Cape townJohannesburg

Geography and Landscape


South Africa (official: English: Republic of South Africa; African: Republic of South Africa), is a republic in the south of the African continent. The total land area is 1,123,226 km², excluding the "independent" homelands Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda and Walvis Bay; incl.these areas: 1,225,765 km².
The coastline has a total length of 3000 kilometers. South Africa borders Swaziland (430 km) in the east, Mozambique (491 km) in the northeast, Zimbabwe (225 km) and Botswana (1840 km) in the north and Namibia (855 km) in the northwest.

South Africa satellite photoSouth Africa satellite photoPhoto: Public domain

Entirely enclosed by South Africa as an enclave, the mountainous state of Lesoto (total limit length 909 km). In 1947, the (then) Union of South Africa formally took over the uninhabited Prince Edward Island and Marion Island off the coast of Cape Town. Other well-known islands off the coast are Santa Cruz near Port Elizabeth and Robben Island near Cape Town. South Africa borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. The distance from the Limpopo River in the north to Cape Agulhas in the south is approximately 2000 kilometers. The distance from Port Nolloth in the west to Durban in the east is approximately 1500 kilometers.

South Africa's main river is the Orange River, which rises in the Drakensberg Mountains of KwaZulu-Natal and flows into the Atlantic Ocean for more than 2,200 kilometers at Oranjemund and Alexander Bay. Other important rivers are the Vaal, the Limpopo, the Great Fish River and the Tugela. Most of these rivers are barely navigable.


The landscape of South Africa is very varied and can be divided into 21 natural regions.

The Lesotho highlands form the highest part of southern Africa and form the border between Lesotho and South Africa. The highest peaks rise above 3400 meters and the mountain tundra often falls in winter.

The Hoogveld is a gently sloping, elevated area and consists mainly of savannas. Here is also the urbanized Witwatersrand surrounding the important gold and coal mines of South Africa. A lot of corn is also grown here.

Northern Transvaal has various landscapes, including the mountain ranges of the Soutpansberg and the Waterberg Plateau and in between lies the Pietersburg plain, where livestock farming is important.

The Soutpansberg is an important forestry area.

The Ghaap plateau is located in the north of the Cape Province, where due to the semi-arid climate, only livestock farming is possible.

The flat and extensive Bushman plain of the inland plateau is also located in the north of the Cape Province and is only covered with some scrub and only suitable for extensive sheep farming. Striking are the many "pans", lakes that are only filled with water for a certain part of the year.

The Bushveld basin is located north and west of Pretoria. In the flat, central part of the basin, many minerals and precious metals such as platinum, vanadium and chrome are found. The clayey black peat soil is extremely fertile and many crops are grown here.

The flat sandy Kalahari basin is a semi-dry savanna and mainly covered with acacias. In the past, this area was characterized by desert dunes, of which only a few remain.

In the Northern Cape Province lie the valleys of the Lower Vaal and the Orange River, two of South Africa's major rivers. The valleys are located in highly developed areas with, among other things, a gigantic irrigation project (Vaalharts) in the Hartsrivier, a tributary. Kimberley, the center of diamond mining, lies between the two valleys.

Orange River, South AfricaOrange River, South AfricaPhoto: Damien du Toit CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Karoo is a vast semi-arid plain with flattened hills covered with grass and scrub. The highest points of the plateau are Giants Castle (3820 m), Cathkin Peak (3650 m) and Mont aux Sources (3299 m) in the Drakensberg. Only some sheep farming is possible here.

The Transvaal Drakensberg is covered by forests with sufficient rainfall and a place where many tourists stay for hiking. The Transvaal Drakensberg is part of the Great Escarpment (steep erosion edges).

The Natalse Drakensberg is also part of the Great Escarpment with peaks above 3000 meters. A lot of mountaineering takes place here.

The Cape Corrugated Mountains consist of a series of mountain ranges, which are covered with a unique vegetation, the "fynbos" or macchia. Mountaineering is also very popular here. In the valleys between the mountain ranges there are centers for fruit growing and viticulture. The coastal areas have beautiful beaches and deep bays. The only more closed bay is the Saldanha Bay on the west coast.

The Namaqua highlands consist of dry, rocky mountains where a lot of wild flowers grow when there is enough rain. The area bordering Namibia is the Richtersveld.

The Limpopo River forms the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The river flows in the Limpopo Valley, a dry savanna area with open forest land where many livestock are kept and where there are many wildlife parks.

The undulating landscape of the Lowveld or Lowveld lies between the base of the Great Escarpment and the Lemombo mountains in Swaziland, Northern Natal and Transvaal. Due to the hot tropical climate in the summer, the cultivation of tropical fruit is possible here. Here is also the largest reserve in South Africa, the National Kruger Park with forests and savannahs.

Landscape Kruger Park near the Sabie RiverLandscape Kruger Park near the Sabie RiverPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The South East Coast Hinterland is an area of rolling hills and deep river valleys. It extends from Swaziland to the former Ciskei in the south. There is a lot of rainfall that is drained by many rivers to the Indian Ocean.

The Lemombo mountains lie on the border of South Africa and Mozambique in Eastern Transvaal, Swaziland and the north of KwaZulu / Natal. This mountain range is characterized by deep gorges through which rivers flow to the Indian Ocean.

In the northern KwaZulu / Natal lies the coastal plain of Zululand, sandy plains covered with scrub. There are also many lakes and estuaries here. Many animal species live in different nature reserves.

The Southern Coastal Plateau stretches from its southernmost point in Africa to Port Elizabeth. Here you will also find beautiful forests and lagoons.

The rolling plain between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Corrugation Mountains is Swartland. A lot of grain is grown here.

The Namib is a desert and the Benguela Gulf Stream flows along its coasts. The coastal waters are very important for fishing in South Africa. It is also an inhospitable area.

Climate and Weather

Due to its location south of the equator, the South African summer starts in December and winter in June.

Despite the country's enormous size, the climate is relatively uniform and temperate. This applies in particular to the temperature in the interior, which is due to the fact that at lower latitudes the height is generally greater than further south. Typically, the average temperature in Cape Town is 16.5 °C and in much more northern Johannesburg 16.2 °C.

Handful of hailstones in Pretoria, Northern part ofSouth AfricaHandful of hailstones in Pretoria, Northern part ofSouth AfricaPhoto: Bernard Brönn CC 4.0 International no changes made

It is warmest on the east coast with an average temperature of 20.6 °C in Durban. During the day, it averages 27 °C to 22 °C in winter in Durban in summer. The temperature on the west coast is kept evenly low by the cold Benguela Current, the temperature on the east coast is kept evenly high by the warm Agulhas Current.

