Republic of South Africa
South Africa gained independence from the British on 31 May 1910, and became a Republic on 31 May 1961. The post-apartheid constitution was ratified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, finally ushering in a new chapter in this country's most interesting, bitter and colorful historical past, and finally recognizing universal suffrage for ALL of her citizens over the age of 18. The first truly democratic election was held on 27 April 1994 now celebrated each year as Freedom Day whereby Nelson Mandela became President. And what a day that was!
The earliest modern inhabitants of South Africa date back to 100,000 years ago, and the country is recognized as an archeological treasure chest. The earliest inhabitants that we can at least name are the Khoisan people. The San are known as Bushmen who are famous for their beautiful rock art and superb hunting skills, and the Hottentots (Khoi) who resided mostly at the southern tip of Africa. The first white Dutch settlers arrived at what is now Cape Town in 1652. Over the years more settlers arrived gradually pushing north, and more indigenous Africans pushed south. This coupled with the discovery of vast natural resources and treasures was a sure recipe for conflict.
The capital city is Thswane (Pretoria) which is about 20 miles north of Johannesburg, and Cape Town is the legislative center where Parliament resides. The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law. South Africa has eleven official languages, English, Afrikaans (most closely associated with Dutch), Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Venda, Swati, Sesotho, Sepedi, Tsonga and Tswana. The currency is the rand.
South Africa is the southern most country on the African continent. The Indian Ocean forms most of the eastern border and the Atlantic Ocean the western border. Mozambique and Swaziland form the north eastern border, Zimbabwe and Botswana form the northern boundaries, and Namibia the north western border. South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho.
The total surface area is roughly twice the size of Texas as a comparison at 471,010 square miles. Topographically the country is like an upside down saucer, with steep coastal mountain ranges rising from narrow coastal plains to a large and vast interior. The climate of the interior is semi-arid with many sunny days in the year, and sub-tropical along the coast, especially the Indian Ocean coast which is much warmer than the Atlantic Ocean. The Tropic of Capricorn runs just north of Thswane.
Arable land is about 12% of the total land surface, and the country has a large, diverse and sophisticated farming industry. The country has the oldest wine industry outside of Europe. South Africa is the world's largest producer of gold, platinum and chromium, and also has vast resources of antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, natural diamonds, copper, vanadium, salt and significant off-shore natural gas deposits.
The country also has a sophisticated financial and telecommunications infrastructure, and there are 728 airports.
The total population is just under 44,5 million people. The ethnic delineation of this is 79% black African, 9,6% white, 8,9% colored and 2,5% Indian and Asian. The largest African tribe are the Zulu.
The active labor force is about 16 million, and the unemployment rate is estimated at about 25%. It is thought that about 50% of the population still lives below the poverty line, and South Africa has one of the highest HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rates in the world at 21,5%. In 2003 it was estimated that about 5,3 million people were affected.
The South African government led by the ANC (African National Congress) has launched a massive black economic empowerment (BEE) initiative to urgently redress the economic imbalances and injustices of the past.