OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of South Africa
CAPITAL: Pretoria
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multiparty Republic
AREA: 1,221,042 Sq Km (471,447 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 38,577,200


Direct Link to Political MapDirect Link to Physical MapLOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: South Africa is located at the southern end of the African Continent. It is bound by the Namibia to the northwest, Botswana to the north, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the east and southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest and west. Geographically, the country contains a broad centrally depressed plateau as well as a continuous series of mountain ranges known as the Great Escarpment that ring the interior plateau. Inland from the Great Escarpment the central plateau, which comprises the Kalahari Basin, consists of rolling plains that drop to the center and northern interior. The Great Escarpment runs almost continuously unbroken from the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe around the continent's southern edge and arcs northward through Namibia. The principal river is the Orange with its tributaries the Vaal and Caledon. Major Cities (pop. est.); Cape Town 2,350,200, Johannesburg 1,916,100, Durban 1,137,400, Pretoria 1,080,200 (1991). Land Use; forested 7%, pastures 66%, agricultural-cultivated 11%, other 16% (1993).


CLIMATE: South Africa has a temperate climate that is influenced by the warm Agulhas current from Mozambique as well as the Indian Ocean to the east and the cold Benguela current from the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast. Most rainfall occurs as a result of moist warm Indian Ocean air currents while distribution decreases from east to west. Average annual precipitation varies from 400 mm (16 inches) in the east to less than 50 mm (2 inches) in the northwest coastal regions. Average annual precipitation in Cape Town is 510 mm (20 inches) and average temperature ranges are from 9 to 17 degrees Celsius (48 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit) in July to 16 to 27 degrees Celsius (61 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit) in February.


PEOPLE: The population of South Africa is divided into four main ethnic groups. (1.) The Black Africans, of which the Nguni and Sotho groups account for 90% of the Black population, which also accounts for 76% of the country's entire population. (2.) The Whites who account for around 13% of the population. (3.) The Asians who account for around 3% and (4.) the Coloreds who are of mixed White and Black descent and account for 9% of the population.


DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 29 persons per sq km (76 persons per sq ml) (1993). Urban-Rural; 59.5% urban, 40.5% rural (1990). Sex Distribution; 49.7% male, 50.3% female (1990). Life Expectancy at Birth; 61.0 years male, 67.0 years female (1991). Age Breakdown; 39% under 15, 27% 15 to 29, 18% 30 to 44, 10% 45 to 59, 5% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1990). Birth Rate; 34.0 per 1,000 (1991). Death Rate; 8.0 per 1,000 (1991). Increase Rate; 26.0 per 1,000 (1991). Infant Mortality Rate; 51.0 per 1,000 live births (1991).


RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians which account for 68% of the population with Bantu Churches accounting for 22%. Other religious minorities include Hindus which account for 1%, Muslims for 1% and Jews for 1%.


LANGUAGES: The official languages are Afrikaans, derived principally from the Dutch language and dialects, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ndebele, Venda, Tsonga, Northern Sotho, Western Sotho and Southern Sotho.


EDUCATION: Economically active population having attained: no formal schooling or incomplete primary 49.4%, primary 9.1%, incomplete secondary 27.5%, secondary 12.4%, higher 1.6% (1985). Literacy; literate population aged 15 or over 76.4% (1980).


MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1948 the National Party (NP) came to power. During the 1950's the National Party passed racial legislation that included the Mixed Marriages Act which prohibited mixed marriages, the Population Registration Act which categorized the nations racial groups, the Groups Area Act which defined areas for ethnic groups to live, the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act and the Immorality Act which prohibited sex between different ethnic groups. On May 31, 1961 South Africa became a republic and left the Commonwealth. In 1955 the African National Congress (ANC) demanded equal political rights and in 1956 Nelson Mandela and other anti apartheid leaders were arrested for high treason. In 1959 the ANC split to form the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) and in 1960 the PAC embarked on a campaign in protest to laws that controlled the movements of Blacks. In Mar. 1961 security forces opened fire and killed 67 PAC demonstrators which led to the introduction of a State of Emergency and the abolishment of the ANC and PAC. The ANC and PAC responded by establishing military groups in neighboring countries and launched a program of sabotage against the government. In 1963 Nelson Mandela, the ANC leader, was imprisoned for life. In 1966 Prime Minister Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated and replaced by B.J. Vorster. In Oct. 1966 the UN passed a resolution for South Africa to end its control of Namibia which finally took place in Dec. 1988. In Sept. 1978 Prime Minister Vorster resigned amid a scandal and P.W. Botha became Prime Minister. During the late 1970's the government established 10 Bantustans or Homelands for all the Black Africans, of which 4 have been granted independence, although they are not recognized by the international community. In 1976 serious unrest escalated in Soweto, in protest to the continuation of discriminative policies of the government and the detention of Blacks by security forces without trials. In Sept. 1984 serious riots broke out which were violently repressed by security forces and in July 1985 another State of Emergency was declared. In June 1986 a new State of Emergency was declared that restricted the media as ANC guerrilla campaigns escalated and young Blacks, also known as Comrades, began to kill other Blacks suspected of cooperating with the Whites or refusing to join their campaign. In Jan. 1989 Prime Minister Botha resigned after suffering a stroke and was replaced by F.W. de Klerk. In Sept. 1989 Prime Minister de Klerk was elected President and began to establish social reforms so that South Africa's political isolation would be brought to an end and the imposed sanctions could be lifted. In Feb. 1990 the ANC, PAC and South African Communist Party (SACP) were again legalized and Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. In June 1990 violence erupted between the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) which is led by Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Bethelezi. In Aug. 1990 the government met with the ANC and demanded an interim government as well as a new constitution based on a single vote for every citizen. In Jan. 1991 the ANC and IFP signed a peace agreement, although clashes between the groups continued. In Feb. 1991 Pres. de Klerk announced major reforms for the new South Africa while 20,000 demonstrators in Cape Town demanded the abolition of apartheid laws. In May 1991 Winnie Mandela, wife of Nelson, was imprisoned for kidnapping as well as being an accessory to assault over the intimidation and disappearance of a witness. In June 1991 the Parliament repealed the Land, Group and Population Registration Acts, although there was strong opposition from the Conservative Party. In July 1991 revelations surfaced that the government had been financing the IFP and Nelson Mandela succeeded Oliver Tambo as ANC President. In Nov. 1991 the government, the ANC and other political parties agreed on further power sharing talks. In Dec. 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) convened in Johannesburg and issued a 17 organization declaration to work towards an undivided, democratic and peaceful South Africa. Also in 1991 the government introduced a VAT that led to a general two-day strike by 3.5 million workers in November. On Mar. 17, 1992 a White referendum gave Pres. de Klerk a mandate to continue constitution negotiations. In April 1992 police captain Brian Mitchell and four black police were found guilty of the 1998 murder of 11 in Natal and Nelson Mandela announced his separation from Winnie Mandela following further allegations of corruption and murder. In May 1992 CODESA II broke down following differences between the government and ANC of the proposed adoption of a new constitution. On June 17, 1992 IFP supporters launched a raid on Boipatong township which resulted in the deaths of 43 people that resulted in ANC leader, Mandela announcing their withdrawal from the CODESA negotiations until the government ended its "campaign of terror". In Aug. 1992 a general strike of some 4 million workers took place. On Sept. 7, 1992 some 600,000 ANC supporters marched on Ciskei homeland in an attempt to remove the local government which resulted in the death of another 28 people as Ciskei troops opened fire on the protesters. On Sept. 26, 1992 Pres. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela following a meeting agreed on a democratically elected body to act as an interim parliament with a government of national unity. In Oct. 1992 Buthelezi broke of negotiations with the government and ANC in protest to their deal and organized mass protests in Johannesburg and Durban. In 1993 the government and ANC announced plans for a one-person, one-vote national election to establish a 400-member Parliament and government which would serve for up to five years. In Jan. 1993 Pres. de Klerk announced further plans do dismantle apartheid that included a single non-discriminatory educational system. In Feb. 1993 the NP appointed three Blacks to its Cabinet and declared itself a multiracial party. In March 1993 the government admitted it had developed nuclear weapons, although it claimed that the six atomic bombs were dismantled in 1989. In April 1993 the ANC chairman, Oliver Tambo died and was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki. On April 10,1993 the secretary-general of SACP, Chris Hani was assassinated and on April 14, 1993 some 1.5 million people took part in mass protests and marches. On May 25, 1993 around 75 PAC members were arrested following a series of attacks on White farms and restaurants. In June 1993 members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbewging (AWB) invaded the World Trade Center in protest to a 26 group negotiation forum being held there and Winnie Mandela was found guilty of being an accessory to assault and kidnapping, although she was only fined. On July 2, 1993 the IFP, the Kwa-Zulu and CP walked out of the forum. In July 1993 there was a gunfight between police and bodyguards of the deputy president of the ANC, Walter Sisulu in which one bodyguard was killed. On July 25, 1993 the PAC's militia, the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), launched an attack on worshipers at St. James Church in Cape Town killing 11 people. In Oct. 1993 Clive Derby-Lewis of the Conservative Party (CP) and a Polish immigrant were found guilty of Hani's murder and sentenced to death. Also in October 1993 the Freedom Alliance was formed and included the CP, IFP, Afrikaner Volksunie (AVU), Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), CP and the AWB. The Freedom Alliance sought separate negotiations with the government and threatened disrupt agreements reached at the negotiation forum in June. On Oct. 8, 1993 the UN lifted trade and economic sanctions against South Africa following Nelson Mandela's address to the UN in Sept. 1993. Also in 1993 Nelson Mandela and Pres. de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize.