The hottest month in the interior is January and the hottest month on the coast is February. Even in winter it is still around 20 °C in most places. In the north, October and November are warm months due to the summer rains. In the higher inland it freezes regularly, in the mountainous southeast even more than 100 nights a year. Due to the average low humidity, there is often no more than a thin layer of snow.

Thin layer of snow on Bankberg Mountains, Eastern Cape, South AfricaThin layer of snow on Bankberg Mountains, Eastern Cape, South AfricaPhoto: Leo za1 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In two thirds of South Africa, less than 500 mm of precipitation falls annually. Most of the precipitation in South Africa falls in summer time, when the humid air of the Indian Ocean flows inland forcefully. In Cape Town, on the other hand, most precipitation falls in the months of June to September. The rain often falls in short heavy showers in the summer, after which the sun shines quickly.

West of the eastern mountain ridges receives the least rain, in the rest of the country there is generally a constant amount of rainfall, about 1000mm per year. Except for the southern part of the country, under the influence of disturbances the most precipitation falls in the winter season and a moderate rain climate prevails. The east coast in the south has dry winters. To the west it is getting drier and in the central part there is even a steppe climate with about 100mm per year in the Kalahari desert. In cities such as Bloemfontein and Kimberley in the central part of South Africa, temperatures of 30 °C are easily reached in January and February.

Burning sun on the Kalahari Desert, Northern Cape, South AfricaBurning sun on the Kalahari Desert, Northern Cape, South AfricaPhoto: South African Tourism CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The number of sun hours is very high, for example in comparison to the Iberian peninsula. In Madrid the sun shines an average of 2910 hours per year and in Lisbon 2740 hours. In South Africa, Cape Town has an average of 2,980 hours and Pretoria 3,240 hours per year. Coastal towns of the Cape Province and KwaZulu / Natal receive an average of 300 hours of sunshine more than the Canary Islands.

Plants and Animals


About 10% of all known plant species can be found in southern Africa: approximately 24,000 species. Well-known plants originally from South Africa include geranium, rocket, freesia, tuber rose and gladiolus.

Due to the large differences in precipitation, from east to west increasingly drier, and the distribution of that precipitation over the year, the plant growth in South Africa varies greatly. Soil conditions and height differences naturally also play a major role.

The fine forest region or the Cape Vegetable Kingdom in the southwest is the most remarkable region of South Africa in terms of the plant world. Thousands of endemic species occur here, so species that only occur here and nowhere else in the world. The area is surrounded by the ocean, deserts and mountains and is one of the six official flora kingdoms in the world and is also called "Capensis". Flora rich are areas where the flora is very different from plants found elsewhere. There are 2500 different native species on the Cape Peninsula alone. In this area there are about 600 heather species of a particular family (against 26 species in the rest of the world!) And the most famous orchid of South Africa, the "Pride of Table Mountain" or in English "pride of Table Mountain".

This is also the land of the Protea or sugar forest. The king protea is the national flower of South Africa with flowers of 25 centimeters in diameter.

King or giant protea, national flower of South AfricaKing or giant protea, national flower of South AfricaPhoto: Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC 4.0 International no changes made

Famous are the millions of marigolds that decorate Namaqualand in the Namid Desert in the North Cape Province in the spring. The fine forest also has 1000 varieties of daisies, 600 varieties of irises and 400 varieties of lilies.

The rest of South Africa consists of savannahs, steppes, grasslands and deserts, each with their own vegetation. Only half a percent of the total area consists of forests. Despite that, there are still about 1000 tree species in South Africa. An important forest area is located in the far south around Knysna, west of Port Elizabeth. These evergreen forests include 50-meter-high Podocarpus species or "yellow-tree" (conifers that are almost exclusively found in the southern hemisphere), Cape beech and Olea laurifolia, an olive tree species.

In the area of slightly higher up East London, mangroves are found alongside palms, wild bananas and milk trees. In the east there is a subtropical forest with, of course, palm species and Albizzia species, a plant genus from the mimosa family. Due to the subtropical climate, many types of flowers occur on the east coast, including hibiscus, rhododendron, azalea and golden rain.

Due to the high humidity and a lot of rainfall, we find mountain forests on the eastern slopes of the Drakensberg. The national tree of South Africa is the yellowwood (Podocarpus Latifolius).

Broad-leaved yellowwood or real yellowwood, national tree of South-AfricaBroad-leaved yellowwood or real yellowwood, national tree of South-AfricaPhoto: Abu Shawka in the public domain

Grasslands, with 1,000 native grasses, and savannas are found in areas with summer rainfall, except for the grassy savannas in the southeast where spring and autumn rains occur. All kinds of transitions occur on the savannas, for example to woody grasslands, park landscapes and to tree steps with scattered trees. Characteristic of these landscapes are acacia species and spurge and aloe species in the drier areas. Common grasses include Themeda, Chloris, millet grass, Setaria, Pennisetum and Rhynchelytrum. We also find here the baobab or monkey bread tree, the bark tree and the elephant tree.

Another important flora region is the Namu-Karroo on the central plateau. Here it rains very little, we mainly find low shrubs and grasses. Well-known varieties are kassia wood, kapok bushes, tea bushes, feather grass and ostrich grass. The Catalpa shrub or catalpa can grow to over two meters in height.

Steppe-like deserts (including the Kalahari) are found especially in the western parts of South Africa, where there is little rainfall. In the semi-desert of the Great Karroo (Hottentots for dry or scarce) grow up to 2 m high dwarf shrubs with scaly leaves, and many species of the succulent genus Mesembryanthemum. Large numbers of ice plants and pebble plants are also found here. These plants bloom for a short time in September and October.

Where precipitation is somewhat higher, Pentzia species are characteristic and trees such as the Aloe arborescens are found. Welwitschia mirabilis is a special species in the western desert areas. It is the only surviving species of an extinct family. It resembles a giant root with two leathery, frayed leaves "crawling" on the ground.

Welwitschia mirabilis, South AfricaWelwitschia mirabilis, South AfricaPhoto: Franzfoto CC 3.0 Unported no changes made



In total there are about 400 species of mammals in South Africa with the animals that are characteristic of Africa as a continent, such as lion, panther, hyena, zebra, monkey, rhinoceros, buffalo, wildebeest or wildebeest, giraffe, elephant, antelope, cliff, hippo, warthog, baboon (or bobbejaan) and many more.
Springbok, the national animal of South Africa, blesbok (with the subspecies bontebok), white-tailed wildebeest, buck-antelope, mountain zebra, meerkat, black-footed cat, etc. are exclusively found in Southern Africa. Other species also occur elsewhere in the world, but have a clearly recognizable isolated shape in South Africa, such as the skewer (oryx) and the dik-dik.

