west; and both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans border it on the south. Off South Africa's eastern coast, the Indian Ocean ranges from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F); off the western coast, the Atlantic Ocean ranges from 9°C to 14°C (48°F to 57°F). Off the southern shore, the combined seas range from 16°C to 21°C (61°F to 70°F).

Seacoast and Undersea Features

There are coral reefs off the eastern coast surrounding Sodwana Bay that attract divers from all over the world. Off the southern coast, the continental shelf extends to form the large triangular Agulhas Bank, while on the western coast it forms the Benguella Upwelling.

Islands and Archipelagos

With an area of 310 square kilometers (120 square miles), South Africa's most important islands are the Prince Edward Islands southeast of Cape Town. There are also a number of small islands off the southwestern coast, including Dassen Island, the Bird Islands, and Robben Island.

Coastal Features

South Africa has a rugged coastline with rocky shores and few sheltered bays or harbors; however, there are sandy beaches in some places, usually backed by low sand dunes. Most of the country's western coastline is smooth. At St. Helena Bay in the southwest, it begins to become jagged, indenting at Saldanha Bay and jutting out at the Cape of Good Hope peninsula, on which Cape Town is located. Other prominent coastal features include Vals Bay and Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa. The southern coast forms several indentations, including Algoa Bay and Mossel Bay. From here, the shoreline becomes smooth again as it heads due northeast, with no other notable features except the St. Lucia estuary and Sodwana Bay in the northeast.


The largest lake in South Africa is Saint Lucia, a saltwater lagoon located on the northeastern coast of the country near Sodwana Bay and separated from the Indian Ocean by a narrow 11.3-kilometer- (7-mile-) long channel. Its surface area varies from about 298 square kilometers (115 square miles) in the dry season to 350 square kilometers (135 square miles) during the wet season, and its depth ranges from 0.9 to 2.4 meters (3 to 8 feet). The lake is the only place on Earth where hippopotamuses, sharks, and crocodiles share the same waters.


The chief rivers of South Africa are the Orange, the Vaal, and the Limpopo. The Orange River is the longest river in the country. It originates in Lesotho, flows in a northwestern direction, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean after a course of some 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles). The westernmost section of the Orange River forms the boundary between South Africa and Namibia. The Vaal River originates in the northeastern section of the country, near Swaziland. It flows in a southwestern direction to a point in the central portion of the country, where it joins the Orange River. The Limpopo River originates in the northeastern region, flows northwest to the Botswana border, and then travels east along the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe before entering Mozambique and continuing to the Indian Ocean. In general, the rivers of the country are irregular in flow rate. Many are dry during much of the year.


Part of the Kalahari Desert extends southward from Botswana and Namibia into western South Africa. It is generally covered with red soil and low-growing grasses and brush, except in the east, where large patches of sand are found.


The coastal belt of the west and south ranges in elevation from 150 to 180 meters (500 to 600 feet) and is very fertile. There is very little coastal plain in the east and southeast, where the Great Escarpment borders the central plateau, reaching almost to the sea.

The Highveld, the largest and highest part of South Africa's central plateau, is characterized by level or gently undulating terrain.


The Groote-Swartberge lies between the Great Karroo Range and the Little Karroo Range in the southern part of the country. Between the latter area and the coastal plain is another mountain range, the Langeberg. On the southern coast, just south of Cape Town, an isolated peak, Table Mountain, rises to about 1,086 meters (3,563 feet). On the southwestern coast, the edge of the plateau is marked by the Roggeveld Mountains, a range of folded mountains that descends abruptly to the coastal plain.


The twenty-million-year-old Cango Caves, located near Oudtshoorn in the Groote-Swartberge Mountains, is the longest underground cave system in the world. These caverns also have some of the world's largest stalagmite formations. Their underground area covers more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) of widely branching caverns, interconnected tunnels, and deep pits, complete with magnificent limestone formations and colorfully illuminated sandstone formations.


Robben Island is the site of South Africa's maximum-security prison, where former president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years.


The topography of South Africa consists primarily of a great plateau that occupies about two-thirds of the country. The plateau reaches its greatest heights along the southeastern edge, which is marked by the Drakensberg Mountains, part of the Great Escarpment, which separates the plateau from the coastal areas. The escarpment includes Njesuthi Mountain, which at 3,408 meters (11,181 feet) is the highest point in the country. Three regions may be distinguished within the plateau: the Highveld, the Bushveld, and the Middle Veld.

In the center is the Highveld, which covers most of the plateau. It ranges in elevation from about 1,200 to 1,800 meters (4,000 to 6,000 feet). A rock ridge called the Witwatersrand marks the northern limit of the Highveld; this region includes the city of Johannesburg. North of the Witwatersrand is the Bushveld, or Transvaal Basin. This section, much of which is broken into basins by rock ridges, slopes downward from east to west toward the Limpopo River. The Bushveld averages less than 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) in height. The western section of the plateau, known as the Middle Veld (or Kaap Plateau), also slopes downward in a westerly direction, at elevations of between 600 and 1,200 meters (2,000 and 4,000 feet).

Between the edge of the plateau and the eastern and southern coastline, the land descends seaward in a series of abrupt grades, or steps. Along the eastern coast there are two steps. The interior step is a belt of hilly country called the Eastern Uplands. The exterior step is a low-lying plain called the Eastern Lowveld. In the south, three other steps, proceeding from the interior to the coast, consist of a plateau called the Great Karroo, or Central Karroo; a lower plateau called the Little Karroo, or Southern Karroo; and a low-lying plain.


The Gariep Dam on the Orange River in Free State is the largest dam in South Africa. Designed for hydroelectric power generation and irrigation, it is 88 meters (289 feet) high and 914 meters (2,999 feet) long. A related feature is the Orange Fish Tunnel, the world's second-longest water supply tunnel, with a length of 82 kilometers (51 miles). Water from the Gariep Dam travels through the tunnel to the Great Fish River and the Sundays River.



Cohen, Robin, et al. African Islands and Enclaves. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1983.

Lamar, Howard, and Leonard Thompson, eds. The Frontier in History: North America and Southern Africa Compared. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

Mandela, Nelson. The Struggle Is My Life. New York: Pathfinder, 1986.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination South Africa. africa/south_africa/ (accessed April 17, 2003).

South Africa Tourism: Discover South Africa. (accessed April 17, 2003).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of Physical Geography. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa


1,219,916sq km (470,566sq mi)



capital (population):

Pretoria (executive, 1,228,200), Cape Town (legislative, 2,686,000), Bloemfontein (judicial, 371,200)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Black 75%, White 14%, Coloured 9%, Asian 2%


Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Sotho, Pedi, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu (all official)


Christianity 68%, Islam 2%, Hinduism 1.5%


Rand = 100 cents

Republic in s Africa. South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. A narrow coastal margin includes the Indian Ocean port of Durban; the dry s tablelands, Little and Great Karoo; Cape Town, on the Cape of Good Hope; and part of the Namib Desert. The interior forms part of the African plateau. The plateau rises in the e to an escarpment more than 2000m (6000ft) high, on the fringe of which lies Bloemfontein. Soweto, Johannesburg, and Pretoria, all lie on the n of the escarpment. The highest peaks are in the Drakensberg range, on the e border of Lesotho. In the n lies part of the Kalahari Desert. In the ne are the Witwatersrand goldfields: Kimberley has the largest diamond mines. The Kruger National Park lies on the border with Mozambique. The longest river is the Orange.

Climate and Vegetation

Most of South Africa is subtropical. The sw has a Mediterranean climate. Much of the plateau is arid, and the Namib Desert is almost rainless. Grassland covers much of the high interior, with tropical savanna in lower areas. Forest and woodland cover only 3% of the land, and fynbos (scrub vegetation) is found in the Cape region.


The indigenous people of South Africa are the San. The first European settlement was not until 1652, when the Dutch East India Company founded a colony at Table Bay. Dutch Afrikaners (Boers) established farms, employing slaves. From the late 18th century, conflict with the Xhosa intensified, as the Boers trekked inland. In the early 19th century, Britain gained control of the Cape. Following Britain's abolition of slavery in 1833, the Boers began the Great Trek. They met with fierce resistance, particularly from the Zulu kingdom. The Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State were established in 1852 and 1854. In the 1870s and 1880s, the discovery of diamonds and gold increased the pace of colonization and Britain sought to gain control of Boer- and Zulu-held areas. The British defeated the Zulu in the Zulu War (1879), and Natal annexed Zululand in 1897. In 1890, Cecil Rhodes became governor of Cape Colony. Britain defeated the Boers in the South African Wars (1880–81, 1899–1902).

In 1910, the Union of South Africa was formed, with Louis Botha as prime minister. In 1912, the African National Congress (ANC) was founded. During World War I, South Africa captured Namibia (1915), and after the war it was mandated to the Union. In 1919, Jan Smuts succeeded Botha as Prime Minister. In 1931, Smuts' successor and Nationalist Party founder (1914), James Hertzog, realized Afrikaner ambitions as South Africa achieved full independence within the Commonwealth of Nations. Smuts regained power in 1939, and South Africa joined the Allies in World War 2.

The Nationalist Party won the 1948 elections, advocating a policy of apartheid. Apartheid placed economic, social, and political restrictions on non-whites. The ANC began a campaign of passive resistance, but after the Sharpeville massacre (1960), Nelson Mandela formed a military wing. In 1961, faced by international condemnation, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd established South Africa as a republic. In 1964, Mandela was jailed. Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966, and B. J. Vorster succeeded him. Vorster used South African forces to prevent black majority rule in South Africa's neighbouring states. The crushing of the Soweto uprising (1976) sparked a new wave of opposition. In 1978, P. W. Botha was elected Prime Minister. During the 1970s, four bantustans (homelands) gained nominal independence. Sanctions forced Botha to adopt a new constitution in 1984, which gave Indian and Coloured minorities limited political representation; black Africans were still excluded. From 1985 to 1990, South Africa was in a state of emergency: Archbishop Desmond Tutu pressed for further sanctions. In 1989, President de Klerk began the process of dismantling apartheid.

In 1990, Mandela was released and resumed leadership of the ANC. Clashes continued between the ANC and Chief Buthelezi's Zulu Inkatha movement. The ANC won South Africa's first multi-racial elections in 1994, and Mandela became president. The homelands re-integrated and South Africa divided into nine provinces. In 1995, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Tutu, began to investigate political crimes committed under apartheid. In 1999, Thabo Mbeki, who replaced Mandela as president of the ANC in 1997, became president of South Africa. AIDS is a major problem.


Mining forms the base of Africa's most industrialized economy (2000 GDP per capita, US$8500). South Africa is the world's leading producer of gold and fifth-largest producer of diamonds. Chromite, coal, copper, iron ore, manganese, platinum, silver, and uranium are also mined. Sanctions, the falling price of gold, and civil and industrial strife created prolonged recession. Unemployment stood at 45% (1995). Major manufactures include chemicals, iron, and steel. Agriculture employs more than 33% of the workforce. Major products include fruits, grapes for wine-making, maize, meat and sugar cane.

Political map

Physical map


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." World Encyclopedia. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." World Encyclopedia. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa

ZULU 117

The people of South Africa are called South Africans. The population has a complex ethnic makeup. For most of the twentieth century, government policy required the separation of racial communities by a system called apartheid. Although apartheid was ended in 1991, the division of the population into racial communities remained. Blacks form the largest segment of the population, constituting almost 75 percent of the total. The black population includes a large number of groups. Among the largest are the Xhosa numbering 5.6 million, the Zulu (5.3 million), and the Sotho (4.2 million). To learn more about the Sotho, see the chapter on Lesotho in Volume 5. Whites account for about 14 percent of the total population. About 60 percent of these are Afrikaners, and 40 percent are English. Cape Coloreds (persons of mixed race) represent about 11 percent of the total population.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa

Culture Name

South African


Identification. South Africa is the only nation-state named after its geographic location; there was a general agreement not to change the name after the establishment of a constitutional nonracial democracy in 1994. The country came into being through the 1910 Act of Union that united two British colonies and two independent republics into the Union of South Africa. After the establishment of the first colonial outpost of the Dutch East India Company at Cape Town in 1652, South Africa became a society officially divided into colonizer and native, white and nonwhite, citizen and subject, employed and indentured, free and slave. The result was a fragmented national identity symbolized and implemented by the white minority government's policy of racial separation. Economic status has paralleled political and social segregation and inequality, with the black African, mixed-race ("Coloured"), and Indian and Pakistani ("Asian") population groups experiencing dispossession and a lack of legal rights. Since the first nonracial elections in 1994, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has attempted to overcome this legacy and create unified national loyalties on the basis of equal legal status and an equitable allocation of resources.

Location and Geography. South Africa has an area of 472,281 square miles (1,223,208 square kilometers). It lies at the southern end of the African continent, bordered on the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland; on the east and south by the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The independent country of Lesotho lies in the middle of east central South Africa.

Among the prominent features of the topography is a plateau that covers almost two thirds of the center of the country. The plateau complex rises toward the southeast, where it climaxes in the Drakensberg range, part of an escarpment that separates the plateau from the coastal areas. The Drakensburg includes Champagne Castle, the highest peak in the country. The larger portion of the plateau is known as the highveld, which ends in the north in the gold-bearing Witwatersrand, a long, rocky ridge that includes the financial capital and largest city, Johannesburg. The region north of the Witwatersrand, called the bushveld, slopes downward from east to west toward the Limpopo River, which forms the international border. The western section of the plateau, the middleveld, also descends towards the west and varies in elevation between the highveld and bushveld. Between the Drakensburg and the eastern and southern coastline, the land descends to the sea. Toward the eastern coast there is an interior belt of green, hilly country that contains the Cape and Natal midlands. Nearer the coast there is a low-lying plain called the eastern lowveld. Southwest of the plateau the country becomes progressively more arid, giving way to the stony desert of the Great Karroo, bordered on the east by the lower, better watered plateau of the Little Karroo. Separating the dry southern interior from the sandy littoral of the southern coast and West Cape is another range, the Langeberg. On the southwest coast is Table Mountain, with Cape Town, the "Mother City," set in its base, and the coastal plain of the Cape Peninsula tailing off to the south. The southern most point in Africa, Cape Agulhas, lies sixty miles to the east. South Africa also includes part of the Kalahari Desert in the northwest and a section of the Namib Desert in the west. The chief rivers, crossing the country from west to east, are the Limpopo, Vaal, and Orange, which are not navigable but are useful for irrigation. A major new water source was created by the damming of the Orange and the Malibamatso below their sources in the Lesotho Drakensburg. This series of dams, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, is the largest public works project in Africa.

Demography. The population numbers approximately forty million, comprised of eight officially recognized Bantu-speaking groups; white Afrikaners descended from Dutch, French, and German settlers who speak Afrikaans, a variety of Dutch; English-speaking descendants of British colonists; a mixed-race population that speaks Afrikaans or English; and an immigrant Indian population that speaks primarily Tamil and Urdu. A small remnant of Khoi and San aboriginal populations lives in the extreme northwest. Rural areas are inhabited primarily by Bantu speakers (black African) and Coloured (Khoisan, European, Southeast Asian, and Bantu African) speakers of Afrikaans. The largest language group, the Zulu, numbers about nine million but does not represent a dominant ethnic grouping. Black Africans make up about seventy-seven percent of the population, whites about eleven percent, Coloureds about eight percent, Indians over two percent, and other minorities less than two percent. Most South Africans live in urban areas, with twenty percent of the population residing in the central province of Gauteng, which contains Johannesburg, the surrounding industrial towns, and Pretoria, the administrative capital. Other major urban centers include Durban, a busy port on the central east coast; Cape Town, a ship refitting, wine, and tourist center; and Port Elizabeth, an industrial and manufacturing city on the eastern Cape coast. During the 1990s, urban centers received immigration from other sub-Saharan African countries, and these immigrants are active in small-scale urban commercial ventures.

Linguistic Affiliation. South Africa has eleven official languages, a measure that was included in the 1994 constitution to equalize the status of Bantu languages with Afrikaans, which under the white minority government had been the official language along with English. Afrikaans is still the most widely used language in everyday conversation, while English dominates in commerce, education, law, government, formal communication, and the media. English is becoming a lingua franca of the country, but strong attachments to ethnic, regional, and community linguistic traditions remain, supported by radio and television programming in all the nation's languages. Linguistic subnationalism among ethnic groups such as the Afrikaners remains an important feature of political life.

Symbolism. The nation's racially, ethnically, and politically divided history has produced national and subnational symbols that still function as symbols of the country, and others symbols that are accepted only by certain groups. The monuments to white settler conquest and political dominance, such as the Afrikaner Voortrekker ("pioneer") Monument in Pretoria and the Rhodes Monument honoring the British colonial empire builder and Cape prime minister Cecil Rhodes, remain sectarian symbols. Government buildings that once represented the white minority but now house national democratic institutions, such the union buildings in Pretoria and the parliament buildings in Cape Town, have become national symbols. The nation's wildlife, much of it housed in Kruger National Park, has replaced white "founding fathers" on the currency since 1994. Cape Town's Table Mountain remains the premier geographic symbol. Symbols of precolonial and colonial African nationalism such as the Zulu king Shaka have been promoted to national prominence. Names and symbols of the previous rulers have been retained, such as Kruger National Park and Pretoria, both named for prominent Afrikaner founding fathers, and the springbok, an antelope that is the emblem of the national rugby team.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. South Africa has early human fossils at Sterkfontein and other sites. The first modern inhabitants were the San ("bushman") hunter-gatherers and the Khoi ("Hottentot") peoples, who herded livestock. The San may have been present for thousands of years and left evidence of their presence in thousands of ancient cave paintings ("rock art"). Bantu-speaking clans that were the ancestors of the Nguni (today's amaZulu, amaXhosa, amaSwazi, and vaTsonga peoples) and Tswana-Sotho language groups (today's Batswana and Southern and Northern Basotho) migrated down from east Africa as early as the fifteenth century. These clans encountered European settlers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the colonists were beginning their migrations up from the Cape. The Cape's European merchants, soldiers, and farmers wiped out, drove off, or enslaved the indigenous Khoi herders and imported slave labor from Madagascar, Indonesia, and India. When the British abolished slavery in 1834, the pattern of white legal dominance was entrenched. In the interior, after nearly annihilating the San and Khoi, Bantu-speaking peoples and European colonists opposed one another in a series of ethnic and racial wars that continued until the democratic transformation of 1994. Conflict among Bantu-speaking chiefdoms was as common and severe as that between Bantus and whites. In resisting colonial expansion, black African rulers founded sizable and powerful kingdoms and nations by incorporating neighboring chieftaincies. The result was the emergence of the Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Venda, Swazi, Sotho, Tswana, and Tsonga nations, along with the white Afrikaners.

Modern South Africa emerged from these conflicts. The original Cape Colony was established though conquest of the Khoi by the Dutch in the seventeenth century and of the Xhosa by the British in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Natal, the second colony, emerged from the destruction of the Zulu kingdom by Afrikaners and the British between 1838 and 1879. The two former republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal (South African Republic) were established by Afrikaner settlers who defeated and dispossessed the Basotho and Batswana. Lesotho would have been forcibly incorporated into the Orange Free State without the extension of British protection in 1869. The ultimate unification of the country resulted from the South African War (18991902) between the British and the two Afrikaner republics, which reduced the country to ruin at the beginning of the twentieth century. Even after union, the Afrikaners never forgot their defeat and cruel treatment by the British. This resentment led to the consolidation of Afrikaner nationalism and political dominance by mid century. In 1948, the Afrikaner National Party, running on a platform of racial segregation and suppression of the black majority known as apartheid ("separateness"), came to power in a whites-only election. Behind the struggles between the British and the Afrikaners for political dominance there loomed the "Native question": how to keep the aspirations of blacks from undermining the dominance of the white minority. Struggles by the black population to achieve democratic political equality began in the early 1950s and succeeded in the early 1990s.

National Identity. Afrikaners historically considered themselves the only true South Africans and, while granting full citizenship to all residents of European descent, denied that status to people of color until the democratic transition of 1994. British South Africans retain a sense of cultural and social connection to Great Britain without weakening their identity as South Africans. A similar concept of primary local and secondary ancestral identity is prevalent among people of Indian descent. The Bantu-speaking black peoples have long regarded themselves as South African despite the attempts of the white authorities to classify them as less than full citizens or as citizens of ethnic homelands ("Bantustans") between 1959 and 1991. Strong cultural loyalties to African languages and local political structures such as the kingdom and the chieftaincy remain an important component of identity. National identity comes first for all black people, but belonging to an ethnic, linguistic, and regional grouping and even to an ancestral clan has an important secondary status. People once officially and now culturally classified as Coloured regard themselves as South African, as they are a residual social category and their heritage is a blend of all the other cultural backgrounds. Overall, national identity has been forged through a struggle among peoples who have become compatriots. Since 1994, the democratic majority government has avoided imposing a unified national identity from above instead of encouraging social integration through commitment to a common national future.

Ethnic Relations. A strong sense of ethnic separateness or distinctiveness coincides with well-established practical forms of cooperation and common identification. The diversity and fragmentation within ethnic groupings and the balance of tensions between those groups during the twentieth century prevented interethnic civil conflict. While intergroup tensions over resources, entitlements, and political dominance remain, those conflicts are as likely to pit Zulu against Zulu as Zulu against Xhosa or African against Afrikaner.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Architecture in the European sense began with the construction of Cape Town by the Dutch late in the seventeenth century. Monumental public buildings, houses of commerce, private dwellings, churches, and rural estates of that period reflect the ornamented but severe style of colonial Dutch architecture, which was influenced by traditions from the Dutch East Indies. Many of the Cape's most stately buildings were constructed with masonry hand carved by Muslim "Malay" artisans brought as slaves from Indonesia. After the British took over the Cape in 1806, buildings in the British colonial style modified the Cape Town architectural style. From colonial India, British merchants and administrators brought the curved metal ornamental roofs and slender lace work pillars that still typify the verandas of cottages in towns and cities throughout the nation. Houses of worship contribute an important architectural aspect even in the smallest towns. In addition to the soaring steeples and classic stonework of Afrikaans Dutch Reformed churches, Anglican churches, synagogues, mosques, and Hindu shrines provide variety to the religious architectural scene.