CURRENCY: The official currency is the Rand (R) divided into 100 Cents.


ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $118,961,000,000 (1994). Public Debt; USD $2,274,000,000 (1994). Imports; R 59,073,000,000 (1993). Exports; R 79,482,000,000 (1993). Tourism Receipts; USD $1,190,000,000 (1993). Balance of Trade; R 10,786,000,000 (1994). Economically Active Population; 14,297,048 or 35.3% of total population (1994). Unemployed; 32.6% (1994).


MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are the USA, Germany, Japan, the UK and France.

MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Apples, Asbestos, Cereals, Chrome, Citrus Fruits, Coal, Copper, Cotton, Diamonds, Fish, Gold, Grapes, Iron Ore, Limestone, Livestock, Manganese, Nickel, Pineapples, Phosphates, Potatoes, Silver, Sulfur, Timber, Tin, Tobacco, Vermiculite.

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Chemicals, Clothing, Fishing, Food Processing, Forestry, Iron and Steel, Machinery, Mineral, Mining Refining, Motor Vehicles, Paper, Petroleum Refining, Textiles, Tobacco Products.

MAIN EXPORTS: Coal, Diamonds, Food, Gold Coins, Gold, Iron and Steel, Metal Ores.


TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 21,617 km (13,432 mi) (1991), passenger-km 1,205,400,000 (749,001,000 passenger-mi) (1991), cargo ton-km 93,019,000,000 (63,709,000,000 short ton-mi) (1991). Roads; length 188,392 km (117,061 mi) (1991). Vehicles; cars 3,461,395 (1991), trucks and buses 1,863,354 (1991). Merchant Marine; vessels 219 (1992), deadweight tonnage 282,533 (1992). Air Transport; passenger-km 9,511,000,000 (5,910,000,000 passenger-mi) (1992), cargo ton-km 263,487,000 (180,462,000 short ton-mi) (1992).


COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 20 with a total circulation of 1,248,000 (1992). Radio; receivers 11,200,000 (1994). Television; receivers 3,445,000 (1994). Telephones; units 3,659,900 (1993).


MILITARY: 136,900 (1995) total active duty personnel with 86.2% army, 3.3% navy, 6.6% air force and 3.9% medical service while military expenditure accounts for 2.7% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).


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