The Quagga, Cape Lion, Cape Warthog and the Bluebuck were extirpated long ago and only occurred in the Cape Province. Many endemic (= only occurring in South Africa) forms are known among the smaller mammals; for example the gold moles.
There are five monkey or primate species in South Africa: baboon, gray meerkat, green meerkat and the small and large galago, both nocturnal animals that always live in trees and are actually half-monkeys.

Of the predators, the "king of animals", the lion, is of course the best known. Formerly common, poaching limits their territory to the lowlands of Eastern Transvaal, Northern Natal and the northern part of the Cape Province. The rare white lions are found in the private game reserve Timbivati Game Reserve. The panther and cheetah are other large feline predators. Cheetahs are mainly found in the Kruger Park and the Kalahari Gemsbok Park.

Hyena dogs or African wild dogs and the spotted hyena are besides scavengers also predators that hunt other animals in groups. The brown hyena, on the other hand, is a real scavenger. Other small meat eaters are the jackal, the caracal and the serval.

The many termite mounds and ant heaps are regularly visited by aardwolves, aardvarks and ground pangolins or pangolins.

The African elephant living in herds can reach a height of three meters and is therefore considerably larger and heavier than the Indian elephant. In the Addo Elephant National Park we managed to protect the Cape elephant from extinction. There are two types of rhinoceros in Southern Africa: the white or broad-lipped rhinoceros and the black or pointed-lipped rhinoceros. The broad-lipped rhinoceros was almost extinct in the early 20th century, but due to protective measures and a special breeding program, the number has grown again. Both the tusks of the elephants and the horns of the rhinoceros are highly sought after by poachers. Another pachyderm is the hippopotamus, a herbivore that spends most of its time in the water.

The two wild pig species in South Africa are the brush pig and the warthog with its warty head and large curved tusks.

The most famous ungulate animal in Africa is of course the black and white striped zebra. In South Africa the common or steppe zebra and the endangered mountain zebra occur, which is protected in the National Mountain Zebra Park near Cradock in the Eastern Cape. The giraffe is an imposing appearance that can grow up to six meters high.

Bovine animals include antelopes and cattle. There are 38 species of antelope in South Africa, including the great kudu, the impala, the spiesbok, the ibex, the common diver, the sable, the horse antelope and the springbok, which have been chosen as the symbol and national emblem of South African sports teams. Special species are the gray buck, the nyala and the oribi.

Springbok, national emblem of South African sports teamsSpringbok, national emblem of South African sports teamsPhoto: Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Cattle include the African buffalo that even lions walk around with a large arch.
Many of the smaller mammals live in the air or underground. About 75 species of bats are found in South Africa. Most species are insectivores, and eight species feed on nectar and fruits.

South Africa's largest rodent is the South African porcupine and most notable to see is the jumping hare jumping through the grounds like a kangaroo. The large reed rat is considered a delicacy by some local populations and can weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. The rock cliff or "dassie" looks like a rodent but is closely related to the elephant!

Groups of bottlenose dolphins, a type of dolphin, can often be seen off the coast. The number of sperm whales has increased again due to protective measures. Another species of whale, the giant blue whale, can be seen occasionally on the coast.


The bird world of South Africa is even richer than that of the mammals and includes about 870 species. It must be said that a large part of this consists of migratory birds that hibernate in South Africa, such as the stork and the barn swallow.

Large raptors such as the steppe eagle and the tufted eagle are found in the eastern forest areas. What is smaller is the bateleur or magic eagle, which is so called because of its antics in the air. The large fig trees that grow here are home to many birds, including the turaco, the green pigeon, the hornbill, the bearded bird, the bulbul and the colorful bee-eaters.

Many kingfishers are also found in the forests and along the major rivers. The African kingfisher and the pied kingfishers live along the rivers, the African dwarf kingfisher and the gray-headed kingfisher in the forests.

One of the most beautiful birds in this area is the fork-tailed hawk. The yellow-billed and red-billed toad, hornbills, are very remarkable birds and the southern hornbill is also very striking. The horned raven is a ground hornbill and eats insects, reptiles and other small animals. The hermit cuckoo or "piet-my-vrou" has a very characteristic song.

Red-chested cuckoo, South AfricaRed-chested cuckoo, South AfricaPhoto: Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

On the Hoogveld, the open grass plains of Transvaal and Free State, you can see the rare blue bust or Korhaan and also the Kori bust. Both birds and quail and frankolines are hunted for their meat. A beautiful bird is the cocks-tail widow finch and beautiful to see are the herons that often piggyback with large animals and thus get their food. The large secretary bird also lives here, sometimes in a battle with snakes, which he tries to kill. Endemic to this area are the Cape Rock Springer and the very remarkable Cape Woodpecker, which lives on the ground and feeds on ants.

The forests, slopes and valleys of KwaZulu / Natal have a rich bird life. Here you will find forest weavers, honey suckers, flycatchers, the emerald cuckoo, the purple crested turaco and the endemic black hood optimism. Gray-winged fringes, yellow-breasted pipits live on grassy slopes and Gurney's sugar bird is found near proteas.

The national bird of South Africa is the Stanley or blue crane.

Blue crane, national bird of South AfricaBlue crane, national bird of South AfricaPhoto: Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Bearded vultures, Cape vultures and black eagles search for prey or bait from great heights. The crowned eagle attacks monkeys and small antelopes from trees. Game Valley near Pietermaritzburg is home to more than 300 bird species including kingfishers, wagtails, guinea fowl, hammerhead, long claws, grass warblers, trogons and shrike shrubs.

Along the northeast coast, herons, geese, white pelicans and flamingos find an ideal habitat, as does the majestic African fish eagle. Adjacent to Mozambique in the Ndumo Game Reserve, subtropical environments are home to species such as Pel's fishing owl, brown popnicator, crested guinea fowl and purple-banded honey sucker. Different species of storks, herons (including black heron), bitterns, night herons and even the rare water trapper or African grebe coot live here.