The domestic architecture of the Khoi and Bantu speaking peoples was simple but strong and serviceable, in harmony with a migratory horticultural and pastoral economy. Precolonial multiple dwelling homesteads, which still exist in rural areas, tended to group lineage clusters or extended families in a semicircular grouping of round or oval one-room dwellings. The term "village" applies most accurately to the closer, multifamily settlements of the Sotho and Tswana peoples, ruled by a local chief, than to the widely scattered family homesteads of the Zulu, Swazi, and Xhosa. Both Sotho-Tswana and Nguni-speaking communities were centered spatially and socially around the dwelling and cattle enclosure of the subchief, which served as a court and assembly for the exercise of authority in local affairs.

Missionaries and the white civil authorities introduced simple European-style square houses along lined streets in "native locations" for Christianized black people, beginning the architectural history of racial segregation. That history culminated in the 1950s in the rearrangement of the landscape to separate Bantu African, Coloured, Indian, and white population groups from one another in "Group Areas." In 1936, the final boundaries of Bantu African reserves limited the rights of residence of those groups to rural homelands scattered over thirteen percent of the country. In the eighty-seven percent of the land proclaimed "White areas," whites lived in town centers and near suburbs, while black workers were housed in more distant "townships" to serve the white economy. The current government does not have the resources to transform this pattern, but economic freedom and opportunity may enable citizens to create a more integrated built environment. In the meantime, the old townships remain with their black population, augmented by miles of new shack settlements containing impoverished rural migrants hoping for a better life in the environmentally overstressed urban areas.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The consists of the traditionally simple fare of starches and meats characteristic of a farming and frontier society. Early Afrikaner pioneer farmers sometimes subsisted entirely on meat when conditions for trade in cereals were not favorable. A specialized cuisine exists only in the Cape, with its blend of Dutch, English, and Southeast Asian cooking. Food plays a central role in the family and community life of all groups except perhaps the British.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The gift and provision of food, centering on the ritual slaughtering of livestock, are central to all rites of passage and notable occasions in black communities. Slaughtering and the brewing of traditional cereal beer are essential in securing the participation and goodwill of the ancestors who are considered the guardians of good fortune, prosperity, and well-being. Indian communities maintain their native culinary traditions and apply them on Islamic and Hindu ritual and ceremonial occasions. Afrikaners and Coloured people gather at weekends and special occasions at multifamily barbecues called braais, where community bonds are strengthened.

Basic Economy. South Africa accounts for forty percent of the gross national product of sub-Saharan Africa, but until the late nineteenth century, it had a primarily agricultural economy that had much marginally productive land and was dependent on livestock farming. Because this was the primary economic enterprise of both black Africans and white colonists, conflict between those groups centered on the possession of grazing land and livestock. In 1867, the largest diamond deposits in the world were discovered at Kimberley in the west central area. The wealth from those fields helped finance the exploitation of the greatest gold reef in the world, which was discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886. Above this gold vein rose the city of Johannesburg. Diamond and gold magnates such as Cecil Rhodes used their riches to finance political ambitions and the extension of the British Empire. On the strength of mining, the country underwent an industrial revolution at the turn of the twentieth century and became a major manufacturing economy by the 1930s. Despite the discovery of new gold deposits in the Orange Free State in the early 1950s, the mining industry is now in decline and South Africa is searching for new means to participate in the global economy.

Land Tenure and Property. African communal notions of territory, land usage, and tenure differ fundamentally from European concepts of land as private or public property. This led to misunderstandings and deliberate misrepresentation in the dealings of white settlers and government officials with African chiefs during the colonial period. In the establishment of African reserves, some aspects of communal and chiefly "tribal trust" land tenure were preserved, and even in white rural areas, forms of communal tenure were still practiced in areas with African communities. African Christian mission communities in some areas drew together to purchase land after colonial conquest and dispossession, only to have that land expropriated again by the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936, which confined black Africans to thirteen percent of the land area.

After the democratic transformation of 1994, programs for land restitution, redistribution, and reform were instituted, but progress has been slow. The white minority still controls eighty percent of the land. In the wake of agricultural land invasions in Zimbabwe, the Department of Land Affairs has pledged to speed land redistribution. However, it is not certain whether dispossessed people who qualify for land redistribution can make profitable economic use of the land.

Commercial Activities. Since Cape Town was founded in 1652 as a refreshment, refitting, and trading station of the Dutch East India Company, international commerce has played a central role in the development of the nation. Local black societies did not engage in significant trade, being self-sufficient mixed pastoral economies, and there were no local market centers or long distance trading systems. With the advent of colonial forms of production, black Africans quickly adapted to commercial agricultural production. Their ability to outproduce white settler farms that employed European technology and an African family labor system was a factor in colonial dispossession and enforced wage labor in rural areas. Until the 1920s, itinerant traders sold manufactured items to African communities and isolated white farms and small farming towns. After 1910, formerly indentured sugar workers from India left these plantations and formed wealthy trading communities. Industries grew after the South African War, and during World War I South Africa supplied weapons to both sides. By the start of the World War II, South Africa had become the only industrialized economy in Africa south of the Sahara. The legal enforcement of white commercial domination until the 1990s has left the majority of private economic and financial resources under the control of the white minority, but this imbalance is being addressed.

Major Industries. Mining is still the largest industry, with profits from diamonds, gold, platinum, coal, and rare metals accounting for the majority of foreign exchange earnings. Currently, a significant portion of those earnings comes from the ownership and management of mines in other countries, particularly in Africa. With the decline in the mining sector, other industries have emerged, including automobile assembly, heavy equipment, wine, fruit and other produce, armaments, tourism, communications and financial services.

Trade. The most important trading partners are the United States and the European Union, particularly Great Britain and Germany, followed by Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and African neighbors such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Exports have surged since 1991, and the country has a trade surplus. South Africa is attempting to expand trade with its neighbors by extending its world-class urban infrastructure and industrial, communications, and financial services technologies. Political chaos and economic decline in sub-Saharan Africa, however, have delayed many of these initiatives.

Division of Labor. In precolonial times, division of labor between the sexes and the generations was well defined, and this is still the case in many rural black communities. Before the introduction of the plow, women and girls did most forms of agricultural labor, while men and boys attended to the livestock. Ritual taboos barred women from work involving cattle. Men also dominated law, politics, cattle raiding, and warfare. Some chieftaincies, however, were ruled by women, with women accounting for a significant minority of chiefs today. With the introduction of European agricultural methods in the nineteenth century, men undertook the heavy work of plowing, loading, and transport. That period saw the beginnings of African male labor migration to mines, farms, and commercial and industrial centers. The resultant loss of family labor power was compensated for by the flow of wages to rural communities, but the political and organizational life of rural African communities suffered. As the small towns and urban centers grew, black labor was drawn permanently away from rural communities and toward residence in poorly constructed and overcrowded "locations" attached to the towns. The Indian population also centered in urban areas, especially in Natal, as did Coloured communities other than farm workers in the western and northern Cape. Today there is a crisis in the rural economy, and the pattern of movement of black people off farms and into the urban labor force continues at an accelerated pace.

As educational opportunity has expanded for black citizens, a gradual shift from a racial to a class-based division of labor has begun, and there is now a growing black middle class. Employment is still skewed by racial identity, however, with black unemployment levels that are double those of whites.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. After the founding of Cape Town in 1652, physical indicators of racial origin served as the basis of a color caste system. That system did not prevent interracial sex and procreation, as the shortage of European women was compensated for by the availability of slave women. Slaves, particularly those of mixed parentage, rated higher than free black Africans, and Cape Town soon developed a creole population of free people of color. Over three centuries, the system of racial segregation gradually attained a formal legal status, culminating in the disenfranchisement and dispossession of people of color in the 1960s. In that process, color and class came to be closely identified, with darker peoples legally confined to a lower social and economic status. Despite the color bar in all economic areas, some Africans, Coloureds, and Indians obtained a formal education and a European-style middle class cultural and economic identity as merchants, farmers, colonial civil servants, clerks, teachers, and clergy. It was from this class, educated at mission "Native colleges," that black nationalism and the movement for racial equality recruited many prominent leaders, including Nelson Mandela. Since 1994, people of color have assumed positions in the leading sectors and higher levels of society. Some redistribution of wealth has occurred, with a steady rise in the incomes and assets of black people, while whites have remained at their previous levels. Wealth is still very unevenly distributed by race. Indians and Coloureds have profited the most from the new dispensation, with the middle classes in those groups growing in numbers and wealth.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Before colonialism, the aristocratic chiefs symbolized their authority by wearing special animal-skin clothing, ornaments, and the accoutrements of power, and expressed it through the functioning of chiefly courts and assemblies. Chiefs were entitled by custom to display, mobilize, and increase their wealth through the acquisition of many wives and large herds of cattle. Concentrating their wealth in livestock and people, chiefs of even the highest degree did not live a life materially much better than that of their subjects. Only with the spread of colonial capitalism did luxury goods, high-status manufactured items, and a European education become symbols of social status. European fashions in dress, housing and household utensils, worship, and transport became general status symbols among all groups except rural traditional Africans by the mid-nineteenth century. Since that time, transport has served as a status symbol, with fine horses, pioneer wagons, and horse-drawn carts giving way to imported luxury automobiles.

Political Life

Government. Political life in black African communities centered on the hereditary chieftaincy, in which the senior son of the highest or "great wife" of a chief succeeded his father. In practice, succession was not straightforward, and brothers, older sons of other wives, and widow regents all competed for power. Building large states or polities was difficult under those political conditions, but a number of African chiefs founded national kingdoms, including King Shaka of the Zulu.

European political life began with the Dutch East India Company in the Cape; this was more a mercantile administration than a government. With the transfer of the Cape to Britain in 1806, a true colonial government headed by an imperial governor and a parliamentary prime minister was installed. The legal system evolved as a blend of English common law and European Roman-Dutch law, and people of color, except for the few who attained the status of "free burgers," had few legal rights or opportunities to participate in political life. In the 1830s, the British Crown Colony of Natal was founded on the coast of Zululand in the east. A decade later, Afrikaner emigrants from the Cape (voortrekkers ), established the independent republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, ruled by an elected president and a popular assembly called a volksraad. The founding and development of European colonies and republics began the long and bitter conflicts between African chiefs, British and Afrikaners, and whites and black Africans that have shaped the nation's history. Since 1994, the country has had universal voting rights and a multi-party nonconstituency "party list" parliamentary system, with executive powers vested in a state president and a ministerial cabinet.

Leadership and Political Officials. The first democratically elected president, Nelson R. Mandela, remains one of the most admired political figures in the world. There are nine provinces, each with a premier selected by the local ruling party and provincial ministerial executives. The party in power since 1994 has been the African National Congress, but other parties currently control two of the provinces.

Social Problems and Control. White minority rule and the policy of racial segregation, disempowerment, and suppression left the government a legacy of problems that amount to a social crisis. Unrepresentative government and repressive racial regulations created mistrust of the law among the black majority. Unemployment is high and rapidly increasing, with the economy losing over a million jobs since 1994. Accompanying this situation are some of the highest crime rates in the world. The education and health care systems are failing in economically depressed communities. The collapse of family farming and the dismissal of thousands of black farm workers have created a rural crisis that has forced dispossessed and unemployed rural people to flock to the cities. Shantytowns ("informal areas") have mushroomed as the government has struggled to provide housing for migrants in a situation of rapid inner-city commercial decline and physical decay. The established black townships also are plagued by unemployment, crime, and insecurity, including drug dealings, alcoholism, rape, domestic violence, and child abuse. The government has imposed high taxes to transfer resources from the wealthy formerly white but now racially mixed suburbs to pay for services and upgrading in the poorer, economically unproductive areas. Although considerable progress has been made, the government and the private sector have been hampered by endemic corruption and white-collar crime. The interracial conflict that could have presented a major difficulty after centuries of colonial and white minority domination has proved to be a manageable aspect of postapartheid political culture, partly as a result of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between 1997 and 1999.

Military Activity. The South African Defense Force was notorious for its destabilization of neighboring countries in the 1970s and 1980s and its intervention in the civil war in Angola in the mid-1970s. Since 1994, the army has been renamed the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and has achieved progress toward racial integration under the command of recently promoted black officers drawn from the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, who serve alongside the white officer corps. The military budget has, however, experienced severe reductions that have limited the ability of the SANDF to respond to military emergencies. The SANDF's major military venture since 1994, the leading of an invasion force to save Lesotho's elected government from a threatened coup, was poorly planned and executed. South Africa has found it difficult to back up its foreign policy objectives with the threat of force. Participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions has been made questionable by high rates of HIV infection in some units.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The government has not pursued socialistic economic policies, but the socialist principles once espoused by the ANC have influenced social policy. Strong legislation and political rhetoric mandating and advocating programs to aid the formerly dispossessed majority (women, children, and homosexuals), play a prominent role in the government's interventions in society. Land restitution and reform, judicial reform, pro-employee labor regulations, welfare grants, free primary schooling, pre-natal and natal medical care, tough penalties for crimes and child abuse, and high taxes and social spending are all part of the ruling party's efforts to address the social crisis. These problems have been difficult to deal with because only thirty percent of the population contributes to national revenue and because poverty is widespread and deeply rooted. This effort has been made more difficult by restrictions on the level of deficit spending the government can afford without deterring local and foreign investment. A high level of social spending, however, has eased social tension and unrest and helped stabilize the democratic transformation.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Despite government interference, nongovernmental organizations working to ameliorate the plight of the dispossessed majority, advance democratic ideals, and monitor human rights violations flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of those groups were funded by foreign governmental and private antiapartheid movement donors. With the fall of apartheid and the move toward a nonracial democracy in the 1990s, much of their funding dried up. Also, the new government has been unreceptive to the independent and often socially critical attitude of these organizations. The ANC insists that all foreign funding for social amelioration and development be channeled through governmental departments and agencies. However, bureaucratic obstruction and administrative incapacity have caused some donors to renew their connection with private organizations to implement new and more effective approaches to social problems.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In rural African communities, women historically were assigned to agricultural tasks (with the exception of herding and plowing), and to domestic work and child care. Men tended livestock, did heavy agricultural labor, and ran local political affairs. With the dispossession of the African peasantry, many men have become migrant laborers in distant employment centers, leaving women to manage rural households. In cases where men have not sent their wages to rural families, women have become labor migrants. This pattern of female labor migration has increased as unemployment has risen among unskilled and semiskilled African men. In urban areas, both women and men work outside the home, but women are still responsible for household chores and child care. These domestic responsibilities usually fall to older female children, who have to balance housework and schoolwork.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Male dominance is a feature of the domestic and working life of all the nation's ethnic groups. Men are by custom the head of the household and control social resources. The disabilities of women are compounded when a household is headed by a female single parent and does not include an adult male. The new democratic constitution is based on global humanitarian principles and has fostered gender equality and other human rights. Although not widely practiced, gender equality is enshrined in the legal system and the official discourse of public culture. Slow but visible progress is occurring in the advancement of women in the domestic and pubic spheres, assisted by the active engagement of the many women in the top levels of government and the private sector.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Pre-Christian marriage in black communities was based on polygyny and bridewealth, which involved the transfer of wealth in the form of livestock to the family of the bride in return for her productive and reproductive services in the husband's homestead. Christianity and changing economic and social conditions have dramatically reduced the number of men who have more than one wife, although this practice is still legal. Monogamy is the norm in all the other groups, but divorce rates are above fifty percent and cohabitation without marriage is the most common domestic living arrangement in black and Coloured communities. Despite the fragility of marital bonds, marriage ceremonies are among the most visible and important occasions for sociability and often take the form of an elaborate multisited and lengthy communal feast involving considerable expense.

Domestic Unit. In rural African communities, the domestic unit was historically the homestead, which consisted of a senior man and his wives and their children, each housed in a small dwelling. By the mid-twentieth century, the typical homestead consisted more often of small kindreds composed of an older couple and the younger survivors of broken marriages. The multiroom family house has largely replaced or augmented the multidwelling homestead, just as nuclear and single-parent families have supplanted polygynous homesteads. The nuclear family model is approximated in practice primarily in white families, whereas black, Coloured, and Indian households tend to follow the wider "extended family" model. A new pattern characteristic of the black shantytowns at the margins of established black townships and suburbs consists of households in which unrelated people gather around a core of two or more residents connected by kinship.

Inheritance. Inheritance among white, Coloured, and Indian residents is bilateral, with property passing from parents to children or to siblings of both sexes, with a bias toward male heirs in practice. Among black Africans, the senior son inherited in trust for all the heirs of his father and was responsible for supporting his mother, his junior siblings, and his father's other wives and their children. This system has largely given way to European bilateral inheritance within the extended family, but the older mode of inheritance survives in the responsibility assumed by uncles, aunts, grandparents, and in-laws for the welfare of a deceased child or sibling's immediate family members.

Kin Groups. Recognition of lengthy family lines and extended family relationships are common to all the population groups, most formally among Indians and blacks. For Africans, the clan, a group of people descended from a single remote male ancestor, symbolized by a totemic animal and organized politically around a chiefly title, is the largest kinship unit. These clans often include hundreds of thousands of people and apply their names to branches extending across ethnic boundaries, so that a blood relationship is not an organizing feature of clanship. Among the Nguni-speaking groups, it is against custom for people to marry anyone with their own, their mother's, or grandparents' clan name or clan praise name. Among the Basotho, it is customary for aristocrats to marry within the clan. A smaller unit is the lineage, a kin group of four or five generations descended from a male ancestor traced though the male line. Extended families are the most effective kin units of mutual obligation and assistance and are based on the most recent generations of lineal relationships.


Infant Care. Infant care is traditionally the sphere of mothers, grandmothers, and older sisters in black and Coloured communities, and females of all ages carry infants tied with blankets on their backs. Among the social problems affecting the very young in these communities is the high incidence of early teenage pregnancy. Many whites and middle-class families in other ethnic groups have part-time or full-time servants who assist with child care, including the care of infants. The employment of servants to rear children exposes children to adult caregivers of other cultures and allows unskilled women to support their own absent children.

Child Rearing and Education. The family in its varied forms and systems of membership is the primary context for the socialization of the young. The African extended family system provides a range of adult caregivers and role models for children within the kinship network. African families have shown resilience as a socializing agency, but repression and poverty have damaged family structure among the poor despite aid from churches and schools. Middle-class families of all races socialize their children in the manner of suburban Europeans.

Historically, rural African communities organized the formal education of the young around rites of initiation into adulthood. Among the Zulu, King Shaka abolished initiation and substituted military induction for males. These ceremonies, which lasted for several months, taught boys and girls the disciplines and knowledge of manhood and womanhood and culminated in circumcision for children of both sexes. Boys initiated together were led by a son of the chief under whom those age mates formed a military regiment. Girls became marriageable after graduation from the bush initiation school.

Christian missionaries opposed rites of circumcision, but after a long period of decline, traditional initiation has been increasing in popularity as a way of dealing with youth delinquency. Christian and Muslim (Coloured and Indian) clergy introduced formal schools with a religious basis in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Apartheid policies attempted to segregate and limit the training, opportunities, and aspirations of black pupils. Today a unified system of formal Western schooling includes the entire population, but the damage done by the previous educational structure has been difficult to overcome. Schools in black areas have few resources, and educational privilege still exists in the wealthier formerly white suburbs. Expensive private academies and schools maintained by the relatively wealthy Jewish community are among the country's best. Rates of functional illiteracy remain high.

Higher Education. There are more than twenty universities and numerous technical training institutes. These institutions are of varying quality, and many designated as black ethnic universities under apartheid have continued to experience political disturbances and financial crises. Formerly white but now racially mixed universities are also experiencing financial difficulties in the face of a declining pool of qualified entrants and a slow rate of economic growth.


South Africans are by custom polite and circumspect in their speech, although residents of the major urban centers may bemoan the decline of once-common courtesies. Each of the quite different culture groupscorresponding to home language speakers of English, Afrikaans, Tamil and Urdu, and the southern Bantu Languages, cross-cut by religion and country of original originhas its own specific expressive forms of social propriety and respect.

Black Africans strongly mark social categories of age, gender, kinship, and status in their etiquette. Particular honor and pride of place are granted to age, genealogical seniority, male adulthood, and political position. Rural Africans still practice formal and even elaborate forms of social greeting and respect, even though such forms are paralleled by a high incidence of severe interpersonal and social violence. While the more westernized or cosmopolitan Africans are less formal in the language and gesture of etiquette, the categories of social status are no less clearly marked, whether in the homes of wealthy university graduates or in cramped and crowded working-class bungalows. The guest who does not greet the parents of a household by the name of their senior child preceded by ma or ra (Sesotho: "mother/father of . . . ") or at least an with an emphatic 'me or ntate (Sesotho: mother/father [of the house]) will be thought rude. The youngster who does not scramble from a chair to make way for an adult will draw a sharp reproof.

