(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together under the Union of South Africa. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid – the separate development of the races. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in black majority rule.|
South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world. Extensive fossil remains at the Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat caves suggest that various australopithecines existed in South Africa from about three million years ago. These were succeeded by various species of Homo, including Homo habilis, Homo erectus and modern humans, Homo sapiens. Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were already present south of the Limpopo River by the fourth or fifth century (see Bantu expansion) displacing and absorbing the original KhoiSan speakers. They slowly moved south and the earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier KhoiSan people, reaching the Fish River, in today’s Eastern Cape Province. These Iron Age populations displaced earlier people, who often had hunter-gatherer societies, as they migrated.
In 1487, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to reach the southernmost point of Africa. Initially named The Cape of Storms, The King of Portugal, John II, renamed it the Cabo da Boa Esperança or Cape of Good Hope as it led to the riches of India. This great feat of navigation was later immortalized in Camoens’ epic Portuguese poem, The Lusiads (1572). In 1652, a refreshment station was established at the Cape of Good Hope by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. Slaves were brought from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as a labour source for the Dutch immigrants in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers eventually met the south-westerly expanding Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, ensued, mainly caused by conflicting land and livestock interests.
Great Britain took over the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795 ostensibly to stop it falling into the hands of the Revolutionary French, but also seeking to use Cape Town in particular as a stop on the route to Australia and India. It was later returned to the Dutch in 1803, but soon afterwards the Dutch East India Company declared bankruptcy, and the British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806. The British continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa, pushing the eastern frontier eastward through a line of forts established along the Fish River and consolidating it by encouraging British settlement. Due to pressure of abolitionist societies in Britain, the British parliament first stopped its global slave trade in 1807, then abolished slavery in all its colonies in 1833. During the 1830s, approximately 12 000 Boers (later known as Voortrekkers), departed from the Cape Colony, where they were subjected to British control, to the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal regions. The Boers founded the Boer Republics – the South African Republic (Now Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces) and the Orange Free State (Free State).
The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior encouraged economic growth and immigration, intensifying the subjugation of the indigenous people. These important economic resources did not only play a role between European and the indigenous population but also between the Boers and the British.
The Boer Republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, much better suited to local conditions. However, the British returned in greater numbers, more experience, and more suitable tactics in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The Boers’ attempt to ally themselves with German South-West Africa provided the British with yet another excuse to take control of the Boer Republics.
After four years of negotiating, the Union of South Africa was created from the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal, on 31 May 1910, exactly eight years after the end of the Second Boer War. The newly created Union of South Africa was a dominion. The Natives’ Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by ‘blacks’, at that stage to a mere 7% of the country, although this amount was eventually increased marginally. The union was effectively granted independence from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which morphed the British king’s position within South Africa into that of the distinct King of South Africa. In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking “Whites”, but split in 1939 over the entry of the Union into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party strongly opposed.
In 1948, the National Party was elected to power, and intensified the implementation of racial segregation that had begun under Dutch and British colonial rule, and subsequent South African governments since the Union was formed. The Nationalist Government systematized existing segregationist laws, and the system of segregation became known collectively as apartheid. Not surprisingly, this segregation also applied to the wealth acquired during rapid industrialization of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, often comparable to First World western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. On 31 May 1961, following a whites-only referendum, the country became a republic and left the Commonwealth. The office of Governor-General was abolished and replaced with the position of State President.
Apartheid became increasingly controversial, leading to widespread sanctions and divestment abroad and growing unrest and oppression within South Africa. (See also the article on the History of South Africa in the apartheid era.) A long period of harsh suppression by the government, and at times violent resistance, strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage by bombing and other means, by various anti-apartheid movements, most notably the African National Congress (ANC), followed. In the late 1970s, South Africa began a programme of nuclear weapons, and in the following decade it produced six deliverable nuclear weapons. The rationale for the nuclear arsenal is disputed, but it is believed[who?] that Vorster and P.W. Botha wanted to be able to catalyse American intervention in the event of a war between South Africa and the Cuban-supported MPLA government of Angola.
In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards negotiating itself out of power when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other left-wing political organisations, and released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years’ incarceration on a sabotage sentence. Apartheid legislation was gradually removed from the statute books, and South Africa also destroyed its nuclear arsenal and acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since.
In post-apartheid South Africa, millions of South Africans, mostly black, continued to live in poverty, though poverty among whites, previously rare, has increased greatly. While some have partly attributed this to the legacy of the apartheid system, increasingly many attribute it to the failure of the current government to tackle social issues, coupled with the monetary and fiscal discipline of the current government to ensure both redistribution of wealth and economic growth. Since the ANC-led government took power, the United Nations Human Development Index of South Africa has fallen, while it was steadily rising until the mid-1990s. Some of this could possibly be attributed to the AIDS pandemic and the failure of the government to take steps to address it,some of it can also be pinpointed to a government policy of redistribution of wealth. As a mitigating factor, the social housing policy of the current government has produced an improvement in living conditions.
|Geography||Location: Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Geographic coordinates: 29 00 S, 24 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 1,219,912 sq km
land: 1,219,912 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries: total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km
Coastline: 2,798 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin
Climate: mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrain: vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resources: gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 12.1%
permanent crops: 0.79%
other: 87.11% (2005)
Irrigated land: 14,980 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 50 cu km (1990)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 12.5 cu km/yr (31%/6%/63%)
per capita: 264 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: prolonged droughts
Environment – current issues: lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
|Politics||South Africa has three capital cities: Cape Town, the largest of the three, is the legislative capital; Pretoria is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. South Africa has a bicameral parliament: the National Council of Provinces (the upper house) has 90 members, while the National Assembly (the lower house) has 400 members. Members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation: half of the members are elected from national lists and the other half are elected from provincial lists. Ten members are elected to represent each province in the National Council of Provinces, regardless of the population of the province. Elections for both chambers are held every five years. The government is formed in the lower house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President.
The primary sources of South Africa law are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European based law in South Africa was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law, both common and statutory. Starting in 1910 with unification, South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies.
Current South African politics are dominated by the African National Congress (ANC), which received 69.7% of the vote during the last 2004 general election and 66.3% of the vote in the 2006 municipal election. The current President of South Africa is Kgalema Motlanthe, who replaced Thabo Mbeki on 25 September 2008. Mbeki succeeded former President Nelson Mandela in 1999, and was re-elected for a second five year term in 2004, but announced his resignation on 20 September 2008.
The main challenger to the rule of the ANC is the Democratic Alliance party, which received 12.4% of the vote in the 2004 election and 14.8% in the 2006 election. Helen Zille, (elected 6 May 2007), is the party leader; the previous leader was Tony Leon. The formerly dominant New National Party, which introduced apartheid through its predecessor, the National Party, chose to merge with the ANC on 9 April 2005. Other major political parties represented in Parliament are the Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters, and the Independent Democrats, who took 6.97% and 1.7% of the vote respectively, in the 2004 election.
Since 2004, the country has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the “most protest-rich country in the world”. Many of these protests have been organised from the growing shanty towns that surround South African cities.
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.2% (male 7,147,151/female 7,120,183)
15-64 years: 65.5% (male 16,057,340/female 15,889,750)
65 years and over: 5.3% (male 1,050,287/female 1,518,044) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 24.2 years
male: 23.8 years
female: 24.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.828% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.23 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 16.94 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 4.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: there is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 45.11 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 49.47 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 40.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 48.89 years
male: 49.63 years
female: 48.15 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.43 children born/woman (2008 est.)