In the Karoo and the Dry Western Areas, the most notable birds are the Black Chinstrap or Karoo Korhaan and the Ludwigs Bustard. The thrush flycatcher, the red-ear prinia and the Layards titmouse are also special. A number of endemic lark species live in the far west: the red desert lark and the Namaqua lark. The most famous bird from this region in the ostrich, of course, the largest bird in the world that can grow up to about 2.5 meters high. In the Kalahari Desert, the enormous nests of Republican weavers are striking, which can measure up to four meters in diameter and house up to 200 birds. The smallest bird of prey in Africa, the African pygmy falcon, often lives in these nests. The sandgrouse occurs at watering holes, which carries water in its belly feathers to give to the chicks.

The fine forest area (mostly low shrubs with small leaves) is home to two endemic species that live on nectar, the Cape sugar bird and the orange breast honey piston. Also endemic are the white-winged canary and the Victorins bush warbler, seed eater and insect eater respectively. The warbler and elf apalis are found in the drier parts of the fine forest.

The colder south and west coasts due to the cold Benguela Gulf Stream attract many seabirds. Special is the black-footed penguin or "pike wine" which breeds in colonies on islands off the coast. We also see large groups of cormorants, kelp gulls and Cape gannets, black oystercatchers and griffon plovers.

African, Cape or South African penguinAfrican, Cape or South African penguinPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported License no changes made

More than a hundred bird species migrate from the Northern Hemisphere to the coasts of South Africa every year. Distances of up to 10,000 kilometers are sometimes covered for five to seven weeks. Most migratory birds are sandpipers.

Amphibians and reptiles

The number of amphibians and reptiles is also very high in South Africa and new species are still being discovered and described. Again some special species such as the primitive, tongueless clawed frog, the narrow-mouthed frogs that only emerge after a rain shower and the endemic South African bull frog. Salamanders occur below the Sahara, and therefore not in South Africa either. The Nile crocodile is only found in reserves.

African bullfrog, South AfricaAfrican bullfrog, South AfricaPhoto: Steven G. Johnson CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The number of turtle species is very large: five species of sea turtles, five freshwater African neckwicks (neckwicks retract their necks in an S-shape; neckworms retract head and neck right under the shell) and twelve species of tortoises, more than anywhere else in the world. The geometric tortoise is the smallest with a length of only 10 centimeters. Red-eared sliders are common but have been imported from North America.

The many gecko species, including the house gecko, devour enormous numbers of insects and are therefore very useful. The Namaqua chameleon is notable for living on the ground. Native reptiles are the girdle-tailed lizards to which the armored girdle-tailed lizard belongs, agames, South African keel lizards, rock lizards and keel scale lizards. The largest African lizard is the Nile monitor, which can grow up to two meters long.
There are also 130 snake species. In addition to the dangerous rock python, a strangling snake, there are 14 species of venomous snakes. These include the black-necked cobra, mambas and the puff adder. The African egg snake is harmless.


South Africa is an Eldorado for entomologists with about 50,000 species. The tropical forest field savannas in the north are home to many species. Giant termites, stick insects, many butterfly species (approx. 800 species of butterflies) and scarab beetles, praying mantis are the most striking species.

Separate is also the Matabele Ant that plunder termite mounds. There are many tropical forms on the east coast, such as beautifully colored cockchafer and beautiful tropical butterflies, such as a large number from the Nymphalidae family.

Matabele ant, South AfricaMatabele ant, South AfricaPhoto: ETF89 CC 4.0 International no changes made

Very strange boarders occur in the Cape region. Famous are the rare wingless beetles that belong to the flying deer family. The national flower of South Africa, the protea, attracts rose beetles (approx. 200 species), cockchafer and golden beetles.

Game Reserves

Outside the reserves, there is still little game to be found. Nature conservation started early with the Umfolosi / Hluhluwewildreserves in 1897 as the predecessor of the internationally famous Kruger National Park in 1898. The Kruger Park is about the same size as half of the Netherlands and is visited by more than 700,000 tourists every year.

Currently, there is a network of 17 national parks, and some 500 provincial nature reserves and other protected areas, which are largely open to the public and are a major draw for domestic and foreign tourism. Some reserves have more visitors than can be processed. Other important protected areas include the Addo Elephant, Mountain Zebra and Bontebok National Park, the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the Drakensberg Reserves in Natal.

Sea turtle shelters are protected on the coast (North Zululand), while Tsitsikamakust National Park includes a coastal strip in the Eastern Cape Province.
Most tourists include a meeting with the "big five", elephant, black rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo.

Griffity Image of the Big Five, found in South AfricaGriffity Image of the Big Five, found in South AfricaPhoto: Vasylysk CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Oldest inhabitants

People lived in South Africa more than two million years ago. They were Stone Age hunters. Bones found at Taung in the North Cape and Sterkfontein near Johannesburg are evidence of this. These hunters left over the years or died out around the year 200.New groups came to the original inhabitants of South Africa, the San (collectors) or Bushmen and Khoikhoi (herders) or Hottentots, who came from the Great Lakes region in Central Africa. Together the two peoples were called the Khoisan and they are often considered to be the oldest inhabitants of South Africa.

Skull of Taung-child, South AfricaSkull of Taung-child, South AfricaPhoto: Didier Descouens CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Centuries later, the Nguni descended to Southern Africa. They were the ancestors of black peoples like Xhosas and Zulus, both Banto people. These peoples, mainly livestock farmers and arable farmers, stayed in one place for much longer and were therefore able to develop better and soon expanded their residential area at the expense of the Khoisan.

With the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century, not much remained of the Khoisan; among others due to smallpox epidemics. The Hottentots live on in tribes like the Nama and the Griekwa, while the Bushmen live in Botswana and Namibia, near the Kalahari Desert.

Portuguese and Dutch

In 1488 the Portuguese Bartholomeu Diaz was the first European to sail around the Cape Peninsula and in 1498 the famous Vasco da Gama followed. The Portuguese used the Cape as a place to stock up on fresh water and food. At the end of the 16th century, the first Dutchman rounded the Cape, Jan Huygen van Linschoten. In the early 17th century, many ships of the United East India Company (VOC) followed. They also used the Cape as a resting point on their way to the east. The first permanent residents were those on board the ship "Haarlem", which was wrecked in Table Bay in 1648. After a year they returned to Holland.

The Dutch East India Company decided in 1651 that a permanent oil change station should be built on the Cape and sent the ship's doctor Jan van Riebeeck on the road. On April 6, 1652, he founded an infirmary and a station at the Cape of Good Hope where provisions could be taken. Grains, vegetables and fruit were also grown and some cattle were kept.