Comparable forms with cognate emphasis on age, gender, and seniority are practiced in Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish communities according to religious prescriptions and places of original family origin. South Africans of British origin insist on a calm, distanced reserve mixed with a pleasant humor in social interactions, regardless of their private opinions of others. Afrikaners are rather more direct and sharp in their encounters, more quick to express their thoughts and feelings towards others, and not given to social legerdemain. In general, despite the aggressive rudeness that afflicts stressful modern urban life everywhere, South Africans are by custom hospitable, helpful, sympathetic, and most anxious to avoid verbal conflict or unsociable manners. Even among strangers, one of the strongest criticisms one can make in South Africa of another is that the person is "rude."


Religious Beliefs. Despite the socialist roots of the ruling ANC, South Africa is traditionally a deeply religious country with high rates of participation in religious life among all groups. The population is overwhelmingly Christian with only very small Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu minorities. Among Christian denominations, the Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church is by far the largest as most White and some Coloured Afrikaners belong to it. Other important denominations include Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans, the last led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu. Apostolic and Pentacostal churches also have a large Black membership. Indigenous Black African religion centered on veneration of and guidance from the ancestors, belief in various minor spirits, spiritual modes of healing, and seasonal agricultural rites. The drinking of cereal beer and the ritual slaughter of livestock accompanied the many occasions for family and communal ritual feasting. The most important ceremonies involved rites of the life cycle such as births, initiation, marriage, and funerals.

Religious Practitioners. Indigenous African religious practitioners included herbalists and diviners who attended to the spiritual needs and maladies of both individuals and communities. In some cases their clairvoyant powers were employed by chiefs for advice and prophesy. Historically, Christian missionaries and traditional diviners have been enemies, but this has not prevented the dramatic growth of hybrid Afro-Christian churches, religious movements, prophetism, and spiritual healing alongside mainstream Christianity. Other important religions include Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. For the Afrikaners, the Dutch Reformed Church has provided a spiritual and organizational foundation for their nationalist cultural politics and ideology.

Rituals and Holy Places. All religions and ethnic subnational groups have founded shrines to their tradition where momentous events have occurred, their leaders are buried, or miracles are believed to have happened. The grave of Sheikh Omar, for example, a seventeenth-century leader of resistance to Dutch rule in the East Indies who was transported to the Cape and became an early leader of the "Malay" community, is sacred to Cape Muslims. Afrikaners regard the site of the Battle of Blood River (Ncome) in 1838 as sacred because their leader Andries Pretorius made a covenant with their God promising perpetual devotion if victory over the vastly more numerous Zulu army were achieved. The long intergroup conflict over the land itself has led to the sacralization of many sites that are well remembered and frequently visited by a great many South Africans of all backgrounds.

Death and the Afterlife. In addition to the beliefs in the soul and afterlife of the varying world religions in South Africa, continued belief in and consultation with family ancestors remains strong among Black Africans. Among the important shrines where the ancestors are said to have caused miracles are the caves of Nkokomohi and Matuoleng in the eastern Free State, both sites of healing sacred to the Basotho, and the holy city of Ekuphakameni in KwaZulu-Natal, built by Zulu Afro-Christian prophet and founder of the Nazarite Jerusalem Church, Isaiah Shembe in 1916. Formal communal graveyards, not a feature of pre-colonial African culture, have since become a focus of ancestral veneration and rootedness in the land. Disused graves and ancestral shrines have most recently figured in the land restitution claims of expropriated African communities lacking formal deeds of title to their former homes.

Medicine and Health Care

There is a first class but limited modern health care sector for those with medical coverage or the money to pay for the treatment. Government-subsidized public hospitals and clinics are overstressed, understaffed, and are struggling to deal with the needs of a majority of the population that was underserved during white minority rule. A highly developed traditional medical sector of herbalists and diviners provides treatment for physical and psycho-spiritual illnesses to millions in the black population, including some people who also receive treatment from modern health professionals and facilities. South Africa has a high HIV infection rate, and if successful strategies for AIDS prevention and care are not implemented, twenty-five percent of the country's young women will die before age thirty.

Secular Celebrations

Secular celebrations and public holidays are much more numerous than religious celebrations. The old holiday calendar consisting of commemorations of milestones in the history of colonial settlement, conquest, and political dominance has not been abandoned. In the service of political reconciliation, old holidays such as 16 December, which commemorates the victory of eight hundred Afrikaner settlers and their black servants over four thousand Zulu at the Battle of Blood River in 1838, is now celebrated as Reconciliation Day. Holidays commemorating significant events in the black struggle for political liberation include Human Rights Day, marking the shooting to death of sixty-one black pass-law protesters by the police in Sharpeville on 21 March 1961, and Youth Day, recalling the beginning of the Soweto uprising, when police opened fire on black schoolchildren protesting the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools on 16 June 1976. Other holidays emphasize social advancements guaranteed by the new constitution, such as Women's Day, which also commemorates the march by women of all groups to protest the extension of the pass laws to women in Pretoria on 9 August 1956.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Pre-colonial African cultures produced a wide range of artistic artifacts for both use and beauty as clothing and personal adornment, beadwork, basketry, pottery, and external house decoration and design. Today these traditions are not only continued but have been developed in new as well as established forms in exquisitely fashioned folk and popular craft work and even painting. Among the most famous of these is the geometric house painting design of the Ndebele people.

Urban South Africa has highly developed traditions in the full range of arts and humanities genres and disciplines, long supported by government and the liberal universities, among the most prominent in Africa. During the colonial period these traditions spread to the non-European population groups who also produced artists, scholars, and public intellectuals of renown despite the obstacles deliberately placed in their path by the White apartheid cultural authorities. Building on the work of artists in exile such as painter Gerald Sekoto, painters and graphic artists vividly expressed the struggles and sufferings of black South Africans during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Social dislocation and poverty along with rich evocations of a regenerated African folk culture have inspired graphic artists of all backgrounds in the transformational 1990s.

Most recently other pressing social concerns have taken priority over the arts and humanities and both public and private support have dwindled. While the government struggles to make the once racially exclusive arts and educational facilities accessible to all, arts councils have experienced severe reductions in funding and many once-vibrant arts institutions are closed or threatened with closure. The government-sponsored Johannesburg Bienniale arts festival has yet to attract a significant audience.

Literature. The country has long had important writers of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Black literature thrived under the adverse conditions of apartheid, but today there is no black writer, playwright, or journalist with the stature of E'skia Mphahlele and Alex la Guma from the 1950s through the 1970s. The White population continues to produce world-class literary artists, however, including Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer, twice Booker Prize winner J. M. Coetzee, and distinguished bilingual Afrikaans novelist André Brink.

Graphic Arts. Graphic artists with a rural folk background who have made the transition to the contemporary art world, such as renowned painter Helen Sibidi, have found a ready international market. South Africa too produced a number of world-class art and documentary photographers in the second half of the twentieth century, whose works vividly evoke all aspects of this diverse, powerful conflictual and divided society. Among such photographers are elders Ernest Cole, David Goldblatt, and Peter Magubane, followed by new talents such as Santu Mofokeng.

Performance Arts. Theater, during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s a thriving formal elite and informal popular performing art, has recently fallen on hard times. Even Johannesburg, the urban cultural center of the country, has witnessed the closure of several major downtown theatre complexes that are now surrounded by urban decay, and the virtual disappearance of popular Black township theatre. The grand State Theatre complex in Pretoria has recently been closed due to insolvency and mismanagement.

New opportunities and interesting choreographers are appearing in the field of contemporary Black dance, but audiences and budgets are still painfully small. South Africa's four great symphony orchestras too have either dissolved or are threatened with dissolution. Alternatively popular music, particularly among Black South African musicians and audiences whether in live performances, recordings, or the increasingly varied broadcast industry, is thriving in the new era and holds out great potential for both artistic and financial expansion. South Africa is possessed of video and digital artists with excellent professional training and great talent, but there is only a limited market for their works within the country. Local television production provides them with some employment, but the South African film industry is moribund.

The very slow pace of economic growth and the high and increasing levels of unemployment and taxation have created an unfavorable environment for artistic and intellectual development in the new nonracial society. One sector in which both artistic and financial progress is occurring is in the growth of arts and performance festivals. The greatest of these is the National Arts Festival held every year in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, drawing large audiences to a feast of the best new work in theatre, film, serious music, lecture programs, and visual arts and crafts. Other local festivals have sprung up after the example of Grahamstown, and all have achieved some measure of success and permanence in the national cultural calendar.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Since the 1920s, the universities have graduated world-class professionals in the physical and social sciences. Rapid democratization has stressed the higher education system, and public and private funding for the social sciences has declined at a time when the society is facing a social and economic crisis. The physical sciences have fared better, with the opening of new technical institutions and the expansion of professionally oriented science education programs at the universities. The crisis in primary and secondary education has lowered the quality and quantity of entrants to institutions of higher education, and a lack of economic growth has created an inability to absorb highly trained graduates and a skills shortage as those graduates are attracted by better opportunities abroad.


Adam, Heribert, F. van Zyl Slabbert, and K. Moodley. Comrades in Business: Post-Liberation Politics in South Africa, 1997.

Allen, V. L. The History of Black Mineworkers in South Africa, 1992.

Atkinson, Brenda, and Candice Breitz, eds. Grey Areas: Representation, Identity and Politics in Contemporary South African Art, 1999.

Bhana, Surendra, and Bridglal Pachai, eds. A Documentary History of Indian South Africans, 1984.

Bickford-Smith, Vivian, E. van Heyningen, and N. Worden. Cape Town in the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated Social History, 1999.

Bonner, Philip, and Lauren Segal. Soweto: A History, 1998.

Boonzaier, Emile, and John Sharp, eds. South African Keywords, 1988.

Butler, Jeffrey. The Black Homelands of South Africa: The Political and Economic Development of Bophuthatswana and Kwazulu, 1977.

Christopher, A. J. The Atlas of Apartheid, 1994.

Coetzee, J. M. Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews, 1992.

Coplan, David B. In Township Tonight! South Africa's Black City Music and Theatre, 1985.

Elphick, Richard, and Rodney Davenport, eds. Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social and Cultural History, 1977.

Fine, Ben, and Zavareh Rustomjee. The Political Economy Of South Africa: From Minerals-Energy Complex to Industrialization, 1996.

Fox, Roddy, and Kate Rowntree, eds. The Geography of South Africa in a Changing World, 2000.

Gerhart, Gail. Black Power in South Africa, 1978.

Gordimer, Nadine. Living in Hope and History: Notes from Our Century, 1999.

Hammond-Tooke, W. D., ed. The Bantu-Speaking Peoples of Southern Africa, 1974.

Harker, John, et al. Beyond Apartheid: Human Resources for a New South Africa, 1991.

Hugo, Pierre, ed. Redistribution and Affirmative Action: Working on the South African Political Economy, 1992.

Human, Linda, ed. Educating and Developing Managers for a Changing South Africa: Selected Essays, 1992.

Kuper, Adam. Wives for Cattle: Bridewealth and Marriage in Southern Africa, 1975.

Mahida, Ebrahim M. History of Muslims in South Africa: A Chronology, 1993.

Mesthrie, Rajend, ed. Language and Social History: Studies in South African Sociolinguistics, 1995.

Muller, Andre L. Minority Interests: The Political Economy of the Coloured and Indian Communities in South Africa, 1968.

Nelson, Harold D. South Africa: A Country Study, 1981.

Pampallis, John. Foundations of the New South Africa, 1991.

. The Political Directory of South Africa, 1996.

Powell, Ivor. Ndebele: A People and Their Art, 1995.

Reader's Digest Illustrated History of South Africa: The Real Story, 1994.

Sachs, Albie. Advancing Human Rights in South Africa, 1992.

Sampson, Anthony. Mandela: The Authorized Biography, 1999.

South Africa through the Lens: Social Documentary Photography, 1983.

Thompson, Leonard Monteath. A History of South Africa, 1995.

. The Political Mythology of Apartheid, 1985.

Townsend, R. F. Policy Distortions and Agricultural Performance in the South African Economy, 1997.

Truluck, Anne. No Blood on Our Hands: Political Violence in the Natal Midlands 1987Mid-1992, 1992.

Unterhalter, Elaine, et al. Apartheid Education and Popular Struggles, 1991.

Van Graan, Mike, and Nicky du Plessis, eds. The South African Handbook on Arts and Culture, 1998.

Van Wyk, Gary. African Painted Houses, 1998.

Western, John. Outcast Cape Town, 1981.

Wilmsen, Edwin N., and Patrick McAllister, eds. The Politics of Difference: Ethnic Premises in a World of Power, 1996.

David Coplan

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Countries and Their Cultures. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Countries and Their Cultures. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Countries and Their Cultures. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa


SOUTH AFRICA , republic comprising nine provinces – Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State, and KwaZulu-Natal. Prior to 1994, when multiracial democracy was introduced, there were four provinces, viz. Cape, Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal.

The first European settlement in southern Africa was founded in *Cape Town, today capital of the Western Cape, in 1652 by the Dutch. It became a British colony in 1806; Natal was a British colony from 1843; the Free State and the Transvaal, founded by Dutch (Afrikaner or Boer) emigrants from the Cape, were republics until annexed by Britain in 1902 after the Boer War. In 1910 the colonies were merged

as the Union of South Africa under the British flag. In 1961 the Union became a republic outside the British Commonwealth. Until 1994, South Africa was ruled by the white minority. Black majority rule was ushered in by the country's first democratic, non-racial elections, held on April 27 of that year.


Jewish associations with South Africa date back a long way. Jewish scientists and cartographers in Portugal contributed to the success of Vasco da Gama's voyage which led to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. Jewish merchants in Holland were associated with the Dutch East India Company, which established the white settlement at the Cape in 1652, and Jewish names appear in the early records of the settlement. These were probably converts to Christianity who had come to Holland from Central and Eastern Europe. The company required all its servants and settlers to be professing Protestants. Identifiably Jewish settlement began only after the introduction of complete religious tolerance under the Batavian Republic in 1804 and its confirmation by the British who took over the Cape in 1806. Enterprising Jewish individuals then began to arrive, mainly from Germany and the British Isles. Some made their way from Cape Town (where the first congregation was founded in 1841) deep into the interior and played pioneering roles in the development of what was then a backward country with a thinly scattered white population. Prominent individuals were Nathaniel *Isaacs, Benjamin *Norden, Jonas *Bergtheil, the *Mosenthal brothers, the *Solomon family, and Joel *Rabinowitz.

By the end of the 1860s, when the Jews in the Cape numbered a few hundred families in a white population of something over two hundred thousand, there were two main centers of Jewish settlement in the colony, the older in Cape Town and environs, and the other in the eastern region, mainly in Grahamstown, *Port Elizabeth and district, and Graaff Reinet. Individuals – itinerant traders and storekeepers, with a few professional men – had also penetrated into the more remote inland areas. Though small in number, they made a significant contribution to the economic advancement of the country and to its social and civic life.

The opening up of the diamond fields in Griqualand West (*Kimberley) in 1869 and of the gold mines of the Witwatersrand in 1886, marked a turning point in the economic and political history of South Africa. From being predominantly pastoral, it developed rapidly into a modern industrial society. The new economic opportunities attracted Jews among the emigrants from Britain, Germany, and elsewhere on the continent of Europe, as well as from America and Australia, and other countries. They were the forerunners of the mainstream of Jewish immigrants who began to arrive from Eastern Europe in the 1880s, a tributary of the vast outflow escaping czarist oppression and economic deprivation and seeking freedom and new opportunity, of whom the majority found their way to North America. Many of these immigrants settled in Cape Town and nearby towns, but later spread to more distant rural areas, and also found their way to the goldfields in the Witwatersrand. Few villages in the Cape, the Orange Free State, and later in the Transvaal, were without their Jewish peddlers or storekeepers, who were usually joined in time by their families and kinsmen from overseas. They formed small communities, and in some cases (as in the ostrich feather center *Oudtshoorn) larger Jewish settlements. The mainstream of Jewish migration, however, flowed to *Johannesburg and other towns on the Witwatersrand, which soon after the Boer War (1899–1902) – during which there was an exodus of war "refugees" – became the nucleus of the largest concentration of Jews in South Africa. There was also a smaller movement into Natal, particularly to *Durban.

The steady extension of Jewish settlement to the new areas was reflected in the dates when the first congregations were established: Kimberley – 1875; Oudtshoorn – 1883; Durban – 1883; Johannesburg – 1887; *Pretoria – 1890; *Bloemfontein – 1876.


Official statistics on immigration became available only after the Boer War (1899–1902), but it can be conjectured that the Jewish population in 1880 was about 4,000. Ten years later it had grown to about 10,000. Around 1900 it was in the vicinity of 25,000, and in the 1904 official census it had reached a total of some 38,000. These figures reflect clearly how the Jewish population was growing through the addition of newcomers from abroad. Between 1880 and 1910, some 40,000 Jewish immigrants entered the country. Thereafter, for various reasons, the numbers decreased, with the exception of the years 1924 to 1930. In all, in the half-century from 1910 to 1960, it is estimated that there were perhaps 30,000 Jewish immigrants.

Until about 1890, the majority of Jewish immigrants came from Britain, and in lesser numbers from Germany. Thereafter, the influx of "Russian" Jews (as the East European Jews were officially designated) increased and within a couple of decades the "greeners" outnumbered the older elements. They came predominantly (approximately 70%) from Lithuania and the other territories on the eastern shores of the Baltic (South African Jewry came to be described as "a colony of Lithuania") and also from Latvia, Poland, Belorussia, and further afield. In their escape from oppression and poverty in Eastern Europe the Jews who went to South Africa were encouraged by success stories of individuals, reports of the sympathetic attitude of the Boers (Afrikaners) to Jews as the "Chosen People," the helping hand stretched out by older settlers, and inflated stories of the fortunes made from the gold mines. Most of the East Europeans at first encountered great hardships and difficulties economically before achieving prosperity. South Africa's attitude to Jewish immigration was influenced by various factors, among them conservative official policies in regard to immigration generally, partly due to the internal struggle between the rival English-speaking and Afrikaner sections of the population. The changing political and economic situation in the country, and at times, the relatively high proportion of Jews among immigrants from alien (non-British) countries, also played their part.

Although, in an overall historical perspective, and by comparison with other countries, South Africa's attitude was not an unfavorable one, Jewish leaders frequently felt the need for vigilance against discrimination, and at certain periods Jewish immigration became a subject of intensive political agitation (see below, legal and social status). In 1902, Jewish immigrants faced a crisis because a new literacy test at the Cape (designed to exclude Asiatics) called for the ability to read and write "in the characters of a European language." There were moves to deny this status to Yiddish because it was written in Hebrew characters, but the language was officially accorded recognition in the Cape Immigration Law of 1906. This provision was also incorporated after Union in the basic Immigration Act of 1913. In the early 1920s Jewish communal leaders were engaged in a lengthy dispute with the government on the interpretation of the immigration laws, which had resulted in severe restrictions on economic grounds. These restrictions were removed in 1924, but the increased Jewish immigration which followed led in 1930 to the enactment of a law generally referred to as the "Quota Act." This did not restrict Jewish immigration per se but by imposing numerical limitation upon all immigration from specified countries of Eastern and southern Europe, it substantially reduced the admission of Jewish immigrants. Soon afterward the influx of Jewish refugees, from Nazi Germany – and especially the dramatic arrival in 1936 of a chartered boat, the Stuttgart, with 537 German Jewish refugees on board – resulted in a major

Year Total

agitation and precipitated the enactment of the "Aliens Act" of 1937. This law gave plenary powers to an Immigrants Selection Board, which was required, among other considerations, to apply the criterion of "assimilability." The number of Jewish refugees from Germany then dropped considerably, the total between 1933 and 1940 being approximately 5,500.

During World War ii, Jewish immigration virtually ceased and in the immediate postwar period was largely limited to aged parents and children of persons already living in South Africa and to other specified categories. Following the virtual destruction, in the Holocaust, of the communities from which South Africa had drawn its Jewish immigrants, as well as the movement toward the State of Israel, the overall figure of Jewish immigration to South Africa dropped to a few hundred annually.

demographic aspects

The growth of the South African Jewish population through both immigration and natural increase is shown in the Table; figures are based on official census returns:

Until 1936, when the proportion of Jews in the population reached its peak of 4.52%, the annual Jewish increase was proportionately higher than that of the white population generally. In the succeeding 25 years (1936–1960), however, it was only 1.77% compared with 2.26% for the white population as a whole, and in the decade 1950 to 1960, it was only one-half of the general figure. The relative decline of the Jewish percentage was due to the restrictive immigration laws; the lower birth rate of Jews compared with that of the general white population; a certain amount of emigration; and the higher number of Jews in the older age groups.

In the early years, the high masculinity in sex distribution was similar to that of all typical immigrant communities, but later it dropped sharply. In 1904, there were 25,864 males and 12,237 females, while by 1960, males numbered 57,198 and females 57,563. The proportion of foreign-born to local-born Jews had also radically changed. Whereas in 1936, 46.69% were South African-born (for females the figure was 50%), the large majority are now South African-born.

In 1970, according to the official census of that year, the Jewish population reached an all-time high of 118,200. This figure remained static during the next decade, with losses to emigration being partially offset by immigration from Rhodesia (today *Zimbabwe), other African countries, and Israel. The Jewish population declined precipitously during the 1980s as a result of social, economic, and political unrest. The adjusted 1991 census, when adjusted upwards based on the national percentage of those who omitted the "religion" question on the census form, gave the Jewish population as 91,925, comprising 1.8% of the white population and 0.3% of the total population.

