|General background: After the British seized
the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch
settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own
republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold
(1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified
the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers
resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in
the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South
Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate
development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to
apartheid politically and ushered in black majority
Area comparative: Slightly less
than twice the size of Texas.
Mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny
days, cool nights.
Terrain: Vast interior
plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain.
Population: 43,647,658 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Black 75.2%, White 13.6%, Colored
8.6%, Indian 2.6%
Religions: Christian 68% (includes most whites
and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of
Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians),
indigenous beliefs and animist 28.5%.
Language: 11 official languages, including
Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga,
Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu.
Government type: Republic
Capital: Pretoria; note - Cape Town is the
legislative centre and Bloemfontein the judicial centre.
Legal system: Based on Roman-Dutch law and
English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction,
Economic overview: South Africa is a middle-income,
developing country with an abundant supply of resources,
well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy,
and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks
among the 10 largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure
supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major
urban centres throughout the region. However, growth
has not been strong enough to cut into high unemployment,
and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid
era, especially the problems of poverty and lack of
economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups.
Other problems are crime, corruption, and HIV/AIDS.
At the start of 2000, President MBEKI vowed to promote
economic growth and foreign investment, and to reduce
poverty by relaxing restrictive labour laws, stepping
up the pace of privatisation, and cutting unneeded
governmental spending. The economy slowed in 2001,
largely the result of the slowing of the international
Communication/Telephone system: The system
is well developed and modern.
Places of interest: From Kruger National Park
with some of the best game viewing in Africa to Cape
Town, surely one of the most beautiful cities in the
World with Table Mountain in the heart of the city.
Fantastic surfing beaches stretching out over thousands
of kilometers of coastline. Some breathtaking mountainous
Travel tips: Various smaller, domestic airlines,
coach companies and car rental companies make traveling
the long distances domestically - and in the Southern
African region - very easy and hassle free.