Jan van Riebeeck (1619-1677), founded the first European tradingpost in South Africa Jan van Riebeeck, founded the first European tradingpost in South AfricaPhoto: Public domain

After the Van Riebeeck period, the area was governed by some thirty commanders, governors and commissioners, the best known of whom were Simon van der Stel (1679-1699) and W.A. van der Stel (1699-1707). From 1657, civil servants but also farming families from Holland were allowed to settle as "free citizens" at the Cape. Many Dutch peasant families took advantage of this and, stimulated by favorable conditions, a prosperous agricultural colony was created. However, South Africa has never been a colony in a formal sense. Slaves from East Asia and West Africa were brought in as workers in the same year. From 1685, Huguenots also came to the Cape who initially lived peacefully together with the Dutch, the slaves and the Khoisan. Together with the Dutch, the Germans and the French, the "Afrikanervolk" was created.

Conflicts with the Khoisan due to the expansionism of Europeans increased rapidly, forcing the Khoisan to withdraw into the empty areas of the Cape Colony. Due to the expansion of the area to the east, the Europeans first came into a bloody conflict with the Banto people like the Xhosa. In total, nine of these so-called Kaffir Wars would be fought.

Within fifty years of the creation of the agricultural colony, a serious clash between Governor W.A. van der Stel and the Afrikaners, who were only limitedly represented in the central government bodies and demanded self-government on a number of occasions for the colony at the Cape.

Simon van der Stel (1639-1712), first governor Cape of Good Hope, South AfricaSimon van der Stel, first governor Cape of Good Hope, South AfricaPhoto: Public domain

South Africa under British rule

When this was refused by the VOC, and in 1784 also by the States General, they in February 1795 in the districts of Graaff-Reinet and Swellendam shed the authority of the VOC and placed themselves under a "kind of independent constitution" directly under the authority of the Dutch Republic. The heyday of the VOC had already ended and in 1791 the VOC had already withdrawn from South Africa. The first occupation of the Cape by Britain in 1795 put an end to the existence of the "independent" states. In 1803, under the Treaty of Amiens, the Cape still came under the authority of the Batavian Republic, but in 1806 Britain conquered the area again and in 1814 acquired it permanently.

When the British arrived in the late 18th century, approximately 6,000 Dutch, 5,600 Germans and 2,400 French lived in South Africa (together referred to as Boers or Afrikaners). Furthermore, about 15,000 Khoisan and 25,000 slaves lived there.

Under the British administration, the economy received strong impulses from wine growing and the export of wool. Outside of Cape Town, the free-spirited Peasants strongly opposed the strict rules that the British tried to impose on them. Relations with the Bantoevolk also left a lot to be desired when the settlers were offered Bantoeland as agricultural land.

At the end of the 18th century, tensions arose between the different population groups due to the growing population and the subsequent pressure on livelihoods. The Banto peoples also fought regularly with economic resources as their stake. The Zulus led by Shaka Zulu managed to expand their territory and the other Banto people were driven out.

Image of Zulu king Shaka Zulu, South AfricaImage of Zulu king Shaka Zulu, South AfricaPhoto: James King in the public domain

As a result of these wars, the north and northeast became depopulated and other tribes (including Sotho and Swazi) retreated to the mountains and formed different kingdoms there. In 1828, Shaka was murdered by his brother Dingane.

The Boers also had an increasing need for a new country and wanted to come under the pressure of the British. The Boers also had serious objections to the proclamation of English as the only official language and as the only language of instruction in education. The abolition of slavery and the settlement of 5,000 British emigrants in the Cape Colony also caused bad blood.

After the Sixth Kaffer War with the Xhosa in 1834, the Boers, also known as Voortrekkers, went to the north with ox carts (later the symbol of the struggle for independence) (Great Trek). Conflicts with the Ndebele and the Zulus were resolved in favor of the Boers and after the Battle of the Blood River with the Zulus, parts of Natal were seized. Here the Boers founded the republic of Natalia, which was ruled by an elected People's Council.

Boer Republics in South Africa, end 19th centuryBoer Republics in South Africa, end 19th centuryPhoto: Master Uegly CC 4.0 International no changes made

Britain began to break up that republic since 1842: in 1842 through the conquest of the region east of the Drakensberge (Natal) and in 1846 through the annexation of the region south of the Vaal River under the name "Orange River Sovereignity" . In 1848 the Boers tried unsuccessfully to relocate to the area.

Yet they could not prevent the Boers from establishing their own republics in Transvaal (1852) and Oranje Vrijstaat (1854). Independence by Great Britain was guaranteed and recognized in two tracts, respectively. the Zandrivier Convention and the Bloemfontein Convention. Great Britain replied by declaring Natal as an official colony in 1856. Great Britain soon no longer respected the provisions of the said tracts, as evidenced by the annexation of Basoetoland (1868), of the Transvaal and especially Frystaat diamond fields (1871) and eventually from the South African Republic itself (1877) after the discovery of the Lydenburg goldfields.

The Boers and the British also regularly fought conflicts with the Banto people; the Boers with the Sothos and the British fought a war with the Zulus who were settled in favor of the British in 1879 during the Battle of Ulundi. In 1887, the British annexed Zululand.

Battle of Ulundi (1879), South AfricaBattle of Ulundi (1879), South AfricaPhoto: Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0) no changes made

Boer Wars

They also wanted to improve the position of the black population. There the Boers led by Paul Kruger rebelled in 1880 and the first Boer War was a fact. In the Battle of Majuba Hill, the British were defeated, the Boers regained Transvaal in 1881, and Paul Kruger became president of an autonomous Transvaal. Meanwhile, the Germans had settled in Southwest Africa (now: Namibia) and the British were afraid that they would conspire with Transvaal.

Paul Kruger, president of Transvaal, South AfricaPaul Kruger, president of Transvaal, South AfricaPhoto: CC-BY-4.0 no changes made

To this end, the protectorate of Bechuanaland (now: Botswana) was proclaimed in 1885 with Cecil Rhodes in charge. Together with his British South African Company, he tried to realize a British corridor from the Cape to Cairo in Egypt. Before that he also colonized the area of Rhodesia, present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia. In order to further realize his ideals, it was necessary for South Africa to be governed centrally, and of course an autonomous Transvaal did not fit in with that. In addition, gold had been discovered in Witwatersrand in 1886, and the economic center of gravity shifted from the Cape to more northerly Johannesburg.

As a result, the British lost more and more authority and Rhodes, together with fellow countryman Jameson, tried to overthrow the Boer authority in Transvaal. However, this so-called Jameson's Raid in 1895 completely failed.

In 1899, after a long diplomatic dispute, the British again declared war on the Boers (second Boer War). The Boers defended themselves vigorously, but due to lack of food and lack of aid, the Treaty of Vereeniging was concluded and the Orange Free State and Transvaal came under British authority, but remained largely self-governing.