According to the 2001 census, this figure had declined still further. A total of 61,670 whites gave their religion as Jewish, suggesting a total of between 72,000 and 75,000 when the proportion of those who omitted the religion question was taken into account. These were overwhelmingly concentrated in the three provinces of Gauteng (47,700, more than 90% of whom lived in Johannesburg), Western Cape (18,360, mainly in Cape Town), KwaZulu-Natal (3,470, mainly in Durban) and Eastern Cape (1,390, mainly Port Elizabeth and East London), while the combined total of the remaining five provinces was estimated at about 1,500. Once a substantial proportion of the total, the number of Jews still living in rural districts had declined to a few hundred, mainly elderly people. Despite the steep decline in the Jewish population, there were signs early in the new century that Jewish emigration was leveling off and that a modest influx of new immigrants, as well as some returning emigrants, was beginning to swell its ranks once more.

Legal and Social Status

As an integral part of the white population, Jews have full equality and participate in all aspects of South Africa's national, political, civic, economic, and cultural life. During the white minority rule years, although the usual forms of anti-Jewish prejudice in gentile societies were occasionally encountered, both of the main white population groups – the English-speaking and the Afrikaans-speaking – remained faithful, generally speaking, to the traditions of religious tolerance which characterized the homelands – England and the Netherlands – from which their forefathers came. In the post-1994 era, there has been little evidence of anti-Jewish sentiment in the majority black population, with antisemitism being primarily confined to elements within the Muslim community.

There have nevertheless been periods in South Africa's history when Jews faced special problems which arose, in particular, from the complex racial and political tensions of the country. There were exceptional periods when the status of Jews was challenged. While the Cape was under the control of the Dutch East India Company prior to 1795 (see above), and all in the Company's service had to profess the Christian Reformed religion, there could be no professing Jews in the country until a liberal religious policy was introduced. Thereafter, however, whether in the British or the Afrikaner territories, Jews enjoyed religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. Indeed, a notably sympathetic attitude was shown by the Boers toward the early Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The situation in the Afrikaner Transvaal Republic, however, differed from that in the Orange Free State, where full equality was enjoyed by the Jews. The Grondwet (constitution) of the Transvaal Republic (1864; reaffirmed in 1896) stipulated that membership in the Volksraad (parliament) and also the holding of official positions in the state service, were to be restricted to Christian Protestants. Catholics, and also Jews, were consequently debarred from military posts and from the offices of the presidency, state secretary, and Landdrost, nor could they become members of the first or second Volksraad or superintendents of the natives or of mines. These disabilities applied even to individuals who had become burghers of the republic. There were also educational disabilities: as education had to be based on a strictly Christian Protestant religious foundation, Catholic and Jewish children were debarred from attending government schools and their parochial schools were denied state aid. These disabilities did not arise from expressly anti-Jewish motives, but flowed from the rather harsh Calvinist constitution of the republic. In the last years of the republic, Jewish deputations to the government sought to have them removed, but without success. Eventually in 1899, President Kruger tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Volksraad to replace the requirement of the Grondwet that all members of the Raad must be Protestant by a provision that they must "believe in the revelation of God through His Word in the Bible." The Jews in the Transvaal reacted variously to these disabilities which were also somewhat obscured by the fact that the Jews were in most cases foreigners (uitlanders) with their own far-reaching grievances. Such limitations also did not weigh much upon the relatively recent arrivals from Eastern Europe, who appreciated their situation in the Boer republic, so markedly in contrast to the oppressive conditions of czarist Russia. All the disabilities disappeared when the Transvaal republic came under British rule in 1902. Thereafter, whether under the colonial regimes in the Transvaal and in the rest of the country prior to Union in 1910 or subsequently, Jewish citizens living in South Africa enjoyed legal equality in all respects.

However, further immigration of Jews, more particularly from Eastern Europe, did periodically become a public issue. In the 1930s the influx of refugees from Nazi Germany led to active agitation for the complete prohibition of Jewish immigration. In the result, while no specific anti-Jewish provisions were written into the immigration laws, restrictions were introduced which were expressly designed to cut down the flow of Jewish immigrants. The supporters of these restrictive policies were not confined to one political party only, and many disclaimed an anti-Jewish prejudice, asserting that the measures were necessary to prevent the growth of antisemitism by maintaining the existing balance between the various elements of the white population. (South Africa never favored an open-door immigration policy, the Afrikaans-speaking section, in particular, often contending that the aliens were a threat to the economic and political status of the established population).

South Africa became the scene of open antisemitic agitation among certain sections of the population – not shared by the majority of the citizens – from the time of the accession of the Nazis in Germany in 1933 until the end of World War ii. Organized antisemitic movements arose, among them the "shirt" movements like the Greyshirts, Blackshirts, and South African Fascists, and semi-political bodies like the Ossewa Brandwag and the New Order, with fully-fledged National Socialist programs. These developments eventually had their impact upon the official opposition party, the National Party, which in 1937 included a plank on the "Jewish question" in its official program. Its demands included the total prohibition of further Jewish immigration, stronger control over naturalization, and the introduction of a "quota" system for Jews in various branches of economic life. In Transvaal province, too (but not in the other provinces), Jews were banned from membership in the National Party. When the United Party government, headed by Jan Christiaan *Smuts, declared war against Germany in 1939, the National Party formally proclaimed its neutrality.

The anti-Jewish agitation grew more subdued as World War ii moved to its climax and sharp ideological differences emerged within the National Party. The moderate elements finally gained the upper hand, and in his political manifesto prior to the general election in May 1948, the Nationalist Party leader, Daniel François Malan, later prime minister, announced a new policy. Denying that the party's attitude on immigration was motivated by anti-Jewish feelings, he affirmed positively that his party did not support discriminatory measures between Jew and non-Jew who were already resident in the country. Consistently with that declaration, when the National Party won the election and became the government, Malan announced his goal to be the removal of the "Jewish question" from the life and politics of South Africa. The reestablishment of confidence was not effected without difficulty. Jews generally tended to hold aloof from the National Party. However it fulfilled its pledge not to countenance antisemitism in public life. Successive National Party prime ministers reaffirmed government policy to be one of equality and non-discrimination between all sections of the white population.

Apart from the 1930s and early 1940s, antisemitism has never manifested as a serious problem in South Africa and Jews continue to participate fully in all aspects of national life on the basis of equality. Levels of recorded antisemitic incidents have been dramatically lower than those of other major Diaspora communities, consistently averaging around 30 annually. During the apartheid years, most antisemitic activity emanated from the white extreme right. During the 1980s and 1990s, the community became increasingly perturbed by the growing prevalence of organized neo-Nazi movements and other antisemitic organizations. Among these were the Afrikaanse Weerstands Beweging (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), Boerenasie, and the Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging (White Liberation Movement). These organizations largely ceased to operate following the transition to majority rule in 1994.

In recent years, most antisemitism has emanated from radical elements within South Africa's large Muslim minority, numbering around 800,000 in 2001 (about 2% of the population). The post-1994 ethos in the country, however, is strongly anti-racist, with numerous laws – including a comprehensive Bill of Rights in the Constitution – proscribing any form of abuse, discrimination, or hate speech based on race, color, creed, or ethnicity.

Communal Organization and Structure

historical survey

The earliest pattern of communal organization was established by Jews of German, English, and Dutch extraction. Their congregations provided elementary facilities for worship, classes for Hebrew and religious instruction of the young, and philanthropic aid, and also attended to the rites for the dead. The authority of the chief rabbi of England was accepted in ecclesiastical matters. Joel Rabinowitz (officiated 1859–82), Abraham Frederick *Ornstein, and Alfred P. *Bender (1895–1937), all of whom administered to the Cape Town Congregation, and Samuel I. Rapaport (1872–95), the minister in Port Elizabeth, all emigrated from England.

By the end of the 19th century or soon after, the "greener" East Europeans had broken away from the "English" synagogues in most communities to form their own congregations. Their parochial loyalties were reflected in the many separate associations for religious worship and talmudic study and the numerous *Landsmannschaften (fraternal associations) of persons who had come from the same town or village in Lithuania or Poland. Leading rabbinical personalities in this formative period were: in Johannesburg, Judah Loeb *Landau (officiated 1903–42), from Galicia; the more "Westernized" Joseph Herman *Hertz (1898–1911) who arrived via the United States (he later became chief rabbi of the British Empire); Moshal Friedman (beginning in 1891), from Lithuania; Chief Rabbis L.I. *Rabinowitz (1945–61); B.M. Caspar (1963–1988) and C.K. Harris (1988–2004) and in the Cape, M.Ch. Mirvish (d. 1947), also from Lithuania and I. *Abrahams (1937–68). In lay matters, Jews of English and German origin usually took the lead, but East Europeans also began to assert their influence.

The communal structure gradually underwent change in response to the new social forces – the slowing down of immigration, increasing acculturation and growing homogeneity. Splinter congregations rejoined the older synagogues or new amalgamations took place. By the 1940s most of the Landsmannschaften had disappeared or continued to survive on nostalgic memories. Emerging social and cultural needs called forth a variety of new institutions, such as the lodges of the Hebrew Order of David, the Zionist and Young Israel Societies, the branches of the Union of Jewish Women, the *B'nai B'rith Lodges, the Ex-Servicemen's organizations, the *Reform movement in religious life, Jewish social and sports clubs and, since the early 1990s, communal security organizations. Important work in social outreach and upliftment in the non-Jewish community is carried out by such organizations as MaAfrika Tikkun, the Union of Jewish Women, the United Sisterhood and ort-South Africa, amongst others. Increased communal cohesion began to be reflected in the organizational structure of education, congregational affairs and philanthropy, and overall communal representation. However, older forms of organization, inherited or adapted from the East European tradition, yielded slowly to change. The most striking exceptions were in the Hebrew educational sphere and in the proliferation of Jewish sports clubs.

The main concentration of Jewish communities is now in two areas: the Johannesburg-Pretoria complex in the north, and the Cape Peninsula in the south, where 66% and 25% respectively of the Jewish population now live. Because of the geographic distance and differences of outlook, the regional bodies in the south until fairly recently maintained virtually autonomous religious and educational organizations parallel to the national bodies up north. However, since the mid-1980s the trend has been toward greater coordination and unity, as shown, inter alia, by the establishment of a national Union of Orthodox Synagogues and Bet Din in 1987. All the major national Jewish bodies have their headquarters in Johannesburg, which has now become the focal point of Jewish life.

religious institutions

The great majority of Hebrew congregations in South Africa, about 85% of the total, are Orthodox, with most of the remainder being Reform (Progressive). The Conservative movement as known in America virtually does not exist in South Africa, apart from the small Shalom Masorti Independent Congregation in Johannesburg, formed after one of the Reform congregations broke away from the Progressive movement in 1992.

In 1966, there were 29 Orthodox congregations and four Reform temples in Johannesburg and 12 Orthodox congregations and two Reform temples in Cape Town. In 2004, the number of Orthodox congregations in Johannesburg had grown to 51 while the Reform temples had declined to three. In Cape Town, the number of Orthodox congregations had increased to 18 and Reform Temples to three. There is at least one Orthodox and one Reform congregation each in Durban, Port Elizabeth, and East London. Outside of the main urban centers, virtually all of the smaller country synagogues had closed, with those remaining functioning only with great difficulty.

The Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa (uos) is the umbrella body for Orthodox congregations throughout South Africa and has affiliated to it most Orthodox congregations countrywide. It consists of just under 100 synagogues (including many shtiebels) and claims a membership enrollment of approximately 20,000 families. The uos appoints and maintains the office of the chief rabbi and the Bet Din (ecclesiastical court). At the end of 2004, Scottish-born Rabbi Cyril Harris, who had served as a rabbi in London before coming to South Africa, retired after seventeen years as chief rabbi and was replaced by Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, the first locally born rabbi to have been appointed to the position.

There is a single national Bet Din, based in Johannesburg with an office in Cape Town. This deals with conversions to the Jewish faith, the issuance of divorces, supervision of kashrut, and similar matters. Although the uos established and maintains the Bet Din, and also appoints the dayyanim, the Bet Din is an independent body, exercising supreme plenary authority in Orthodox religious matters. The uos publishes a quarterly magazine, Jewish Tradition. There is an Orthodox Rabbinical Association of South Africa, its members being drawn from the clergy of all parts of the country.

The period after 1970 saw young people becoming progressively more involved in religious life, in part because of more religion-focused Jewish day schools such as Yeshiva College and also because of the advent of dynamic outreach movements such as the Kollel Yad Shaul, Chabad (Lubavitch), Ohr Somayach, and Aish HaTorah. Johannesburg in particular is today widely regarded as a model ba'al teshuvah (return to Orthodoxy) community, while Cape Town and Pretoria were also experiencing an upsurge in religiosity by the turn of the century. The impressive growth of the ba'al teshuvah movement was shown by the proliferation of shtiebls (small synagogues, characterized by a high level of observance amongst its members) in Johannesburg, which numbered over 30 in 2004.

The Progressive movement was started in South Africa in 1933 by Rabbi Moses Cyrus Weiler (1907–2000) and was later led by Rabbi Arthur Saul Super (1908–1979) in the teeth of strong Orthodox opposition. The Reform movement became established in all the larger communities, at its height claiming support from about 20% of the whole Jewish population. This had declined to between 10 and 15% by the end of the century. In South Africa Reform has been relatively conservative in its religious approach, avoiding some of the radical manifestations of the American movement, and it has always been strongly pro-Zionist. In contrast to the Orthodox synagogues, which confined their activities largely within the Jewish community, Reform congregations broke new ground by adopting programs for Christian-Jewish goodwill and by fostering social welfare projects among non-whites, particularly for children. Several Orthodox congregations, notably the prestigious Oxford shul in Johannesburg, subsequently also became involved in social outreach and upliftment projects in the general community.

The Progressive congregations are associated together in the South African Union for Progressive Judaism, religious issues being handled by a central ecclesiastical board. The latter consists of rabbis and a few laymen, with a rabbi elected annually as its chairman. The ladies guilds in Orthodox synagogues are affiliated to the Federation of Synagogues' Ladies Guilds, and the Reform sisterhoods to the National Union of Temple Sisterhoods.

Both Orthodox and Reform congregations for many years had difficulties in finding rabbis and ministers. The sources in Europe which provided them with trained and experienced ministers no longer existed. By the closing years of the 20th century, however, an increasing number of the community's Orthodox rabbis were emerging from locally established rabbinical training institutions, most notably the Yeshiva Gedolah. Many products of the religious day schools, moreover, were returning to South Africa after gaining semikhah overseas, and serving the community both from the pulpit and as teachers within the burgeoning Jewish day school system.

south african jewish board of deputies

A single representative organization, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, is recognized by Jews and non-Jews alike as the authorized spokesman for the community. It is charged with safeguarding the equal rights and status of Jews as citizens and generally protecting Jewish interests. A Board for the Transvaal was formed in 1903, on the initiative of Max *Langerman and Rabbi Joseph Hertz, with the encouragement of the High Commissioner, Lord *Milner, and was named after its prototype in England. At first it encountered opposition from the Zionists. Among its early leaders were Bernard *Alexander, Manfred *Nathan, and Siegfried Raphaely. An independent Board for the Cape was formed in 1904 through the efforts of Morris *Alexander and David Goldblatt, despite opposition from the Rev. Alfred P. Bender and his congregation.

Following the unification of the four provinces in 1910, the two bodies were unified in the South African Board of Deputies (1912). Its main concern was to prevent discrimination against Jews in respect of immigration and naturalization and to rebut defamatory attacks on Jews. It led the community's efforts in rendering relief to Jews in Europe after World War i, and later was active also on behalf of German Jewry and the displaced persons of World War ii through the instrumentality of the South African Jewish Appeal (1942). A relatively small and weak body, the Board underwent reorganization in the early 1930s to meet the challenge of Nazism and antisemitism. While Johannesburg remained the headquarters, provincial committees were set up in Cape Town – the seat of Parliament – Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein. The position of chairman of the executive council was held by Cecil Lyons (1935–40); Gerald N. Lazarus (1940–45); Simon M. Kuper (1945–49); Israel A. *Maisels (1949–51); Edel J. Horwitz (1951–55); Namie Philips (1955–60); Teddy Schneider (1960–65); Maurice Porter (1965–70); David Mann (1970–74), Julius Rosettenstein (1974–78), Israel Abramowitz (1979–83), Michael Katz (1983–87), Gerald Leissner (1987–91), Mervyn Smith (1991–95), Marlene Bethlehem (1995–99), Russell Gaddin (1999–2003), and Michael Bagraim (from 2003). Its secretary and later general secretary for many years was Gustav Saron. Aleck Goldberg held this position for most of the 1980s while Seymour Kopelowitz did so for most of the next decade. As new needs had to be met, the Board became a functional agency in various fields. Today, it publishes a quarterly journal, Jewish Affairs, runs a Country Communities Department to cater to the needs of Jews still living in isolated country areas, maintains in Johannesburg an important library of Jewish information and archives relating to South African Jewry, and publishes information on the community through its website and communal directories. In 1993 it also took the lead in founding, and subsequently in running, the *African Jewish Congress, a representative and coordinating body for the Jewish communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is frequent consultation and cooperation between the Board and the Zionist Federation. In 1949 the Board launched the United Communal Fund (ucf) for South African Jewry, which provides the budgets – in whole or in part – of the Board itself, and of a number of other important communal organizations, including the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Community Security Organisation, Union of Jewish Women (ujw) and S.A. Board of Jewish Education. The ucf combined with the Israel United Appeal in 1984 to form the iua-ucf. In line with important rationalization initiatives introduced during the late 1990s, the Board, Zionist Federation, iua-ucf, ujw, S.A. Union of Jewish Students, and a number of other, smaller, Zionist and Jewish communal organizations today share single premises in all the major Jewish centers country-wide.


Institutions to assist the poor and needy early became an established feature of communal organization. In the wake more particularly of the East European immigration, there was a proliferation of many kinds of philanthropic institutions or fraternal bodies having philanthropic objects, such as Landsmannschaften, free-loan societies, societies to visit the sick, and especially for the provision of financial and material help to those in need. Many of these institutions bore the hallmark and followed the methods of East European traditions of ẓedakah. Today, for instance, the largest welfare body in Johannesburg, the Chevra Kaddisha combines extensive philanthropic work with the activities of a burial society. The organizational structure and also the underlying principles of Jewish social welfare subsequently underwent changes under the impact of changing social conditions. In recent years, the Chevra Kaddisha has incorporated a number of other important welfare institutions under its umbrella, amongst them the two Jewish aged homes Sandringham Gardens and Our Parents Home, Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Women's Benevolent Society, and the Arcadia Jewish Orphanage. Other important welfare institutions include the free-loan societies, the Witwatersrand Hebrew Benevolent Association (founded 1893) and the more recent Rambam Trust, the Selwyn Segal Home for Jewish Handicapped (1959), Yad Aharon, Hatzollah (medical rescue), Kadimah Occupational Centre, B'nai B'rith, and Nechama (bereavement counseling).

Leading bodies in the Cape include the Astra Centre (incorporating Jewish Sheltered Employment), B'nai B'rith, Cape Jewish Welfare Council, Glendale Home for the Intellectually Disabled, Hebrew Helping Hand Association, Highlands House (Jewish Aged Home), and Jewish Community Services (incorporating Jewish Board of Guardians, founded 1859, and the Jewish Sick Relief Society). The Jewish community has assumed financial responsibility for all its welfare needs, the large budgets being met by fees, membership dues, contributions, and bequests. Some advantage has been taken of government grants for specific welfare projects.

fraternal organizations

In the first decades of the 20th century many of the communal organizations provided some form of philanthropic and fraternal services to assist the integration of the immigrant generation. As late as 1929, of the 68 Jewish institutions in Johannesburg then affiliated to the Board of Deputies, 38 were either wholly or partly philanthropic. An indigenous South African institution of this type, the Hebrew Order of David, founded successive lodges after 1904 and, as members began to be recruited among the South African-born generation, added social, cultural, and communal objectives. The Grand Lodge has its headquarters in Johannesburg.

union of jewish women

In the women's sphere the Union of Jewish Women of South Africa plays a major role. The first branch was formed in Johannesburg in 1931 and a national body in 1936. In 1969 the Union had 64 branches throughout the republic with a total membership of between 9,000 and 10,000 women, its national headquarters being in Johannesburg. The subsequent concentration of most Jews in the main urban centers, with the resultant closure of most rural and small town branches, saw the number of branches shrinking to 10 by 2004, with a total membership of about 7,500 women. The Union maintains a wide range of activities and acts as a coordinating body for Jewish women's organizations. A distinctive aspect of its program is its nondenominational work, educational and philanthropic, serving all sections of the population. Some branches run creches and feeding depots for indigent colored and African children and adults. Branches of the Union have established Hebrew nursery schools, friendship clubs, services for the aged, youth projects, and a wide program of adult education. In recent years, the ujw has become extensively involved in hiv/aids relief work.


There are a plethora of Jewish day schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town, all of which provide a complete secular education, with Jewish studies integrated into the general curriculum, up to matriculation standard. The mainstream schools in Johannesburg are the three King David schools, located in Linksfield, Victory Park, and Sandton. The first two provide Jewish education from pre-school to matriculation level while the third goes up to primary school level. King David's counterparts in Cape Town are the Herzlia schools, while there is also a small Jewish day school in Port Elizabeth, Theodor Herzl.

The ideological basis of the King David, Herzlia, and Theodor Herzl schools is officially described as "broadly national traditional," a formula intended to indicate both the religious and the Zionist character of the education. Pupils receive a full education following a state syllabus and a Jewish studies program, including religion, history, literature, and Hebrew language. The mainstream Jewish day schools accept children of mixed marriages and Reform converts. However, many demanded more intensive religious instruction and greater religious observance. Protagonists of this type of education, together with Bnei Akiva religious youth movement, created in 1958 Yeshiva College, originally established as the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva seven years previously. This developed into a full-time day school from nursery school up to matriculation and steadily grew from an initial few dozen pupils to well over 800 by the turn of the century. In 1995, the school received the Jerusalem Prize for Jewish Education in the Diaspora. Yeshiva College could be regarded as centrist Orthodox in its approach. More right-wing Orthodox schools that subsequently were established include Torah Academy and Cape Town's Hebrew Academy (both under Chabad's auspices), Yeshivas Toras Emes, Shaarei Torah, Bais Yaakov, Hirsch Lyons, and Yeshiva Maharsha.

The Progressive movement also maintains a network of supplementary Hebrew and religious classes at its temples. These schools are affiliated with the Union for Progressive Jewish Education.

Overall supervision of the King David schools is undertaken by the South African Board of Jewish Education (sabje), established in 1928, which operates from headquarters in Johannesburg. Affiliates include Yeshiva College and Torah Academy in Johannesburg, Theodor Herzl in Port Elizabeth, and the Herzlia schools in Cape Town. The sabje has direct responsibility, both financial and administrative, for the Jewish day schools in Johannesburg. It also involves itself with Jewish children who attend state schools and whose main access to Jewish education is through the Cheder program and by means of religious instruction booklets sent into the schools. It administers a network of Hebrew nursery schools according to the standards laid down by the Nursery School Association of South Africa. The Cape Council of the South African Jewish Board of Education has its own religious instruction program for Jewish pupils who attend the state schools in the Western Cape Province.

In 2003, over 80% of school-going Jewish children in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth (whose Theodor Herzl School by then had a mainly non-Jewish enrollment) were attending one of the Jewish day schools. Those still in government schools had their Jewish educational requirements catered to by the United Hebrew Schools (under the sabje) in Johannesburg and the Religious Instruction Department of the sajbe in Cape Town. Jewish pupils in Pretoria and Durban received Jewish education through a special department at the Crawford College branches. This arrangement came about following the take-over of the Carmel College Jewish day schools in those cities by Crawford during the 1990s. The total pupil enrollment in the day schools in 2004 was about 8,000, substantially more than the 1969 figure of 6,000 even though the overall Jewish community had by then declined by more than a third. Government policy precludes financial support to new private schools, of whatever denomination, and financing of Jewish education remains a problem.

At the tertiary level, university students are able to take Jewish studies through the Semitics Department of the University of South Africa (unisa); the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies of Natal University; and the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies (including the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research) at the University of Cape Town.

Programs of adult education continue to be provided by the sabje, the South African Zionist Federation and the various affiliates, including most particularly the Union of Jewish Women, the Women's Zionist Council and the South African Zionist Youth Council. Other bodies, which have significantly contributed to the general cultural life of South African Jewry, include the Histadrut Ivrit, Yiddish Cultural Federation and the South African National Yad Vashem Foundation. Courses of Jewish study are offered at the University of Natal in Durban, and the University of South Africa.

Social Life

influence of immigration streams

Following the congregational beginnings in Cape Town in 1841, loss of identity through assimilation was gradually arrested, although the immigrants became quickly integrated into the general economic and cultural life. In secular matters, as also in religious, they maintained ties with Anglo-Jewry, and this tradition was followed also by the immigrants from Germany. The latter, socially influential, often assumed the leadership, but do not appear to have made a specifically German-Jewish cultural contribution.

The growing numbers of East Europeans led in time to social, religious, and cultural ferment. Social distance, and even open friction and conflict, developed between the "greeners" and the older sections, due to differences in ritual tradition, in intensity of religious observance, or in attitudes to Jewish education and Zionism. Nonetheless, many aspects of the Anglo-Jewish pattern persisted, although it underwent changes in spirit and content.

Elements of the legacy of Lithuanian Jewry may be identified in certain characteristics of South African Jewry: generous support for all philanthropic endeavors, respect for Jewish scholarship and learning, exemplified in the status accorded to the rabbinate and concern for Jewish education; and a conservative outlook toward religious observance (at least in externals). However, as the community became largely South African-born and homogeneous, the barriers that formerly separated the various immigrant groups all but disappeared. The Yiddish language, the only vernacular used by the East European immigrants, became confined to a small minority. (In the 1936 census, 17,861 persons declared Yiddish as their home language; by 1946 the figure was 14,044, and in 1951, it had fallen to 9,970. In 1960, of the large Jewish population in Johannesburg, only 2,786 declared Yiddish to be their home language). By 2004, only a handful remained.

forces strengthening group identity

The normal trends of acculturation and integration – linguistic, cultural, and economic – were accelerated by the rapid rise in the material condition of many Jews. South African Jewry has thus far escaped large-scale manifestations of assimilation and maintains a vigorous group life. A major community survey jointly conducted in 1998 by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (U.K.) and Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research (Cape Town) showed remarkably high levels of Jewish identification, both in the religious and Zionist sphere, and an intermarriage rate of less than 10%. Various factors have contributed to this. During the apartheid years, the country's cultural and political climate, which emphasizes the distinctiveness of the various linguistic, cultural, and ethnic groups of the population, and especially the coexistence of the English and Afrikaans language and culture, was favorable to the preservation of a separate Jewish group life. There was no pressure upon the Jew to drop his identity or to become an "unhyphenated" South African. This has continued into the post-1994 era, where the right of ethnic and religious communities to express their identity within the greater multicultural society is constitutionally protected, and indeed encouraged. The advent of democracy has therefore scarcely impinged, if at all, on Jewish identity, which has in fact been considerably strengthened by the strong upsurge in religiosity, particularly in Johannesburg.

the zionist movement

The greatest influence, however – itself part of the Lithuanian heritage – has been exerted by the Zionist movement in the evolution of South African Jewry. Lithuanian Jewry's support of *Ḥibbat Zion was continued by the emigrants to South Africa. There was at first lukewarmness, and even active opposition, from some of the older anglicized groups, some right-wing Orthodox ministers, and also a small group of *Bund members and socialists. In time, however, the Zionist outlook achieved an unchallenged position.

Even before the first Basle Congress in 1897, there were a few Ḥovevei Zion societies in the country. An association of Zionist societies in the Transvaal, formed in 1898, convened a countrywide conference which led to the creation of the South African Zionist Federation, the first all-national Jewish body. The first all-South African Zionist conference was held in 1905. Although the fortunes of the Zionist movement fluctuated in the post-Herzl era, its strength was revealed during World War i, when the first South African Jewish Congress was held in Johannesburg, in April 1916, convened jointly by the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies in order to mobilize public opinion for the Jewish claim to Palestine. Zionist activity expanded greatly in the post-*Balfour Declaration period, owing much to its effective leaders, among them, Samuel Goldreich, Jacob *Gitlin, Idel Schwartz, A.M. Abrahams, Rabbi J.H. Hertz, Rabbi J.L. Landau, Benzion Hersch, Isaac Goldberg, Joseph Janower, Lazar Braudo, Katie Gluckman, Nicolai Kirschner, Bernard Gerling, Simon M. *Kuper, Joseph *Herbstein, Leopold *Greenberg, Edel J. Horwitz, and Israel A. Maisels. Its most influential officials included Jack Alexander, Zvi Infeld, and Sidney Berg. The Zionist Movement acted as a counterforce to weakening religious observance, and also unified the widely scattered communities. During the 1960s and 1970s, contributions per capita to Zionist funds were believed to have been higher in South Africa than elsewhere, even though the country's laws did not allow tax reductions for such donations. These contributions have been significantly reduced in the modern era, partly due to the decline of the South African currency relative to other currencies and because of government restrictions.

The South African Zionist Federation has been held up as a model of an all-embracing territorial Zionist organization. It takes the lead in, and coordinates, a many-faceted program. Its activities range from fundraising, the promotion of aliyah, tourism, and other forms of assistance to Israel, to youth work, adult education, and the fostering of Jewish culture generally. With its national headquarters situated in Johannesburg, it has officials in the main provincial centers and also an office in Tel Aviv, which carries out many varied functions in Israel itself. The strength of the Zionist movement lies particularly in its women's and youth sections. Organizations affiliated to the Zionist Federation include the Women's Zionist Organization of South Africa, whose fundraising projects are directed mainly toward the needs in Israel of women and children and land reclamation. The South African Maccabi Association, which promotes sport with Israel and is responsible for South Africa's participation in the *Maccabi Games. In 2004, there were four Zionist youth movements nationally, the largest being Bnei Akiva, followed by Habonim-Dror, Betar, and Netzer (representing the Reform movement). These conduct cultural programs, organize youth activities, and run summer camps. University youth have their representative organization – the South African Union of Jewish Students (saujs) affiliated to both the sajbd and sazf. In addition, many Zionist Societies and numerous synagogues are affiliated to the Federation. Fundraising is conducted through various channels, mainly through the Israel United Appeal campaign. Additional funds are raised for the Jewish National Fund, the Magen David Adom, South African Friends of various Israeli universities and educational institutions including the Hebrew, Bar-Ilan, Ben-Gurion and Haifa universities and the Technion, amongst other causes. The executive council of the Zionist Federation, elected by a biennial conference, includes representatives of the Women Zionists, Youth, Maccabi, and Medical Councils, and of other bodies within the Zionist movement.

South African Zionism has been noteworthy for its practical character, and the many projects which it has sponsored in Israel, among them the South African Palestine Enterprise (Binyan Corporation Ltd.) 1922, which granted mortgage loans at low interest rates; the African Palestine Investments, which participated in the Palestine Cold Storage and Supply Co.; and the Palestine Shippers Ltd. The South African Jewish Appeal promoted an important housing project and the building of the garden village in *Ashkelon. The Women's Zionist Council erected and maintains the wizo Mothercraft Center. The Union of Jewish Women endowed the first dormitory for women students at the Hebrew University and is responsible for the maintenance of the Parasitology Laboratory. Significant endowments made by individuals to the Hebrew University include the Bialik Chair of Hebrew, the Ruth Ochberg Chair of Agriculture, the Cootcher Museum of Antiquities, the Joffee Marks wing of the Jewish National and University Library, the Silas S. Perry Endowment for Biblical Research, and the Percy A. Leon building in the geology complex.

Comparatively large numbers of South African Jews settled in Israel. By 1948 they numbered about 200, and by the beginning of 2004 the figure was estimated at around 18,000. Former South Africans who achieved high distinction in the state are Abba Eban, Michael Comay, Louis (Aryeh) Pincus, Arthur Lourie, and Jack Geri (who for a time was minister of commerce). In periods of crisis many volunteers from South Africa spontaneously left for Israel. In the 1948 War of Liberation, men and women who had served in the South African forces during World War ii went to the defense of the Jewish state. A few thousand volunteered, but only 800 were sent and of these, approximately one-quarter remained permanently in the country. A stream of volunteers again left for Israel in the 1956 Sinai crisis, at the time of the Six-Day War in June 1967, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. An increasing number of students continued their studies at various seats of higher learning in Israel. The Jewish day schools send large groups of pupils to Israel for extended courses, and great numbers of tourists visit Israel regularly. Increasing contacts between South African Jewry and Israel have enriched the content of Jewish life and strengthened Jewish consciousness in South Africa.

Political Attitudes and Involvement

Apart from a few exceptional situations, opportunities to participate in all aspects of civic and political life have been open to Jews at all levels – national, provincial and local. An impressive number of Jews regularly participated in local government as elected councilors, both in the large cities and in the rural villages (until the exodus to the cities). Many were elected to the position of mayor (including 22 in Johannesburg and 13 in Cape Town). The provincial councils and Parliament also have always included Jewish representatives, with these after 1948 largely belonging to opposition parties. Four Jews, Henry *Gluckman, Louis Shill, Joe *Slovo, and Ronnie Kasrils have to date attained cabinet rank, while Gill Marcus, as well as Kasrils, have served terms as deputy ministers. In 1999, Tony Leon became the country's first Jewish Leader of the Opposition when his party, the Democratic Alliance, became the second largest party in Parliament following the general election of that year.

Throughout the 20th century, relations between the white and non-white sections of the population formed the warp and woof of party politics in South Africa, and there was likewise no collective Jewish attitude in regard to these. Because of the great diversity of opinions among individuals, and the complexity of the racial and political tensions within the country, the Jewish community found it impossible to advocate any specific group policy. The majority espoused moderate policies. Some Jews were among the foremost protagonists of the non-white sections of the population. One of the best-known was Helen *Suzman, the sole representative of the Progressive Party in the South African Parliament from 1961 to 1974. Within the ranks of the anti-apartheid liberation movements, Jews were likewise disproportionately involved, whether as academics, trade unionists, political organizers, or within the armed wings of the liberation groups. Many of these were jailed, including Denis Goldberg, who was convicted alongside Nelson Mandela and other leading black opposition figures at the famous Rivonia Trial in 1964. Many more were compelled to go into exile, where they continued to be active in anti-apartheid activities in places like London and Lusaka in Zambia. Some returned after the unbanning of the various liberation movements in 1990 and several of these, amongst them Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils, Ben Turok, and Gill Marcus, played an important role in the subsequent process of transition to multiracial democracy.

During the apartheid years of white minority rule, the activities of individual Jews or of the Jewish community as such led to occasional controversy, often revealing the impact of the political, ideological, and racial tensions in South Africa upon attitudes toward Jews. The fact that so high a proportion of Jews were engaged in anti-apartheid activities, often as members of the banned Communist Party, led to the loyalties of the Jewish community as a whole being called into question. The mainstream Jewish leadership, represented by the sajbd, found it necessary from time to time to emphasize that there was no collective Jewish viewpoint in regard to the racial policies advocated by the respective political parties, and that Jewish citizens act in such matters not as members of a group, but as individuals. As opposition to apartheid intensified, both locally and internationally, the mainstream communal leadership became increasingly torn between its traditional mission of safeguarding the Jewish community and the need to condemn the injustices of the apartheid policy in accordance with Jewish moral values and historical experience.

By the mid-1980s, the sajbd was speaking out more forthrightly against the apartheid policy. At its national conference of 1985, and again in 1987, the Board explicitly rejected apartheid. It also released statements condemning evictions of black leaders and pass-law arrests, detention without trial, a university quota system for blacks, and the treatment of black squatters near Cape Town. The ruling National Party's move away from pure apartheid attracted some Jewish support although the majority of Jews continued to support the liberal opposition Progressive Federal Party, later transformed into the Democratic Party and thereafter the Democratic Alliance. A substantial number of Jews were engaged in social action and welfare activities. Jews were prominent in various activist organizations including Lawyers for Human Rights, the Legal Resources Centre, and the End Conscription Campaign (which sought changes to laws regarding compulsory military service for whites). Two specifically Jewish activist organizations were founded in the mid-1980s: Jews for Social Justice in Johannesburg and Jews for Justice in Cape Town. In 1987 Jews for Social Justice participated in the founding of the Five Freedoms Forum, a broad grouping of 25 white organizations opposed to apartheid. The sajbd fully endorsed the moves away from apartheid by President De Klerk after 1989, and devoted much of its efforts during the following decade to preparing the Jewish community for the transition to black majority rule. In 1992, it threw its weight behind a "yes" vote during an all-white referendum on whether or not the reform process should be continued.

The majority of Jews tended to vote for opposition parties during the 1948–94 period, and in the elections of 1999 and 2004 overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Alliance. Nevertheless the Jewish community collectively – as distinct from individual Jewish citizens – has played no part in politics (except in exceptional situations, such as during the 1930s, where Jews felt that their status as full and equal citizens was being threatened).

Economic Life and Social Structure

That Jews have played a significant role in the economic development of the country is generally acknowledged. They were able to make a distinctive contribution because of the specific economic situation prevailing in the country at various periods, which required and gave scope for their particular talents and enterprise.

In the early part of the 19th century, before the discovery of the diamond fields, the economy was largely pastoral and agricultural. Economic prospects of the Cape were revived, however, by the increased trade and shipping around the southern route between Europe and the East. Furthermore, the aftermath of the English industrial revolution had encouraged some emigration to South Africa; and included the group known as the 1820 Settlers from Britain, which settled along the eastern frontier of the Cape (see *Norden family). During the 1830s, the interior was further opened up by the Boer voortrekkers. The relatively small number of Jewish immigrants from England and Germany brought with them an aptitude for and experience in trade and finance, and filled a special niche in the economically undeveloped society. They were merchants and small traders, with a sprinkling of professional men and craftsmen. Through their knowledge of foreign markets they helped to develop the export of such products as wool, hides, skins, and wine. They also contributed to the improvement of the Cape wool and mohair industries, the foundation of South Africa's future development as one of the world's producers. The Mosenthals from Germany, in particular, left a permanent mark on the economy through their initiative and diversity of interests. From bases in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth they set up a chain of trading stations in the interior of the Cape, usually manned by Jewish immigrants whom they had brought out from Germany. They helped to stabilize the rural economy by providing long-term credits to storekeepers and, through them, to farmers, particularly in bad seasons. Before the advent of commercial banking, the firm's banknotes were widely accepted in the development of banking, the financing of diamond and gold mining, and the establishment of secondary industries in the Cape and Transvaal. The *De Pass brothers, who came from Britain in the 1840s, developed shipping, fishing, and coastal trading enterprises in the southwestern Cape. They had interests in the newly discovered diamond fields in South-West Africa, then a German possession. Daniel De Pass was one of the pioneers of the sugar industry in Natal. The itinerant Jewish traders and peddlers (locally known as "smouses") traveled on foot or used animal-drawn transport to penetrate long distances, often amidst great hazards and hardships, to scattered hamlets and the extensive farms. They sold their wares and also provided a channel through which the products of the land could reach the ports and world markets. Many settled in the villages and at wayside stations as shopkeepers, so that eventually there was hardly a small town without one or more Jewish stores. These Jewish middlemen had a recognized place in the economy of the Cape and subsequently in the northerly territories.

Then came the revolution which transformed South Africa's economic structure: the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley (1870) and the opening of the Transvaal gold mines (1886; see *Johannesburg). The exploitation of mineral wealth called for enterprise, technical and managerial initiative, ability and great capital resources. There was a demand for commercial techniques, and the way was opened for the later development of secondary industries to supply the new communities which sprung up. The majority of Afrikaners, still largely a rural community, were not ready for the challenges of this new economic era, and the lead was taken by the English-speaking elements and foreigners of various nationalities, who flocked to the country. Among them Jews, mainly from Western Europe, became leaders of the mining industry (see B.I. *Barnato, the *Joels, Lionel *Phillips, George *Albu and David *Harris). With Cecil John Rhodes, Barnato founded De Beers Consolidated Mines which controlled the production and marketing of diamonds (see also *Diamond Industry and Trade). On the discovery of gold the same men, using the wealth and skill they had acquired in the diamond fields, took the lead in developing the gold mines. In later years, Ernest *Oppenheimer and his son Harry were at the head of De Beers and established widespread interests in the goldfields of the Transvaal and the newer goldfields of the Orange Free State, in the production of base minerals and uranium, and in the development of manufacturing industries. Many of the early Jewish magnates had only flimsy associations with the Jewish community, and some actually abandoned Judaism. Later, other Jewish mining magnates, financiers, and executives also became leading figures in the mining industry, though in relatively small numbers.

The next major movement forward – a latecomer in South Africa – was the development of secondary industry, which occurred after World War i and was greatly intensified during and after World War ii. Jews, many of them from Eastern Europe, contributed greatly to this development through their pioneering spirit and readiness to take risks. Often starting from humble beginnings as peddlers, storekeepers, and handicraftsmen (tailors, shoemakers, cabinetmakers, brick-layers, and so on), they produced some of the most enterprising industrialists. Among the pioneers were Samuel *Marks, who immigrated to South Africa in the 1860s, and his partner Isaac Lewis, who, with the help of state concessions established a number of industries in the Pretoria area, from the production of dynamite for the mines to a distillery and glass works. The steel plant which they established in Vereeniging was the forerunner of the South African state-controlled iron and steel industry. Assisted by protective tariffs and by wartime conditions, industries for manufacturing food, clothing, textiles, furniture, leather articles, and others were established by Jewish enterprise. Clothing and textile factories, in particular, were developed into one of the most important sectors of South African industry, and Jews remained leaders in that field. In the 1930s, the refugees who arrived from Germany also introduced many new industries. The younger generation of South African-born Jews later diversified into other spheres like electronics, engineering, the chemical industries, and large-scale building construction. Jewish town planners, property developers, and builders were largely responsible for the modernization of Johannesburg and other cities to meet the needs of an increasingly urbanized population. Entrepreneurs, notably I.W. *Schlesinger, were among the leading figures in the tertiary industries (insurance, mass entertainment, hotel keeping, catering, and advertising). Jews were among the first in South Africa to introduce modern distribution techniques in the retail trade, such as the department store, the supermarket and the discount house. The largest chain stores were founded by Jews, most of whom started from small beginnings. Although few Jews took up agriculture, Jewish farmers, especially in the maize industry, fruit growing, dairy farming and viticulture, set examples of successful scientific farming. Schlesinger's citrus undertaking in the Transvaal became one of the largest of its kind in the world. Ostrich farming and marketing, until the decline of the industry after 1914, was developed by Jews in the Oudtshoorn area of the Cape, notable among them being the Rose brothers, Max and Albert.

The South African-born generation of Jews turned in increasing numbers to the professions, to medicine, law, pharmacy, and later to accountancy, engineering, architecture, and pure and applied science, often achieving positions of eminence. A high proportion of young people regularly study at the universities. There have been distinguished Jewish lawyers in the past, Simeon Jacobs, Manfred *Nathan, Leopold Greenberg, Philip *Millin, J. Herbstein, H.M. Bloch, Percy Yutar, Simon Kuper, Cecil Margo, Isie Maisels, Richard Goldstone, Sydney Kentridge, Albie Sachs, and Arthur Chaskalson, many of these going on to serve with distinction on the bench. In 2001, Arthur Chaskalson was appointed chief justice. Many Jews have distinguished themselves in medicine, medical research, and the development of health and hospital services.