Paul Kruger could not handle this situation, left for the Netherlands and was succeeded by Colonel Jan Smuts. In 1910 Transvaal, Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Natal united in the Union of South Africa and Louis Botha became the first Prime Minister.

General Louis Botha, first prime-minister of South AfricaGeneral Louis Botha, first prime-minister of South AfricaPhoto: IWM Collections in the public domain

To satisfy both the Boers and the British, it was decided to establish the parliament in Cape Town, the government in Pretoria and the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein. The union remained part of the British Empire, but decided on domestic affairs. The position of the non-whites deteriorated. Banto areas such as Transkei and Swaziland gained special status and Natal was annexed by farmers. At the end of the 19th century, non-white populations were not allowed to settle just anywhere. Protests against this manifested themselves in the non-violent resistance of the Indians led by Mahatma Gandhi. The Africans were dissatisfied with the reconciliation policies of Botha and his South African Party (SAP). Figures such as General Jan Hertzog were dissatisfied with the British dominance in the economy and against his striving for equivalence between "that black danger" and the white population. The founder of the black ANC (African National Congress) added fuel to the fire and Hertzog founded the Nasionale Party, and split off the SAP.

In World War I, Botha supported Britain, which again sparked anti-British sentiments. Republican thought re-emerged: South Africa, separate from Britain, could remain outside British wars. Furthermore, German Southwest Africa was attacked and the government took over there. This led to the "Rebellion", in which the generals Beyers, De la Rey, De Wet and Kemp took part. The rebellion failed, but it strengthened the ranks of the Nasionale Party.

After World War I, Southwest Africa became a union mandate with the permission of the League of Nations (now: United Nations). After Botha's death, Jan Smuts succeeded him in 1919 and again three years later, Smuts was succeeded by the nationalist Hertzog, under whose rule the African officially became the second language. Under his rule, the seeds of apartheid were sown. He sought greater independence from Britain and limited the freedoms of the non-white population. In 1926 at a Reich conference in London, he was able to express the famous formula that within the British Empire both Britain and the Dominions would be autonomous and equal communities, voluntarily associated under the Crown.

Jan Smuts (1870-1950), general, statesman en philosopher, South AfricaJan Smuts (1870-1950), general, statesman en philosopher, South AfricaPhoto: Unknown CC 3.0 Nederland no changes made

In the 1930s, when South Africa was also hit by world depression, Smuts' Suid African Party merged with Hertzog's Nasional Party to form the United Party. Some nationalist hardliners immediately separated and founded under the leadership of D.F. Malan de Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party, the most important organ of which is the Broederbond. General Hertzog became leader, General Smuts became leader. In the midst of this development, Britain's declaration of war on Germany came in early September 1939. A proposal by General Hertzog to remain neutral was rejected and a proposal by General Smuts to declare war was adopted. The governor-general declined to dissolve parliament, thanked Hertzog as prime minister, and Smuts became prime minister of a coalition cabinet that included all parties except the Malan Nasional Party, which now included Hertzog (temporarily) and a large number of his followers, who was given the name Reunited Nasionale Party. In World War II, South Africa played an important military role both in Africa (including in Ethiopia) and in Europe (Italy).

Apartheid becomes government policy

After the war, the United Party enacted some repressive laws that received much support from the white population. The other population groups were, of course, less enthusiastic about this and the resistance against it quickly took shape. Smuts therefore lost more and more prestige due to the increasingly powerful position of the non-white population. The white people saw their privileged position increasingly jeopardized and moved more and more to Malan, who won the elections in 1948 and was able to start with the detestable apartheid policy.

Example of Apartheid in South AfricaExample of Apartheid in South AfricaPhoto: Dewel in the public domain

His idea was to let the various population groups live in separate residential areas so that they would retain their own identity. Initial opposition to these plans and their implementation was unstructured and marginal. Only in 1952 did the ANC organize a "National Disobedience Campaign". In 1955, the Congress of the People, protest organizations of all races and colors, adopted the Freedom Manifesto. It stated that South Africa belonged to all populations (including whites) and that political power should also be distributed among the populations. This freedom manifesto would henceforth serve as a charter for the ANC. However, the ANC was also divided. In 1959, the Pan Afrikanist Congress (PAC) was founded by a group of ANC people who felt that there could be no room for whites in the ANC.

Among the successors of Malan (limited voting rights for colored people), Johannes Strijdom in 1954 and Hendrik Verwoerd in 1958, his policy to allocate blacks to independent home countries and to no longer have representatives in the South African government continued, and the position of the whites grew stronger and stronger. In 1961, therefore, only the white population was consulted about the relationship with Great Britain. The vast majority chose independence and South Africa was declared a republic.

1961 was also the year of "Sharpeville", where a demonstration by the PAC against Pass Laws left 69 dead.

Mass graves Sharpeville, South AfricaMass graves Sharpeville, South AfricaPhoto: Andrew Hall CC 4.0 Internationaal no changes made

The government declared a state of emergency, ANC and PAC were banned, and the power of the army and police grew. Both the PAC and the ANC were forced to establish an underground military department that violently opposed apartheid policy. However, important black leaders like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu were captured and sentenced to life in 1963, weakening the black opposition in the 1960s. Prime Minister Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966.

His successor, J.B. Vorster, as Minister of Justice, had been responsible for legislation to combat the opposition to apartheid and was now implementing the homeland policy designed by Verwoerd to shape territorial segregation. In the early 1970s, the black opposition recovered again through the founding of Steve Biko's Black Consciousness Movement and a strengthening of the black unions that organized many strikes. In 1976, a demonstration in Soweto against the mandatory use of Afrikaans in schools resulted in a massacre: more than 1,000 deaths.

Hector Pieterson Memorial, in honour of a 13 year old boy who died during 'Sharpeville', South Africa Hector Pieterson Memorial, in honour of a 13 year old boy who died during 'Sharpeville', South AfricaPhoto: Ina96 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

At the funeral of Steve Biko things started to get messy again. Biko died on September 12, 1977 of injuries sustained in a police cell.

The international community issued an arms boycott on this. In 1978 Prime Minister Vorster stepped down and Pieter Willem Botha took over the leadership of the reigning Nasionale Party. He soon envisioned that white South Africa would not have a long future and gave the Asians and colored people their own room in parliament. He also tried by the formation of a black middle class to create a dam against the ANC, which gained more and more support among the black population. The governments of the black homelands, including those of Kwa Zulu (where G. Buthelezi had long enjoyed popularity with his Inkatha movement), were also called in for that purpose.