Jews in the Armed Forces

Jewish service as volunteers in the armed forces of the nation dates back to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902, when Jews fought on both sides. Jewish participation in army service has been in greater numbers, proportionally, than the rest of the white population. Thus in World War i, there were some 3,000 Jewish volunteers representing about 6% of the entire Jewish population of that time. In World War ii over 10,000, above 10% of the Jewish population, were listed in the records kept by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies of Jews serving in the Union Defense Forces and with other Allied forces. Of these 357 were killed, 327 were wounded or injured, 143 were mentioned in dispatches, and 94 received various awards for distinguished service. Compulsory military conscription for white males was introduced in the early 1970s, which began at six months and eventually was extended to two years plus two further years of military camps. Shortly thereafter, in 1976, South Africa became embroiled in a war against South West African liberation fighters and Cuban forces on the Angola-South West Africa border. The war continued until 1989, when South West Africa, now called Namibia, gained its independence from South Africa. A number of Jewish conscripts, perhaps a dozen in all, were amongst those who lost their lives in the conflict.

During the years of compulsory military conscription, chaplaincy services to Jewish men in the armed forces were provided by a Chaplaincy Committee, composed of representatives of the Board of Deputies, the Federation of Synagogues (later the uos), the Union of Progressive Judaism, the Jewish Ex-Servicemen's organization, the Union of Jewish Women, and the Rabbinical Association. The chaplains were usually ministers or rabbis serving communities in the areas where military camps were located. Most of the administrative work of the Chaplaincy Committee was carried out by the Board of Deputies. There were 30 Jewish chaplains serving in the field in World War ii. Chaplaincy services were discontinued in 1994.

Cultural Life

Jews have participated actively in all aspects of the cultural and artistic life of the country. Their work is recognized as part of South African culture. That they are Jews may not be irrelevant to their work, but does not determine the nature of their contributions. In the literary field, they have produced an imposing list of writers and artists, some of the first rank, including South Africa's foremost novelist, Sarah Gertrude *Millin. Also from South Africa are the Jewish novelists Dan *Jacobson and Nadine *Gordimer. Since for the most part Jews have been living in the cities where English is the dominant language, it is not surprising that they have had a greater share in English culture than in Afrikaans, although several have made worthy contributions to Afrikaans literature and more and more Jews are becoming fluent in both Afrikaans and English (see *South African Literature). One of the founders of the Rand Daily Mail and both founders of the Mail & Guardian were Jews, and Jews figure prominently in journalism. As patrons of art, music, and literature, they have provided stimulus in many aspects of the cultural life of the country, notably, perhaps, in musical and dramatic enterprise. Jewish painters include Irma *Stern and John Henry *Amshewitz, and among sculptors of notable standing is Moses *Kottler. South African playwrights, composers, musicians, producers, and actors have contributed largely to the cultural scene. While Yiddish was still in vogue among substantial numbers of the community, several South African writers made worthy literary contributions in that medium. There has also been literary creativity in Hebrew.

Relations with Israel

South Africa's official relations with Israel were founded, significantly, in a month decisive for the destinies of both people, May 1948. Chaim Weizmann, describing May 15, the day after the establishment of the State of Israel, wrote: "I bethought myself of one surviving author of the Balfour Declaration and addressed a cable to General Smuts. This was closely followed by South African recognition (of Israel)" (Trial and Error, p. 585). In the same month, however, Smuts and his United Party were defeated in the South African elections and succeeded by Malan's Nationalist Party. Smuts had had a longstanding familiarity with Zionism, whereas the new government was less involved with the story of Zionism and the cause of Jewish statehood. The Smuts administration had steadfastly supported the Zionist cause in international forums and was among the governments which had voted in the United Nations for the partition of Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947. Under the Nationalists, South Africa continued to support Israel, voted for its admission to the United Nations in 1949, and backed it on a number of subsequent issues in that forum. South Africa's recognition of Israel was followed by the establishment of an Israel consulate-general in Johannesburg and an Israel legation in Pretoria. Out of consideration for its economic interests and ties with the Arab States, however, South Africa was for long reluctant to establish any diplomatic mission in Israel. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Malan made a personal visit to Israel in 1952.

During the 1960s, attitudes to Israel underwent a change, because of the statements and votes by Israel representatives at the United Nations, which were critical of South Africa's racial policies. The reactions at times caused considerable tension between the South African government and the Jewish community. When the Israel-Arab war broke out in 1967, however, public sympathy was strongly on Israel's side. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, ties between Israel and South Africa, particularly in the military sphere, were steadily strengthened, a factor that contributed significantly to anti-Israel sentiment within the majority black population.

The establishment of these links between Israel and South Africa brought increasing and severe international criticism. Chaim Herzog, then Israel ambassador at the un, revealed the hypocrisy of these allegations by his disclosure of details concerning large-scale secret trade between Arab, Asian and African nations and South Africa. On numerous occasions it was made plain by Israel that it had reservations about South African internal policies, but that it believed that it was essential to continue to foster cooperation between the countries despite differences of opinion on internal policies.

South Africa consolidated warm relations with Israel through the 1980s. However, as Western pressure against South Africa intensified, Israel was forced into reassessing this relationship. The United States threatened to cut military assistance to countries engaged in military trade with South Africa. In 1987 Israel agreed "to refrain from new undertakings between Israel and South Africa in the realm of defense." In line with its general opposition to sanctions as a policy, the South African Jewish leadership urged Israel not to take that step. Notwithstanding Israeli policy, the South African government continued to accept "approved enterprise to certain categories of investment" in Israel, among them residential housing, subject to certain conditions.

During the 1980s, left-wing and Islamist groups, such as the PAC, the Azanian Peoples' Organization (azapo), Call of Islam, and Qibla (a Muslim fundamentalist movement) pursued a vigorous anti-Zionist line. Their support was built upon black disappointment at close ties between South Africa and Israel and suspected military cooperation. Anti-Zionist sentiment was already evident at the time of the Lebanon War (1982) and consolidated during the first intifada. In particular the Muslim population of over 500,000 pursued a vigorous stance against Israel. This was very evident during the First Gulf War, intensifying during the years of the Oslo peace process and reaching unprecedented heights following the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000. Notwithstanding sympathy for the Palestinian people, black leaders made a clear distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Nonetheless, there were indications of substantial "social distance" between blacks and Jews, including anti-Jewish attitudes among blacks.

The advent of black majority rule in 1994, which resulted in an overwhelming victory for the strongly pro-Palestinian African National Congress (anc), saw a radical change in the government's attitude towards Israel. The relationship remained reasonably cordial during the years of the Oslo peace process but deteriorated sharply with the outbreak of the second intifada. While often critical of Israeli policy, however, the anc (which was returned to office with increased majorities in the elections of 1999 and 2004) remains committed to dialogue and strengthening already strong trade ties between the two countries.


L. Feldman, Yidn in Johannesburg (1956); Jewish Affairs, 15 (1960); Zionist Record (March 21, 1961); idem, Jewish Affairs, vol. 15 no. 5 (May, 1960), M. Shain, The Roots of Anti-Semitism in South Africa (1994); S.E. Aschheim, in: jjs 12, 2 (Dec. 1970), 201–31. add. bibliography: I. Suttner (ed.), Cutting Through the MountainInterviews With South African Jewish Activists (1997); G. Shimoni, Jews and Zionism: The South African Experience, 19101967 (1980); G. Shimoni, Community and Conscience: The Jews in Apartheid South Africa (2003); M. Shain and R. Mendelsohn (eds.), Memories, Realities and DreamsAspects of the South African Jewish Experience (2002); Jewish Affairs, Vol. 58, No. 3 (Rosh Hashana 2003) (South African Jewish Board of Deputies centenary issue); M. Kaplan and M. Robertson (eds.), Founders and FollowersJohannesburg Jewry, 18871915 (1991); M. Arkin (ed.), South African JewryA Contemporary Survey (1984); M. Kaplan, Jewish Roots in the South African Economy (1986); Jewish Affairs 60th anniversary issue, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Rosh Hashana 2002).

[Gustav Saron and

Milton Shain /

David Saks (2nd ed.)]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa

South Africa


Compiled from the February 2008 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of South Africa



Area: 1.2 million sq. km. (470,462 sq. mi.).

Cities: Capitals—Administrative, Pretoria; Legislative, Cape Town; Judicial, Bloemfontein. Other cities—Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth.

Terrain: Plateau, savanna, desert, mountains, coastal plains.

Climate: moderate; similar to southern California.


Nationality: Noun and adjective—South African(s).

Annual growth rate: (2006 World Bank Group) 1.1%.

Population: (2007, 47.9 million) Composition—black 79.7%; white 9.1%; colored 8.8%; Asian (Indian) 2.2%. Official figures from 2007 South African Census at

Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshiv-enda, and Xitsonga (all official languages).

Religions: Predominantly Christian; traditional African, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish.

Education: Years compulsory—7-15 years of age for all children. The South African Schools Act, Act 84 of 1996, passed by Parliament in 1996, aims to achieve greater educational opportunities for black children, mandating a single syllabus and more equitable funding for schools.

Health: Infant mortality rate: (2005)—55 per live births. Life expectancy—52 yrs. women; 49 yrs. men. Health data from 2007 Census Report:


Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Independence: The Union of South Africa was created on May 31, 1910; became sovereign state within British Empire in 1934; became a republic on May 31, 1961; left the Commonwealth in October 1968; rejoined the Commonwealth in June 1994.

Constitution: Entered into force February 3, 1997.

Government branches: Executive—president (chief of state) elected to a 5-year term by the National Assembly. Legislative—bicameral Parliament consisting of 490 members in two chambers. National Assembly (400 members) elected by a system of proportional representation. National Council of Provinces consisting of 90 delegates (10 from each province) and 10 nonvoting delegates representing local government. Judicial—Constitutional Court interprets and decides constitutional issues; Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest court for interpreting and deciding nonconsti-tutional matters.

Political subdivisions: Nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpuma-langa, North-West, Northern Cape, Limpopo, Western Cape.

Political parties: African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Vryheidsfront Plus/Freedom Front Plus (FF+), Pan-African Congress (PAC), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), United Democratic Movement (UDM), and Azanian Peoples Organization (Azapo).

Suffrage: Citizens and permanent residents 18 and older.


GDP: (2006) $255 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2006) 5.0%.

GDP per capita: (2006) $5,390.

Unemployment: (September 2007) 25.5%.

Natural resources: Almost all essential commodities, except petroleum products and bauxite. Only country in the world that manufactures fuel from coal.

Industry: Types—minerals, mining, motor vehicles and parts, machinery, textiles, chemicals, fertilizer, information technology, electronics, other manufacturing, and agro-processing.

Trade: (2006) Exports—$42.1 billion; merchandise exports: gold, other minerals and metals, agricultural products, motor vehicles and parts. Major markets—U.K., U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan, East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa. Imports—$51.5 billion: machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, textiles, and scientific instruments. Major suppliers—Germany, U.S., Japan, U.K., Italy.

GDP composition: (2003) Agriculture and mining (primary sector)— 11%; industry (secondary sector)— 24%; services (tertiary sector)—65%. World's largest producer of platinum, gold, and chromium; also significant coal production.


Until 1991, South African law divided the population into four major racial categories: Africans (black), whites, coloreds, and Asians. Although this law has been abolished, many South Africans still view themselves and each other according to these categories. Black Africans comprise about 79% of the population and are divided into a number of different ethnic groups. Whites comprise about 10% of the population. They are primarily descendants of Dutch, French, English, and German settlers who began arriving at the Cape of Good Hope in the late 17th century. Coloreds are mixed-race people primarily descending from the earliest settlers and the indigenous peoples. They comprise about 9% of the total population. Asians descend from Indian workers brought to South Africa in the mid-19th century to work on the sugar estates in Natal. They constitute about 2.5% of the population and are concentrated in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Education is in transition. Under the apartheid system schools were segregated, and the quantity and quality of education varied significantly across racial groups. The laws governing this segregation have been abolished. The long and arduous process of restructuring the country's educational system has begun and is ongoing. The challenge is to create a single, nondiscriminatory, nonracial system that offers the same standards of education to all people.


People have inhabited southern Africa for thousands of years. Members of the Khoisan language groups are the oldest surviving inhabitants of the land, but only a few are left in South Africa today—and they are located in the western sections. Most of today's black South Africans belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before AD 100. The Nguni, ancestors of the Zulu and Xhosa, occupied most of the eastern coast by 1500.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in 1488. However, permanent white settlement did not begin until 1652 when the Dutch East India Company established a provisioning station on the Cape. In subsequent decades, French Huguenot refugees, the Dutch, and Germans began to settle in the Cape. Collectively, they form the Afrikaner segment of today's population. The establishment of these settlements had far-reaching social and political effects on the groups already settled in the area, leading to upheaval in these societies and the subjugation of their people.

By 1779, European settlements extended throughout the southern part of the Cape and east toward the Great Fish River. It was here that Dutch authorities and the Xhosa fought the first frontier war. The British gained control of the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 18th century. Subsequent British settlement and rule marked the beginning of a long conflict between the Afrikaners and the English.

Beginning in 1836, partly to escape British rule and cultural hegemony and partly out of resentment at the recent abolition of slavery, many Afrikaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration that became known as the “Great Trek.” This movement brought them into contact and conflict with African groups in the area, the most formidable of which were the Zulus. Under their powerful leader, Shaka (1787-1828), the Zulus conquered most of the territory between the Drakensberg Mountains and the sea (now KwaZulu-Natal).

In 1828, Shaka was assassinated and replaced by his half-brother Dingane. In 1838, Dingane was defeated and deported by the Voortrekkers (people of the Great Trek) at the battle of Blood River. The Zulus, nonetheless, remained a potent force, defeating the British in the historic battle of Isandhlwana before themselves being finally conquered in 1879.

In 1852 and 1854, the independent Boer Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State were created. Relations between the republics and the British Government were strained. The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 1870 and the discovery of large gold deposits in the Witwatersrand region of the Transvaal in 1886 caused an influx of European (mainly British) immigration and investment. In addition to resident black Africans, many blacks from neighboring countries also moved into the area to work in the mines. The construction by mine owners of hostels to house and control their workers set patterns that later extended throughout the region.

Boer reactions to this influx and British political intrigues led to the Anglo-Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. British forces prevailed in the conflict, and the republics were incorporated into the British Empire. In May 1910, the two republics and the British colonies of the Cape and Natal formed the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire. The Union's constitution kept all political power in the hands of whites.

In 1912, the South Africa Native National Congress was founded in Bloemfontein and eventually became

known as the African National Congress (ANC). Its goals were the elimination of restrictions based on color and the enfranchisement of and parliamentary representation for blacks. Despite these efforts the government continued to pass laws limiting the rights and freedoms of blacks.

In 1948, the National Party (NP) won the all-white elections and began passing legislation codifying and enforcing an even stricter policy of white domination and racial separation known as “apartheid” (separateness). In the early 1960s, following a protest in Sharpeville in which 69 protesters were killed by police and 180 injured, the ANC and Pan-African Congress (PAC) were banned. Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid leaders were convicted and imprisoned on charges of treason.

The ANC and PAC were forced underground and fought apartheid through guerrilla warfare and sabotage. In May 1961, South Africa relinquished its dominion status and itself a republic. It withdrew from the Commonwealth in part because of international protests against apartheid. In 1984, a new constitution came into effect in which whites allowed coloreds and Asians a limited role in the national government and control over their own affairs in certain areas. Ultimately, however, all power remained in white hands. Blacks remained effectively disenfranchised.

Popular uprisings in black and colored townships in 1976 and 1985 helped to convince some NP members of the need for change. Secret discussions between those members and Nelson Mandela began in 1986. In February 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk, who had come to power in September 1989, announced the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and all other anti-apartheid groups. Two weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

In 1991, the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and the Population Registration Act—the last of the so-called “pillars of apartheid”—were abolished. A long series of negotiations ensued, resulting in a new constitution promulgated into law in December 1993. The country's first nonracial elections were held on April 26-28, 1994, resulting in the installation of Nelson Mandela as President on May 10, 1994.

Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was governed under an interim constitution establishing a Government of National Unity (GNU). This constitution required the Constitutional Assembly (CA) to draft and approve a permanent constitution by May 9, 1996. After review by the Constitutional Court and intensive negotiations within the CA, the Constitutional Court certified a revised draft on December 2, 1996. President Mandela signed the new constitution into law on December 10, and it entered into force on February 3, 1997. The GNU ostensibly remained in effect until the 1999 national elections. The parties originally comprising the GNU—the ANC, the NP, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)—shared executive power. On June 30, 1996, the NP withdrew from the GNU to become part of the opposition.

During Nelson Mandela's 5-year term as President of South Africa, the government committed itself to reforming the country. The ANC-led government focused on social issues that were neglected during the apartheid era such as unemployment, housing shortages, and crime. Mandela' administration began to reintroduce South Africa into the global economy by implementing a market-driven economic plan known as Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR). In order to heal the wounds created by apartheid, the government created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During the first term of the ANC's post-apartheid rule, President Mandela concentrated on national reconciliation, seeking to forge a single South African identity and sense of purpose among a diverse and splintered populace, riven by years of conflict. The diminution of political violence after 1994 and its virtual disappearance by 1996 were testament to the abilities of Mandela to achieve this difficult goal.

Nelson Mandela stepped down as President of the ANC at the party's national congress in December 1997, when Thabo Mbeki assumed the mantle of leadership. Mbeki won the presidency of South Africa after national elections in 1999, when the ANC won just shy of a two-thirds majority in Parliament. President Mbeki shifted the focus of government from reconciliation to transformation, particularly on the economic front. With political transformation and the foundation of a strong democratic system in place after two free and fair national elections, the ANC recognized the need to focus on bringing economic power to the black majority in South Africa. In April 2004, the ANC won nearly 70% of the national vote, and Mbeki was reelected for his second 5-year term. In his 2004 State of the Nation address, Mbeki promised his government would reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, and fight crime. Mbeki said that the government would play a more prominent role in economic development.


South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared between the president and the Parliament. The Parliament consists of two houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, which are responsible for drafting the laws of the republic. The National Assembly also has specific control over bills relating to monetary matters. The current 400-member National Assembly was retained under the 1997 constitution, although the constitution allows for a range of between 350 and 400 members. The Assembly is elected by a system of “list proportional representation.” Each of the parties appearing on the ballot submits a rank-ordered list of candidates. The voters then cast their ballots for a party.

Seats in the Assembly are allocated based on the percentage of votes each party receives. In the 2004 elections, the ANC won 279 seats in the Assembly, more than a two-thirds majority and an increase of 13 seats from 1999; the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 50, the IFP 28, the New National Party (NNP) 7, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) 9, and other groups won the remaining 27. In the 2004 electoral campaign, the ANC aligned with the NNP, and the DA aligned with the IFP. On August 6, the NNP announced that it would merge with the ANC. Elected representatives of the party would, however, continue to hold their seats in the national and provincial legislatures as NNP members until the next floor-crossing period in September 2005.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) consists of 90 members, 10 from each of the nine provinces. The NCOP replaced the former Senate as the second chamber of Parliament and was created to give a greater voice to provincial interests. It must approve legislation that involves shared national and provincial competencies as defined by an annex to the constitution. Each provincial delegation consists of six permanent and four rotating delegates.

The president is the head of state. Following the April 14, 2004 elections, the National Assembly reelected Thabo Mbeki as President. The president's constitutional responsibilities include assigning cabinet portfolios, signing bills into law, and serving as commander in chief of the military. The president works closely with the deputy president and the cabinet. There are currently 28 posts in the cabinet. Of the 28 ministers, Mbeki appointed two from outside the ANC—one from the former NNP and one from the Aza-nian Peoples Organization (Azapo). On June 14, 2005, President Mbeki informed the South African Parliament that then-Deputy President Jacob Zuma was being “released” from his duties following the conviction of a close associate on corruption charges relating to monetary payments to Zuma. On June 22, Mbeki named former Minister for Minerals and Energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to the position of Deputy President, the first woman to hold this office.

On December 18, 2007, the African National Congress elected Jacob Zuma to the post of ANC President after a hard-fought campaign between Zuma and Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki remains the country's President despite this victory and a shakeup in the composition of the ANC National Executive Committee membership.

The third arm of the central government is an independent judiciary. The Constitutional Court is the highest court for interpreting and deciding constitutional issues, while the Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest court for nonconstitutional matters. Most cases are heard in the extensive system of High Courts and Magistrates Courts. The constitution's bill of rights provides for due process including the right to a fair, public trial within a reasonable time of being charged and the right to appeal to a higher court. The bill of rights also guarantees fundamental political and social rights of South Africa's citizens.

Challenges Ahead

South Africa's post-apartheid governments have made remarkable progress in consolidating the nation's peaceful transition to democracy. Programs to improve the delivery of essential social services to the majority of the population are underway. Access to better opportunities in education and business is becoming more widespread. Nevertheless, transforming South Africa's society to remove the legacy of apartheid will be a long-term process requiring the sustained commitment of the leaders and people of the nation's disparate groups.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), chaired by 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, helped to advance the reconciliation process. Constituted in 1996 and having completed its work by 2001, the TRC was empowered to investigate apartheid-era human rights abuses committed between 1960 and May 10, 1994; to grant amnesty to those who committed politically motivated crimes; and to recommend compensation to victims of abuses. In November 2003, the Government began allocation of $4,600 (R30,000) reparations to individual apartheid victims. The TRC's mandate was part of the larger process of reconciling the often conflicting political, economic, and cultural interests held by the many peoples that make up South Africa's diverse population. The ability of the government and people to agree on many basic questions of how to order the country's new society will remain a critical challenge.

One important issue continues to be the relationship of provincial and local administrative structures to the national government. Prior to April 27, 1994, South Africa was divided into four provinces and 10 black "homelands," four of which were considered independent by the South African Government. Both the interim constitution and the 1997 constitution abolished this system and substituted nine provinces. Each province has an elected legislature and chief executive—the provincial premier. Although in form a federal system, in practice the nature of the relationship between the central and provincial governments continues to be the subject of considerable debate, particularly among groups desiring a greater measure of autonomy from the central government. A key step in defining the relationship came in 1997 when provincial governments were given more than half of central government funding and permitted to develop and manage their own budgets. However, the national government exerts a measure of control over provinces by appointing provincial premiers.

Although South Africa's economy is in many areas highly developed, the exclusionary nature of apartheid and distortions caused in part by the country's international isolation until the 1990s have left major weaknesses. The economy is now in a process of transition as the government seeks to address the inequities of apartheid, stimulate growth, and create jobs. Business, meanwhile, is becoming more integrated into the international system, and foreign investment has increased dramatically over the past several years. Still, the economic disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many years, remaining an area of priority attention for the government.

Human Rights

The 1997 constitution's bill of rights provides extensive guarantees, including equality before the law and prohibitions against discrimination; the right to life, privacy, property, and freedom and security of the person; prohibition against slavery and forced labor; and freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and association. The legal rights of criminal suspects also are enumerated, as are citizens' entitlements to a safe environment, housing, education, and health care. The constitution provides for an independent and impartial judiciary, and, in practice, these provisions are respected.

Since the abolition of apartheid, levels of political violence in South Africa have dropped dramatically. Violent crime and organized criminal activity are at high levels and are a grave concern. Partly as a result, vigilante action and mob justice sometimes occur.

Some members of the police commit abuses, and deaths in police custody as a result of excessive force remain a problem. The government has taken action to investigate and punish some of those who commit such abuses. In April 1997, the government established an Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate deaths in police custody and deaths resulting from police action.

Although South Africa's society is undergoing a rapid transformation, some discrimination against women continues, and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS remains. Violence against women and children also is a serious problem.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

President: Thabo Mvuyelwa MBEKI

Deputy President: Phumzile Gloria MLAMBO-NGCUKA

Min. of Agriculture & Land Affairs: Lulama XINGWANA

Min. of Arts & Culture: Pallo JORDAN

Min. of Communications: Ivy MATSEPE-CASABURRI

Min. of Correctional Services: Ngconde BALFOUR

Min. of Defense: Mosiuoa LEKOTA

Min. of Education: Naledi PANDOR

Min. of Environment & Tourism: Marthinus VAN SCHALKWYK

Min. of Finance: Trevor MANUEL

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Nkosazana DLAMINI-ZUMA

Min. of Health: Manto TSHABALALA-MSIMANG

Min. of Home Affairs: Nosiviwe MAPISA-NQAKULA

Min. of Housing: Lindiwe SISULU

Min. of Intelligence: Ronnie KASRILS

Min. of Justice & Constitutional Affairs: BridgItte MABANDLA

Min. of Labor: Membathisi MDLADLANA

Min. of Minerals & Energy: Buyelwa Patience SONJICA

Min. of Provincial & Local Government: Sydney MUFAMADI

Min. of Public Enterprises: Alexander ERWIN

Min. of Public Service & Administration: Geraldine FRASER-MOLEKETI

Min. of Public Works: Angela Thoko DIDIZA

Min. of Safety & Security: Charles NQAKULA

Min. of Science & Technology: Mosibudi MANGENA

Min. of Social Development: Zola SKWEYIYA

Min. of Sport & Recreation: Makenkesi STOFILE

Min. of Trade & Industry: Mandisi MPAHLWA

Min. of Transport: Jeffrey Thamsanqa RADEBE

Min. of Water & Forestry: Lindiwe Benedicta HENDRICKS

Min. of the Presidency: Essop PAHAD

Governor, Reserve Bank: Tito MBOWENI

Ambassador to the US: Welile Augustine NHLAPO

Permanent Representative to the UN, NewYork: Dumisani Shadrack KUMALO

The Republic of South Africa maintains an embassy in the United States at 3051 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel. (202) 232-4400.


South Africa has a two-tiered economy; one rivaling other developed countries and the other with only the most basic infrastructure. It therefore is a productive and industrialized economy that exhibits many characteristics associated with developing countries, including a division of labor between formal and informal sectors, and uneven distribution of wealth and income. The formal sector, based on mining, manufacturing, services, and agriculture, is well developed.

The transition to a democratic, nonracial government, begun in early 1990, stimulated a debate on the direction of economic policies to achieve sustained economic growth while at the same time redressing the socioeconomic disparities created by apartheid. The Government of National Unity's initial blueprint to address this problem was the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). The RDP was designed to create programs to improve the standard of living for the majority of the population by providing housing—a planned 1 million new homes in 5 years—basic services, education, and health care. While a specific “ministry” for the RDP no longer exists, a number of government ministries and offices are charged with supporting RDP programs and goals.

The Government of South Africa demonstrated its commitment to open markets, privatization, and a favorable investment climate with its release of the crucial Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy—the neoliberal economic strategy to cover 1996-2000. The strategy had mixed success. It brought greater financial discipline and macroeconomic stability but has failed to deliver in key areas. Formal employment continued to decline, and despite the ongoing efforts of black empowerment and signs of a fledgling black middle class and social mobility, the country's wealth remains very unequally distributed along racial lines. However, South Africa's budgetary reforms such as the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and the Public Finance Management Act—which aims at better reporting, auditing, and increased accountability—and the structural changes to its monetary policy framework— including inflation targeting—have created transparency and predictability and are widely acclaimed. Trade liberalization also has progressed substantially since the early 1990s. South Africa has reduced its import-weighted average tariff rate from more than 20% in 1994 to 7% in 2002. These efforts, together with South Africa's implementation of its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations and its constructive role in launching the Doha Development Round, show South Africa's acceptance of free market principles.

Financial Policy

South Africa has a sophisticated financial structure with a large and active stock exchange that ranks 17th in the world in terms of total market capitalization. The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) performs all central banking functions. The SARB is independent and operates in much the same way as Western central banks, influencing interest rates and controlling liquidity through its interest rates on funds provided to private sector banks. Quantitative credit controls and administrative control of deposit and lending rates have largely disappeared. South African banks adhere to the Bank of International Standards core standards.

The South African Government has taken steps to gradually reduce remaining foreign exchange controls, which apply only to South African residents. Private citizens are now allowed a one-time investment of up to 750,000 rand (R) in offshore accounts. Since 2001, South African companies may invest up to R750 million in Africa and R500 million elsewhere.

Trade and Investment

South Africa has rich mineral resources. It is the world's largest producer and exporter of gold and platinum and also exports a significant amount of coal. During 2000, platinum overtook gold as South Africa's largest foreign exchange earner. The value-added processing of minerals to produce ferroalloys, stainless steels, and similar products is a major industry and an important growth area. The country's diverse manufacturing industry is a world leader in several specialized sectors, including railway rolling stock, synthetic fuels, and mining equipment and machinery.

Primary agriculture accounts for about 4% of the gross domestic product. Major crops include citrus and deciduous fruits, corn, wheat, dairy products, sugarcane, tobacco, wine, and wool. South Africa has many developed irrigation schemes and is a net exporter of food.

South Africa's transportation infrastructure is well-developed, supporting both domestic and regional needs. The Johannesburg International Airport serves as a hub for flights to other southern African countries. The domestic telecommunications infrastructure provides modern and efficient service to urban areas, including cellular and Internet services. In 1997, Telkom, the South African telecommunications parastatal, was partly privatized and entered into a strategic equity partnership with a consortium of two companies, including SBC, a U.S. telecommunications company. In exchange for exclusivity to provide certain services for 5 years, Telkom assumed an obligation to facilitate network modernization and expansion into unserved areas. The government is evaluating a proposal to establish a second network operator to compete with Telkom across its spectrum of services. Three cellular companies provide service to over 9 million subscribers.

South Africa's GDP is expected to increase gradually during the next few years, and the government recently revised upward its 2007 estimated growth to 4.7%. Annual GDP growth between 1994 and 2004 averaged 3.0%. In 2003, real GDP growth slowed to a rate of 2.8%, but increased to 3.7% in 2004. The government estimates that the economy must achieve growth at a minimum of 6% to offset unemployment, which is estimated at 28%, although unofficial sources put it as high as 41%. In an effort to boost economic growth and spur job creation, the government has launched special investment corridors to promote development in specific regions and also is working to encourage small, medium, and microenterprise development. One of the great successes of the ANC government has been to get consumer inflation, which had been running in the double digits for over 20 years, under control. By 1998, inflation had fallen to 6.9%, and in 1999 and 2000 inflation was running at less than 6.0%. The rand's rapid depreciation in late 2001, however, led to greater inflationary pressure, causing 2002 inflation of 9.2%. The South African government cut the inflation rate to 4% in 2004, and the rand appreciated 39% from 2002 to 2004. The South African Reserve Bank increased interest rates and along with the 28% rand appreciation in 2003 led a reduced consumer inflation of 5.8%. The government also has made inroads into reducing the fiscal deficit and increasing foreign currency reserves. The government deficit was 1.1% of GDP in 2002 and 2.6% in 2003. The government's 2005 budget called for a moderate increase in spending to promote faster growth and poverty alleviation, while curbing budget deficits.

Exports reached 29.1% of GDP in 2007, up from 11.5% a decade ago. South Africa's major trading partners include the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Japan. South Africa's trade with other Sub-Saharan African countries, particularly those in the southern Africa region, has increased substantially. South Africa is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In August 1996, South Africa signed a regional trade protocol agreement with its SADC partners. The agreement was ratified in December 1999, and implementation began in September 2000. It intends to provide duty-free treatment for 85% of trade by 2008 and 100% by 2012.

South Africa has made great progress in dismantling its old economic system, which was based on import substitution, high tariffs and subsidies, anticompetitive behavior, and extensive government intervention in the economy. The new leadership has moved to reduce the government's role in the economy and to promote private sector investment and competition. It has significantly reduced tariffs and export subsidies, loosened exchange controls, cut the secondary tax on corporate dividends, and improved enforcement of intellectual property laws. A new competition law was passed and became effective on September 1, 1999. A U.S.-South Africa bilateral tax treaty went into effect on January 1, 1998, and a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement was signed in February 1999.

South Africa is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). U.S. products qualify for South Africa's most-favored-nation tariff rates. South Africa also is an eligible country for the benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and most of its products can enter the United States market duty free. South Africa has done away with most import permits except on used products and products regulated by international treaties. It also remains committed to the simplification and continued reduction of tariffs within the WTO framework and maintains active discussions with that body and its major trading partners.

As a result of a November 1993 bilateral agreement, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) can assist U.S. investors in the South African market with services such as political risk insurance and loans and loan guarantees. In July 1996, the United States and South Africa signed an investment fund protocol for a $120 million OPIC fund to make equity investments in South Africa and southern Africa. OPIC is establishing an additional fund—the Sub-Saharan Africa Infrastructure Fund, capitalized at $350 million—for investment in infrastructure projects. The Trade and Development Agency also has been actively involved in funding feasibility studies and identifying investment opportunities in South Africa for U.S. businesses.


South Africa is one of the countries most affected by HIV, with 5.3 million HIV infected individuals. Nineteen percent of the 15-49 year old population is infected, and in parts of the country more than 35% of women of childbearing age are infected. Overall, 11-12% of the population is infected. About 1,700 new infections occur each day, and approximately 40% of deaths are believed to be AIDS-related. There are approximately 660,000 children who have lost one or both parents, and by 2008 1.6 million children will have been orphaned by AIDS. Without effective prevention and treatment 5-7 million cumulative AIDS deaths are anticipated by 2010 (with 1.5 million deaths in 2010 alone), and there will be over 1 million sick with AIDS. The epidemic could cost South Africa as much as 17% in GDP growth by 2010. The extraction industries, education, and health are among the sectors that will be severely affected. A 2003 national operational plan provides the structure for a comprehensive response to HIV and AIDS, including a national rollout of antiretroviral therapy.


South Africa's Government is committed to managing the country's rich and varied natural resources in a responsible and sustainable manner. In addition, numerous South African non-governmental organizations have emerged as a potent force in the public policy debate on the environment. In international environmental organizations, South Africa is seen as a key leader among developing countries on issues such as climate change, conservation, and biodiversity. This leading role was underscored by South Africa's selection to host the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.


South African forces fought on the Allied side in World Wars I and II and participated in the postwar UN force in Korea. South Africa was a founding member of the League of Nations and in 1927 established a Department of External Affairs with diplomatic missions in the main west European countries and in the United States. At the founding of the League of Nations, South Africa was given the mandate to govern Southwest Africa, now Namibia, which had been a German colony before World War I. In 1990, Namibia attained independence, with the exception of the enclave of Walvis Bay, which was reintegrated into Namibia in March 1994. After South Africa held its first nonracial election in April 1994, most sanctions imposed by the international community in opposition to the system of apartheid were lifted. On June 1, 1994, South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth, and on June 23, 1994, the UN General Assembly accepted its credentials. South Africa served as the African Union's (AU) first president from July 2003 to July 2004.

Having emerged from the international isolation of the apartheid era, South Africa has become a leading international actor. Its principal foreign policy objective is to promote the economic, political, and cultural regeneration of Africa, through the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD); to promote the peaceful resolution of conflict in Africa; and to use multilateral bodies to insure that developing countries' voices are heard on international issues. South Africa has played a key role in seeking an end to various conflicts and political crises on the African continent, including in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Comoros. South Africa has pursued “quiet diplomacy” in its approach to the crisis in Zimbabwe.


The United States has maintained an official presence in South Africa since 1799, when an American consulate was opened in Cape Town. The U.S. Embassy is located in Pretoria, and Consulates General are in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Americans and South Africans also have many nongovernmental ties; for example, black and white American missionaries have a long history of activity in South Africa. South Africans (particularly the ANC leadership) also acknowledge support from and ties to the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. From the 1970s through the early 1990s, U.S.-South Africa relations were severely affected by South Africa's racial policies. However, since the abolition of apartheid and democratic elections of April 1994, the United States has enjoyed an excellent bilateral relationship with South Africa. Although there are differences of position between the two governments—for example, regarding Iraq—they do not impede cooperation on a broad range of key issues. Bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism, fighting HIV/ AIDS, and military relations has been particularly positive. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States also provides assistance to South Africa to help it meet its development goals. Peace Corps volunteers began working in South Africa in 1997.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

PRETORIA (E) 877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia, APO/FPO 9300 Pretoria PL, Washington DC 20521-9300, (27) (12) 431-4000, Fax (27) (12) 342 -2299, Workweek: Flex with 8-5 standard., Website:

DCM OMS:Linda Ingalls
AMB OMS:Irvina Wallace
CDC:Okey Nwanyanwu
DHS/ICE:Willis Reeves
ECO:Perry Ball
FM:Larry Bowman
HHS:Mary Fanning
HRO:William Holden
IBB:Paula Caffey
MGT:Russell G. Leclair, Jr..
AMB:Eric M. Bost
CON:Anita Le Clair
DCM:Donald Teitelbaum
PAO:Mary Deane Conners
GSO:Peter Drew
RSO:Don Schenck
AGR:Scott Sindelar
AID:Carleene Dei
APHIS:Ken Nagata
CLO:Linda Lockwood
DAO:Michael E. Garrison
DEA:Jeff Breeden
EEO:Mary Ellen Koenig
EST:Nikki Brajevich
FMO:James Inder
ICASS:Chair Craig Allen
IMO:Mark Butchart
IPO:Holly McRea
IRS:Garrard, Linda (Resident In London)
ISO:William J. Johnson
ISSO:Zekarious Gebeyeou
LEGATT:Donald Przybyla
POL:Raymond Brown
State ICASS:Perry Ball

CAPE TOWN (CG) 2 Reddam Ave, Tokai 7945, APO/FPO (NO APO AT POST) 2480 Cape Town Place, Washington DC 20521-2480, 27-21-702-7300, Fax 27-21-702-7429, Work-week: M-F 8am to 5pm, Website:

CG OMS:Antonette Schroeder
DPO:Paul Patin
FCS:Tyrena Holley
FM:Johnny Shields
MGT:Vera Pauli-Widenhouse
POL ECO:Stephanie Eshelman
SPSH:Maya Patin
CG:Helen La Lime
PAO:Paul Patin
IPO:Jeff Schroeder
POL:Jeffrey Glassman

DURBAN (CG) 303 WEST Street, 31st floor., Durban 4001, APO/FPO 2490 Durban Place, Dulles, VA 20189-2490, (27) (31) 305-7600, Fax (27) (31) 305-7650, Workweek: M-F 0800-1700, Website:

DHS/ICE:Douglas Dickens
MGT:Sherry Z. Sykes
POL ECO:Stephanie Bowers
AMB:Eric Bost
CG:Eugene Young
CON:Leslie Livingood
DCM:Don Teitelbaum
PAO:J. Riley Sever
RSO:Pso: Simon Guerrero
IPO:Simon Guerrero
ISSO:Simon Guerrero

JOHANNESBURG (CG) 1 River Street, Killarney 2193, Johannesburg, South Africa, APO/FPO 2500 Johannesburg Place, Dulles, VA 20189-2500, 27-11-644-8000, Fax 27-11-646-6915, Workweek: M-F/ 0800–1700.

CG OMS:Paolina Milasi
DHS/CIS:Dhs/Cis Leslie Meeker
DPO:Charles Luoma-Overstreet
FCS:Craig Allen
IBB:Paula Caffey
MGT:Maureen M. Danzot
CG:Steven P. Coffman
CON:Charles Luoma-Overstreet
PAO:Todd P. Haskell
RSO:Stephen A Rice
AFSA:Todd P. Haskell
FIN:Tda Douglas Shuster
IPO:Rose D Pegues
IRS:Linda M. Garrard (Resident In London)
ISO:Pic B Jordan
ISSO:Rose D. Pegues
LAB:Jeanine Collins


Consular Information Sheet

December 7, 2007

Country Description: South Africa is in many respects a developed country, but much of its population lives in poverty. All major urban areas have modern, world-class hotels and tourist facilities. Game parks and areas most often visited by tourists have a wide range of facilities. Food and water are generally safe, and a wide variety of consumer goods and pharmaceuticals are readily available. The capital is Pretoria, while the seat of parliament is located in Cape Town. Johannesburg is the financial capital and largest city in South Africa.

Entry Requirements: The passports of all travelers to South Africa must contain at least two blank (unstamped) visa pages each time entry is sought; these pages are in addition to the endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport. Otherwise, the traveler, even when in possession of a valid South African visa, may be refused entry into South Africa, fined, and returned to their point of origin at the traveler's expense. As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from the passport.

Visitors to South Africa for tourism, short business meetings, or those in transit do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days. In the event that a traveler overstays that period without a permit issued by the South African Department of Home Affairs, they may be subject to a fine of up to 3,000 rand (approximately 415 US dollars). All others, including academics, students on educational trips, and volunteers, may need visas. Americans who intend to work in South Africa must apply for work permits before arrival; otherwise they risk being refused admission and returned to their point of origin. It is strongly suggested that all travelers check the latest requirements with the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate before traveling.

Travelers entering South Africa from countries where yellow fever is endemic are often required to present their yellow World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination record or other proof of inoculation. If they are unable to do so, they must be inoculated at the airport in order to be permitted entry.

Visit the Embassy of South Africa web site at for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Travelers are encouraged to be vigilant and avoid any large gathering, particularly protests and demonstrations. The possibility of violence, including threats against American interests, should not be discounted, particularly in times of heightened world tension.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site at, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Although the vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without incident, visitors should be aware that criminal activity, often violent, occurs routinely. Notwithstanding government anti-crime efforts, violent crimes such as armed robbery, carjacking, mugging, “smash and grab” attacks on vehicles, and other incidents are regularly reported by visitors and resident Americans.

Visitors and residents are advised of ongoing criminal activity involving organized crime gangs targeting individuals at shopping centers and in particular at the OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg. Once a victim has been identified, he/she is followed back to his/her residence and robbed, usually at gunpoint, although the use of force is generally reserved for those offering some form of resistance. These gangs tend to target more “affluent” individuals, including people driving expensive cars, wearing eye-catching jewelry, flashing large amounts of cash, and/ or making high-value purchases. Criminals also gravitate towards “soft” targets—people who appear preoccupied and do not pay attention to their immediate surroundings. Tourists are being targeted in a similar fashion at the airport. It appears some airport personnel may be involved in the activity, apparently tipping off criminals waiting outside the airport once tourists have declared valuables and cash.

Motorists are urged to be extremely cautious when approaching intersections and to hide bags, cell phones, and other valuables from view. Criminals are on the lookout for valuable items they can see through the car windows. Doors should be kept locked and windows rolled up at all times.

Crimes against property, such as carjacking, have often been accompanied by violent acts, including murder, when victims resist or are slow to respond to attackers' demands. South Africa also has the highest incidence of reported rape in the world. Foreigners are not specifically targeted, but several have been the victims of rape. Victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS. Questions about how to receive such treatment should be directed to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Criminal activity, such as assault, armed robbery, and theft is particularly high in areas surrounding many hotels and public transportation centers, especially in major cities. Theft of passports and other valuables is most likely to occur at airports, bus terminals, and train stations. A number of Americans have been mugged or violently attacked on commuter and metro trains, especially between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Several American travelers also reported theft of personal belongings after strangers whom they invited into their hotel drugged them. In at least one instance, an American died after being drugged and robbed in this manner.