Steve Biko, fighter against Apartheid in South AfricaSteve Biko, fighter against Apartheid in South AfricaPhoto: Unknown photographer CC 4.0 International no changes made

This hardly changed the bad position of these groups, not to mention the black part of the population. They only had something to say in the homelands not officially recognized by anyone. However, these prudent reforms did have consequences. For example, the Conservative Party led by Andries Treurnicht split from the Nasionale Party. In addition, more than 600 South African organizations united in the United Democratic Front (UDF) to engage in the fight against the apartheid regime.

Foreign countries began to stir and various (including economic) sanctions against the apartheid regime followed. The neighboring countries in Southern Africa, the "frontline states", also condemned apartheid policies and tried to hit South Africa economically by trying to become less dependent on South Africa. In the 1980s, foreign pressures continued to intensify and apartheid was gradually dismantled. But first, in the mid-1980s, the freedom measures were tightened to prevent disturbances. This led to a popular uprising organized by the ANC-in-exile, which was violently repressed. Botha then declared a state of emergency and at that time South Africa had in fact become a police state, giving the army, police and intelligence services free rein.

International protest and Nelson Mandela is released

The international community responded by increasingly isolating South Africa. The unions united in the COSATU also put increasing pressure on the Botha government and also demanded the release of Nelson Mandela, the symbol of the fight against apartheid.

The ban on peaceful opposition to apartheid, promulgated in 1988, sparked a storm of international protests. In Natal, meanwhile, the struggle between the rival black groups ANC (mainly Xhosa) and the Inkatha movement of Buthelezi (mainly Zulu) flared up again.

In early 1989, Botha retired as Prime Minister and later as President for health reasons, and with the arrival of the new husband of the Nasionale Party, Frederik Willem de Klerk, the reform process accelerated irreversibly. De Klerk understood that it couldn't go on like this and decided in 1990 to release Nelson Mandela. Furthermore, he abolished most apartheid laws and all opposition parties (including ANC and PAC) were legalized. Namibia's independence was negotiated during the 1980s, which finally led to its declaration of independence on 21 March 1990. South African troops withdrew from Namibia. The Walvis Bay issue was raised in Sept. Solved in 1993 when South Africa agreed to transfer the area to Namibia on 1 March 1994.

Frederik Willem de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prisonFrederik Willem de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison South AfricaPhoto: Mark Neyman / Government Press Office (Israel) CC 3.0 no changes made

The last apartheid law, the Law on Personal Registration, was abolished in 1991. In September 1991, De Klerk, Mandela and Buthelezi, together with 23 other organizations, signed a national peace agreement, in which the parties undertook, among other things, to limit the violence. Nevertheless, the violent rivalry between ANC members in particular and the Zulu of Inkatha leader Buthelezi did not subside. Especially in Natal and in the urban areas in Transvaal (including Soweto) many victims were reported.

On March 17, 1992, Nelson Mandela was finally released and negotiations for a new constitution and a new government could begin (CODESA = Convention for a Democratic South Africa). A 1992 referendum found that most whites supported the reforms, but leaders De Klerk (NP), Nelson Mandela (ANC) and Buthelezi (Inkatha Freedom Party of the Zulus) were unable to reach any agreement. For example, ANC and IFP already had serious views on the governance of the Zulu community in Natal. This led to very violent clashes between supporters of both parties in Natal and the townships around Johannesburg. Thousands of blacks died and all parties were powerless. In April 1992, the EC lifted the oil boycott (effective from 1985), as well as the sports boycott and the ban on scientific and cultural contacts with South Africa. De Klerk and Mandela's efforts to establish a black majority government acceptable to the white population led in 1993 to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to both.

Nelson Mandela, first black president of South AfricaNelson Mandela, first black president of South AfricaPhoto: South Africa The Good News/ CC 2.0 no changes made

First democratic elections

In 1993, it was agreed that a provisional parliament and a government of national unity would govern the country until 1999. Despite protests and violence by white extremists, the first democratic elections were held in South Africa from 26 to 29 April 1994. Nelson Mandela became the big winner and the ANC the biggest party with 62% of the votes. The NP (20%) and the IFP (10%) only gained a majority in the Western Cape and Kwazulu Natal respectively. Nelson Mandela became president, with De Klerk (NP) and Thabo Mbeki (ANC) as vice-presidents. Mandela's program included the construction of a million homes in five years and improvements in education and health care. The international world immediately recognized the new country's administration and formally ended sanctions against South Africa. The country joined large international organizations such as the United Nations (June 1994), OAE and OMF.

Nelson Mandela stepped down as agreed and handed over the lead to Thabo Mbeki. The human rights situation during the apartheid regime was investigated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Thabo Mbeki, from 1999-2008 president of South AfricaThabo Mbeki, from 1999-2008 president of South AfricaPhoto: Ricardo Stuckert CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

President Mandela, who announced in 1995 that he was not eligible for re-election after his term in office in 1999, soon faced several crises. Pastor Allen Boesak, an important figure within the ANC, for example, withdrew as candidate ambassador for South Africa to the UN after accusations that he had put aid funds for social projects in his own pocket.

Furthermore, Winnie Mandela, from whom President Mandela lived separately, was discredited by a series of statements distancing herself from government policy and financial scandals. She has also been charged with involvement in a number of murders. In May 1995, Mandela accused Inkatha of fueling violence in KwaZulu / Natal province, killing more than 2,000. Local elections in November 1995 won two-thirds of the votes cast for the ANC.

In May 1996, the Constitutional Assembly overwhelmingly approved the new Constitution, which will enter into force after the 1999 elections. In May 1996, the Nasional Party left the Government of National Unity and continued in opposition under the name of New National Party. A month earlier, Bishop Tutu opened the first session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to clarify the crimes of apartheid. Perpetrators of the "dirty war" would receive amnesty if they gave the Commission a full opening.

Flag Nuwe Nasionale Party (new National Party)Flag Nuwe Nasionale Party (new National Party)Photo: Vectorebus (public domain)

The government pursued a prudent economic policy aimed at reducing the budget deficit and reducing taxes for low and middle incomes. GDP grew by over 4% and inflation fell to over 7%. Army units were deployed in the Johannesburg area to fight crime. The insecurity was a major reason for the hesitant attitude of international investors.