There is a serious baggage pilferage problem at OR Tambo, Johannesburg and Cape Town International airports, particularly affecting travelers changing airlines and those flying on smaller airlines—passengers flying on major international carriers may not be affected to the same degree. Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved locks, use an airport plastic wrapping service, and avoid placing electronics, jewelry, cameras or other valuables in checked luggage. Make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur.

In the Western Cape, police resources have been strained by continuing gang conflicts and vigilante violence in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town. Additionally, travelers should be aware that muggings have become common along many popular routes on Table Mountain, a prime tourist destination in Cape Town. Visitors to Table Mountain should be vigilant, hike in groups, and not carry valuables. Travelers may wish to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before embarking on trips to this area.

Armed robbery of cash-in-transit vehicles and personnel occurs throughout South Africa and peaks during December and January due to the increase in cash flow from commercial stores to banks. These attacks have also included incidents at major malls and in large grocery stores. Individuals should raise their level of situational awareness while in the vicinity of cash-in-transit vehicles and personnel and should avoid areas where they are located to the maximum extent possible.

Credit card fraud, counterfeit U.S. currency, and various check-cashing scams are frequently reported. Do not accept “assistance”from anyone, or agree to assist others with ATM transactions. Travelers should try to avoid using ATMs after bank business hours or in remote locations. When giving your credit card to a store or restaurant employee for processing, do not let them take the card out of your sight. Visitors should also beware of telephone or email schemes, which attempt to win the confidence of an unsuspecting American who is persuaded either to provide privileged financial information or travel to South Africa to assist in a supposedly lucrative business venture.

To check on a business's legitimacy while in the U.S., contact the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230, telephone: 1-800-USA-TRADE or 202-482-5149, fax: 202-482-5198. If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but they may be limited elsewhere. Pharmacies are well stocked and equivalents to most American medicines are available.

While most of South Africa is malaria free, malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural low-altitude areas of Northern (Limpopo) and Mpuma-langa provinces, including Kruger National Park and neighboring game reserves. Risk also exists in the coastal lowlands of KwaZulu-Natal north of the Tugela River (including in Zululand, but excluding urban areas of Richards Bay). In all risk areas, risk is much lower from June to September. Visitors should prepare accordingly and use malaria prophylaxis. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC travelers' health web site at

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in South Africa. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at Further health information for travelers is available at

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning South Africa is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Visitors intending to drive in South Africa are strongly encouraged to obtain an international driver's permit prior to their departure from the U.S. You may wish to contact the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate for up to date information about driver's license requirements.

Unlike the United States, where traffic moves on the right hand side of the road, traffic in South Africa moves on the left. Care must also be taken when crossing streets as a pedestrian.

Travelers should use caution at all times when driving, and especially avoid nighttime travel outside major cities. Road conditions are generally good in South Africa. However, excessive speed, poor lighting on rural roads, and insufficient regulatory control of vehicle maintenance and operator licensing have resulted in a high and rapidly increasing number of traffic fatalities. Drivers should also take care to avoid pedestrians crossing roads, which frequently occur on major highways.

‘Smash and grab’ robberies are common throughout South Africa, particularly in urban areas, at traffic lights, and on highway off-ramps. In these cases an individual, often appearing to be a vendor or beggar, will walk down between lines of vehicles waiting at an intersection, surveying the contents of vehicles, especially on the passenger seat, for targets of opportunity. Once a promising candidate is located, the perpetrator will quickly smash the window and grab the item off the seat, departing at a run, often before the driver can even decipher what has happened. In another scenario an individual (or two working in tandem) may indicate to a driver an apparent flat tire or other problem and wait for the driver to pull over or exit the car before grabbing exposed valuables. Drivers should be particularly careful of this problem and avoid carrying anything of value (e.g., briefcases, purses, cell phones, etc.) inside the car that could attract potential assailants. Travelers are advised to carry mobile phones. U.S. mobile phones may not work in South Africa, but rental mobile phones are widely available and may be rented from kiosks at major airports. The nationwide emergency number for the police is 10111, and the nationwide number for ambulance service is 10177. It is not necessary to dial an area code for these numbers. Callers from mobile phones may not necessarily be connected immediately to the nearest emergency service. The rate of response varies from to area to area, but is generally slower than response to 911 calls in the United States.

Visit the website of the country's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at You may also contact South Africa's national tourist office at 1-800-593-1318.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of South Africa's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at

Special Circumstances: Approximately one-quarter of the population of South Africa is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Public awareness in the country as to how to protect against infection is increasing. However, travelers are advised to exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in sexual activity, or if they become exposed to a blood source other than that supplied by a hospital for transfusion purpose.

While visiting game parks and reserves, it is dangerous to leave one's vehicle or otherwise be on foot, even in the presence of a guide. Several incidents of wild animal attacks on tourists in the region have resulted in death or serious injury. If visiting South Africa's expansive coastline, be mindful of the possible presence of sharks when swimming or engaging in water sports. In 2005 and 2006, in the False Bay area of the Western Cape, several people were attacked by sharks; some of the attacks were fatal. Should a shark be spotted close to the shore, local authorities will sound a warning siren to notify the public.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.

Persons violating South African laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in South Africa are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in South Africa are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within South Africa. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at 877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia in Pretoria, telephone (27-12) 431-4000 (from South Africa 012-431-4000), fax (27-12) 431-5504 (from South Africa 012-431-5504). The U.S. Embassy web site is

The U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg provides consular services for Americans in the Pretoria area. The Consulate General in Johannesburg is located at No. 1 River Street (corner of River and Riviera Road), Killarney, Johannesburg telephone (27-11) 644-8000 (from South Africa 011-644-8000), fax (27-11) 646-6916 (from South Africa (011-646-6916). Its consular jurisdiction includes Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and Free State provinces.

The Consulate General in Cape Town is located at 2 Reddam Avenue, West Lake 7945, telephone (27-21) 702-7300 (from South Africa 021-702-7300), fax (27-21) 702-7493 (from South Africa 021-702-7493). Its consular jurisdiction includes Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces. The Consulate General in Durban is located at the Old Mutual Building, 31st floor, 303 West Street, telephone (27-31) 305-7600 (from South Africa 031-305-7600), fax (27-31) 305-7691 (from South Africa 031-305-7691). Its consular jurisdiction is KwaZulu-Natal Province.

International Adoption

June 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: South African law recognizes two kinds of adoptions by foreigners: 1) those completed by foreign residents of South Africa, and 2) international adoptions where foreigners are given children to adopt in their home country. The first category requires the foreigners to be resident for five years in South Africa and the adoptions are handled by an accredited agency and finalized by the Department of Social Development. The second category is only available to citizens of countries with a working agreement between them and South Africa. At this time, the United States does not have a working agreement of this type.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at

Adoption Authority: The government offices responsible for adoptions in South Africa are the following:

Commissioner of Child Welfare
Private Bag X61
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Tel: 012-328-4026

Department of Social Development Registrar of Adoptions
Private Bag X901
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Tel: 012-312-7592
Fax: 012-312-7837

The Commissioner of Child Welfare is responsible to the Department of Justice and is required for inter-country adoptions. The Department of Social Development is the central authority for all adoptions.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: For adoptive American parents living in South Africa, there is a 5-year residency requirement. Eligibility requirements beyond that change based on the circumstances of the case in question. For example, family members will be given preference over non-relatives regardless of age.

Residency Requirements: There is a five year residency requirement, which can include the two-year vetting process. South African authorities will approve adoptions by U.S. citizen families who have been residents in South Africa or in cases in which one spouse is South African.

Time Frame: It can take up to two years to complete South Africa adoption requirements.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Prospective adoptive parents should seek out an accredited South African organization to facilitate the process. Unfortunately, there is not comprehensive list of agencies available at this time. Many of these organizations are faith-based and can be contacted directly.

Adoption Fees: There are no government fees for adoption services. Adoption agencies and social organizations charges fees for services which can vary depending on the organization.

Adoption Procedures: The adoption procedure is initiated by contacting an accredited welfare organization. They are tasked with identifying an orphan child eligible for adoption. After a home study has been completed by an accredited organization, the case is referred to a children's court for the final hearing. An order of adoption terminates all the rights and obligations existing between the child and any prior legally-recognized parents. The adopted child is thereafter deemed by law to be the legitimate child of the adoptive parent(s). The order of adoption confers the surname of the adoptive parent on the adopted child.

There have been a number of cases in which American Citizens have been issued “Guardianship Orders” from the South African High Court. These orders do not constitute “irrevocable release for adoption and immigration” as required by United States Immigration Law. As such, they cannot be used for immigration purposes, essentially eliminating the possibility of Immediate Relative-4 (IR-4) visas (immigrant visas for orphans who will emigrate and be adopted in the United States) from South Africa. The consent of the child's biological father, except in cases of rape or incest, must be obtained before a child born out of wedlock is placed for adoption. Unmarried fathers have the right to apply for access, custody or guardianship. Previously, only the consent of the biological mother was required. However, married or biological divorced fathers can prevent their wives or former wives from having their children adopted.

According to South African law, a child born to parents who are not married to each other at the time of birth is illegitimate. A child born to unmarried parents becomes legitimate as soon as they marry. Normally, the mother of an illegitimate child is not only the legal guardian of her child, but also has custody even if she herself is still a minor. Only if it is proven that she is unfit to have custody can the child be taken from her and placed in alternative custody. Under current laws, the birth of an illegitimate child must normally be registered in the surname of the mother; the illegitimate child may take the surname of its father only if the father has formally acknowledged them in the birth register. The mother alone has the right to decide what the child's first name or names should be.

Required Documents: Because of the South African order of precedence for adopting orphans, the document requirements are different for each case. As such there is no comprehensive checklist to follow. Below are the South African documents the U.S. Consulate General requires in order to issue immigrant visas for children who are fully adopted under South African law.

  • Evidence that the child is an orphan;
  • A final decree of adoption that must reflect that both spouses (prospective adoptive parents) were parties to the adoption;
  • Evidence of compliance with all relevant South African regulations;
  • The orphan's long-form South African birth certificate showing the biological parent(s)'s name; also, a new full birth certificate is required showing the new adoptive parents' names.

Embassy of the Republic of South Africa
3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Telephone: 202-232-4400
South Africa has Consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at

U.S. Consulate General
River Street, Killarney, Johannesburg 2193
Tel: 011-644-8000
Fax: 011-646-691

The United States also has Consulates General in Westlake (Cape-town) and Durban.

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in South Africa may be addressed to the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"South Africa." Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009. . 5 May. 2019 <>.

"South Africa." Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009. . (May 5, 2019).

"South Africa." Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009. . Retrieved May 05, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

South Africa


Compiled from the November 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of South Africa




1.2 million sq. km. (470,462 sq. mi.).


Capitals—Administrative, Pretoria; Legislative, Cape Town; Judicial, Bloemfontein. Other cities—Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth.


Plateau, savanna, desert, mountains, coastal plains.


moderate; similar to southern California.



Noun and adjective—South African(s).

Annual growth rate (2004 World Bank Group):


Population (2004, 46.6 million):

Composition—black 79%; white 9.6%; colored 8.9%; Asian (Indian) 2.5%. Official figures from 2000 South African Census at


Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Swati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga (all official languages).


Predominantly Christian; traditional African, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish.


Years compulsory—7-15 years of age for all children. The South African Schools Act, Act 84 of 1996, passed by Parliament in 1996, aims to achieve greater educational opportunities for black children, mandating a single syllabus and more equitable funding for schools.


Infant mortality rate (2000)—59 per live births. Life expectancy—52 yrs. women; 50 yrs. men. Health data from 2000 U.S. Census Report: HIV/AIDS Country Profiles at



Parliamentary democracy.


The Union of South Africa was created on May 31, 1910; became sovereign state within British Empire in 1934; became a republic on May 31, 1961; left the Commonwealth in October 1968; rejoined the Commonwealth in June 1994.


Entered into force February 3, 1997.


Executive—president (chief of state) elected to a 5-year term by the National Assembly. Legislative—bicameral Parliament consisting of 490 members in two chambers. National Assembly (400 members) elected by a system of proportional representation. National Council of Provinces consisting of 90 delegates (10 from each province) and 10 nonvoting delegates representing local government. Judicial—Constitutional Court interprets and decides constitutional issues; Supreme Court of Appeal is the highest court for interpreting and deciding nonconstitutional matters.

Administrative subdivisions:

Nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Limpopo, Western Cape.

Political parties:

African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Vryheidsfront Plus/Freedom Front Plus (FF+), Pan-African Congress (PAC), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), United Democratic Movement (UDM), and Azanian Peoples Organization (Azapo).


Citizens and permanent residents 18 and older.


GDP (2004):

$213 billion. 2004 GDP at market prices (baseline year 2000)—1.374 billion rand (R).

Real GDP growth rate (2004):


GDP per capita (2004):


Unemployment (September 2004):


Natural resources:

Almost all essential commodities, except petroleum products and bauxite. Only country in the world that manufactures fuel from coal.


Types—minerals, mining, motor vehicles and parts, machinery, textiles, chemicals, fertilizer, information technology, electronics, other manufacturing, and agroprocessing.

Trade (2004):

Exports—$36.3 billion (2003 merchandise exports R256 billion; 2003 gold exports R35 billion): gold, other minerals and metals, agricultural products, motor vehicles and parts. Major markets—U.K., U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan, East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa. Imports—$34 billion (2003 merchandise imports R263 billion): machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, textiles, and scientific instruments. Major suppliers—Germany, U.S., Japan, U.K., Italy.

GDP composition (2003):

Agriculture and mining (primary sector)—11%; industry (secondary sector)—24%; services (tertiary sector)—65%. World's largest producer of platinum, gold, and chromium; also significant coal production.


Until 1991, South African law divided the population into four major racial categories: Africans (black), whites, coloreds, and Asians. Although this law has been abolished, many South Africans still view themselves and each other according to these categories. Black Africans comprise about 79% of the population and are divided into a number of different ethnic groups. Whites comprise about 10% of the population. They are primarily descendants of Dutch, French, English, and German settlers who began arriving at the Cape of Good Hope in the late 17th century. Coloreds are mixed-race people primarily descending from the earliest settlers and the indigenous peoples. They comprise about 9% of the total population. Asians descend from Indian workers brought to South Africa in the mid-19th century to work on the sugar estates in Natal. They constitute about 2.5% of the population and are concentrated in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Education is in transition. Under the apartheid system schools were segregated, and the quantity and quality of education varied significantly across racial groups. The laws governing this segregation have been abolished. The long and arduous process of restructuring the country's educational system has begun and is ongoing. The challenge is to create a single, nondiscriminatory, nonracial system that offers the same standards of education to all people.


People have inhabited southern Africa for thousands of years. Members of the Khoisan language groups are the oldest surviving inhabitants of the land, but only a few are left in South Africa today—and they are located in the western sections. Most of today's black South Africans belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before AD 100. The Nguni, ancestors of the Zulu and Xhosa, occupied most of the eastern coast by 1500.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in 1488. However, permanent white settlement did not begin until 1652 when the Dutch East India Company established a provisioning station on the Cape. In subsequent decades, French Huguenot refugees, the Dutch, and Germans began to settle in the Cape. Collectively, they form the Afrikaner segment of today's population. The establishment of these settlements had far-reaching social and political effects on the groups already settled in the area, leading to upheaval in these societies and the subjugation of their people.

By 1779, European settlements extended throughout the southern part of the Cape and east toward the Great Fish River. It was here that Dutch authorities and the Xhosa fought the first frontier war. The British gained control of the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 18th century. Subsequent British settlement and rule marked the beginning of a long conflict between the Afrikaners and the English.

Beginning in 1836, partly to escape British rule and cultural hegemony and partly out of resentment at the recent abolition of slavery, many Afrikaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration that became known as the "Great Trek." This movement brought them into contact and conflict with African groups in the area, the most formidable of which were the Zulus. Under their powerful leader, Shaka (1787-1828), the Zulus conquered most of the territory between the Drakensberg Mountains and the sea (now KwaZulu-Natal).

In 1828, Shaka was assassinated and replaced by his half-brother Dingane. In 1838, Dingane was defeated and deported by the Voortrekkers (people of the Great Trek) at the battle of Blood River. The Zulus, nonetheless, remained a potent force, defeating the British in the historic battle of Isandhlwana before themselves being finally conquered in 1879.

In 1852 and 1854, the independent Boer Republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State were created. Relations between the republics and the British Government were strained. The discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 1870 and the discovery of large gold deposits in the Witwatersrand region of the Transvaal in 1886 caused an influx of European (mainly British) immigration and investment. In addition to resident black Africans, many blacks from neighboring countries also moved into the area to work in the mines. The construction by mine owners of hostels to house and control their workers set patterns that later extended throughout the region.

Boer reactions to this influx and British political intrigues led to the Anglo-Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. British forces prevailed in the conflict, and the republics were incorporated into the British Empire. In May 1910, the two republics and the British colonies of the Cape and Natal formed the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire. The Union's constitution kept all political power in the hands of whites.

In 1912, the South Africa Native National Congress was founded in Bloemfontein and eventually became known as the African National Congress (ANC). Its goals were the elimination of restrictions based on color and the enfranchisement of and parliamentary representation for blacks. Despite these efforts the government continued to pass laws limiting the rights and freedoms of blacks.

In 1948, the National Party (NP) won the all-white elections and began passing legislation codifying and enforcing an even stricter policy of white domination and racial separation known as "apartheid" (separateness). In the early 1960s, following a protest in Sharpeville in which 69 protesters were killed by police and 180 injured, the ANC and Pan-African Congress (PAC) were banned. Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid leaders were convicted and imprisoned on charges of treason.

The ANC and PAC were forced underground and fought apartheid through guerrilla warfare and sabotage. In May 1961, South Africa relinquished its dominion status and declared itself a republic. It withdrew from the Commonwealth in part because of international protests against apartheid. In 1984, a new constitution came into effect in which whites allowed coloreds and Asians a limited role in the national government and control over their own affairs in certain areas. Ultimately, however, all power remained in white hands. Blacks remained effectively disenfranchised.

Popular uprisings in black and colored townships in 1976 and 1985 helped to convince some NP members of the need for change. Secret discussions between those members and Nelson Mandela began in 1986. In February 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk, who had come to power in September 1989, announced the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, and all other anti-apartheid groups. Two weeks later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

In 1991, the Group Areas Act, Land Acts, and the Population Registration Act—the last of the so-called "pillars of apartheid"—were abolished. A long series of negotiations ensued, resulting in a new constitution promulgated into law in December 1993. The country's first nonracial elections were held on April 26-28, 1994, resulting in the installation of Nelson Mandela as President on May 10, 1994.

Following the 1994 elections, South Africa was governed under an interim constitution establishing a Government of National Unity (GNU). This constitution required the Constitutional Assembly (CA) to draft and approve a permanent constitution by May 9, 1996. After review by the Constitutional Court and intensive negotiations within the CA, the Constitutional Court certified a revised draft on December 2, 1996. President Mandela signed the new constitution into law on December 10, and it entered into force on February 3, 1997. The GNU ostensibly remained in effect until the 1999 national elections. The parties originally comprising the GNU—the ANC, the NP, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)—shared executive power. On June 30, 1996, the NP withdrew from the GNU to become part of the opposition.

During Nelson Mandela's 5-year term as President of South Africa, the government committed itself to reforming the country. The ANC-led government focused on social issues that were neglected during the apartheid era such as unemployment, housing shortages, and crime. Mandela's administration began to reintroduce South Africa into the global economy by implementing a market-driven economic plan known as Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR). In order to heal the wounds created by apartheid, the government created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During the first term of the ANC's post-apartheid rule, President Mandela concentrated on national reconciliation, seeking to forge a single South African identity and sense of purpose among a diverse and splintered populace, riven by years of conflict. The diminution of political violence after 1994 and its virtual disappearance by 1996 were testament to the abilities of Mandela to achieve this difficult goal.

Nelson Mandela stepped down as President of the ANC at the party's national congress in December 1997, when Thabo Mbeki assumed the mantle of leadership. Mbeki won the presidency of South Africa after national elections in 1999, when the ANC won just shy of a two-thirds majority in Parliament. President Mbeki shifted the focus of government from reconciliation to transformation, particularly on the economic front. With political transformation and the foundation of a strong democratic system in place after two free and fair national elections, the ANC recognized the need to focus on bringing economic power to the black majority in South Africa. In April 2004, the ANC won nearly 70% of the national vote, and Mbeki was reelected for his second 5-year term. In his 2004 State of the Nation address, Mbeki promised his government would reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, and fight crime. Mbeki said that the government would play a more prominent role in economic development.


South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared between the president and the Parliament.

The Parliament consists of two houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, which are responsible for drafting the laws of the republic. The National Assembly also has specific control over bills relating to monetary matters. The current 400-member National Assembly was retained under the 1997 constitution, although the constitution allows for a range of between 350 and 400 members. The Assembly is elected by a system of "list proportional representation." Each of the parties appearing on the ballot submits a rank-ordered list of candidates. The voters then cast their ballots for a party.

Seats in the Assembly are allocated based on the percentage of votes each party receives. In the 2004 elections, the ANC won 279 seats in the Assembly, more than a two-thirds majority and an increase of 13 seats from 1999; the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 50, the IFP 28, the New National Party (NNP) 7, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) 9, and other groups won the remaining 27. In the 2004 electoral campaign, the ANC aligned with the NNP, and the DA aligned with the IFP. On August 6, the NNP announced that it would merge with the ANC. Elected representatives of the party would, however, continue to hold their seats in the national and provincial legislatures as NNP members until the next floor-crossing period in September 2005.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) consists of 90 members, 10 from each of the nine provinces. T