21st century

On April 14, 2004, national elections were held for the third time since the end of apartheid. President Mbeki was reelected. Voter turnout was around 75%, indicating a continued high level of political engagement, albeit still targeting "identity politics". The ANC obtained more than two thirds (almost 70%) of the votes cast, which means it is now in a position to make unilateral constitutional changes. However, the first indications indicate that the ANC will not use this option, but rather seeks consensus. President Mbeki has therefore included a number of non-ANC members into his government squad, notably members of The New National Party (NNP) that emerged from the old "apartheid" National Party.

Both the NNP and IFP lost votes and seats in the election, making the ANC the largest party in all nine provinces and (with the exception of Kwazulu Natal) an absolute majority in all provinces. In August 2004, NNP leader Van Schalkwyk announced that the NNP would merge with the ANC. This is a remarkable step, as a result of which the founders of apartheid are now absorbed by the party that has fiercely contested that system.

The land reform issue, consisting of land restitution, land redistribution and ownership review, is also an important part of the transformation process in South Africa. Based on a system of willing buyer, willing seller, land is purchased for restitution or redistribution among former disadvantaged population groups. However, the process is too slow for many of them. More vigorous measures were announced during the November 2005 Land Summit, with the aim of reducing the need for expropriation, for example.

The growing contradictions within the alliance came even more sharply into the limelight around the local elections of March 1, 2006, with the ANC incidentally maintaining the absolute majority in most districts against most expectations. Only in Cape Town did the ANC surrender power to the Democratic Alliance.

Jacob Zuma, between 2007 and 2017 leader of the ANCJacob Zuma, between 2007 and 2017 leader of the ANCPhoto: Australian Embassy Jakarta CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Another fact that has sharpened the political relations in South Africa (and especially within the ANC) is the events surrounding ex-vice president Jacob Zuma. Zuma is suspected of fraud and corruption in a major arms deal involving prominent ANC businessman Schabir Shaik. Shaik has since been convicted and the judge ruled that his relationship with Zuma was “generally corrupt”. The case against Zuma starts in June 2006. Zuma was put aside by President Mbeki because of this matter and pending the lawsuit and replaced by Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. In addition, in November 2005, Zuma was charged with the rape suit of a 31-year-old family friend and HIV-positive AIDS activist. Pending this matter, Zuma also had to resign its leadership activities within the ANC. Zuma, and large parts of the ANC believe that both cases are part of a plot against him to keep him from running for president in 2009 when Mbeki's term ends. Zuma has now been acquitted of the rape charge and has resumed his duties within the ANC. While both issues have weakened Zuma's position, his role has certainly not yet been played. Within the ANC and between the Alliance partners, this has led to a fierce battle over the succession of President Mbeki. In December 2007 Zuma becomes President of the ANC, which strengthens his position as a presidential candidate. In May 2008, ethnic violence emerged against immigrants from Malawi Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In September 2008, Mbeki stepped down under pressure from the ANC and Kgalema Motlanthe is elected interim president until the 2009 presidential election, where Zuma is the main contender. Zuma is elected president in May 2009. South Africa will host the World Cup in June 2010. In May 2011, the opposition of the Democratic Alliance doubles its vote in local elections. In 2012 it is restless within the ANC. The police shoot demonstrators (there are many deaths) at the Marikana mine and Julius Malema, former youth leader at the ANC, is accused by Zuma of fraud. According to Malema, these allegations are politically motivated because of his criticism of his actions against the strikers. In December, Zuma is reelected as leader of the ANC.

After a long illness, Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. The funeral takes place under the overwhelming interest of world leaders. In May 2014, the ruling ANC wins elections despite corruption allegations from its leader President Zuma. In February 2015, Zuma launched plans to reduce farm size and discourage foreign ownership. Allegations of bribery surrounding the 2010 FIFA World Cup and admitting of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir despite an international arrest warrant will come in June 2015. In March 2016, the Supreme Court found that Zuma had violated the constitution for failing to repay public money used to improve his private home. In December 2017, Zuma loses the fight for the ANC party chairmanship from his critic Cyril Ramaphosa and further weakens his post. In January 2018, the ANC board insists on the resignation of Zuma. There are fears that the party will perform poorly in the 2019 parliamentary elections when the unpopular Zuma stays on.

Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South AfricaCyril Ramaphosa, president of South AfricaPhoto: ITU Pictures CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

On February 14, 2018, Zuma stepped down as president of South Africa and a day later Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as the new president. The elections of May 8, 2019 were won by a large majority by the ANC (57.51% of the votes) and Ramaphosa was sworn in as president for five years on May 25, 2019.


The population of South Africa increased more than sevenfold between 1911 and 2000 from over 6 million to 43.5 million. In 2017, there are 54,841,552. The population increase averaged 1% from 2000 to 2014 (0.99% in 2017). In 2017, 80.2% of the population are black, 8.4% white, 8.8% colored, and 2.5% Indian. Other groups are marginal.

In the period 1985 to 2017, the number of blacks increased and the number of whites decreased. Blacks also include the inhabitants of the homelands Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei and Venda.

Population density South AfricaPopulation density South AfricaPhoto: I, Htonl in the public domain
Population structure South AfricaPopulation structure South AfricaPhoto: Central Intelligence Agency in the public domain

The average lifespan of white South Africans is considerably higher than that of their black compatriots. The average lifespan of all men and women is 62.4 and 65.3 years, respectively. (2017)

Bantu peoples spread south from Central Africa some 2,000 years ago. Its descendants make up the black population of present-day South Africa. However, it is a very heterogeneous group with its own languages, customs, house building, etc.

The black population consists of nine ethnic groups (nations). The white government used this classification when geographically distributing the ethnic groups across the home countries. The largest group are the Zulus, followed by the Xhosas, the North Sothos, the South Sothos, the Tswana's, Shaanaan-Tsonga's, Swazi's, South Ndebele, North Ndebele, Venda's and others.

Xhosa, South AfricaXhosa, South AfricaPhoto: South African Tourism CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Zulus in traditional clothing, South AfricaZulus in traditional clothing, South AfricaPhoto: Jean-Claude Hanon CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Millions of blacks live in the "townships" or "shantytowns", residential areas for the black population on the outskirts of major cities, but the exact number is impossible to determine. People often live in slums and shortages of real houses are estimated at three million. Well-known townships are Soweto near Johannesburg, Mamelody near Pretoria and Crossroads near Cape Town. Each "nation" is divided into a number of tribes or "tribes". The Zulus, for example, consist of more than 200 tribes.

The white population had more than 5 million souls in 1993. It consists of the descendants of Dutch, French and German settlers, the descendants of British settlers and immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe who came in the 20th century. Often a distinction is made between the Afrikaners (approx. 57% mainly in the Transvaal province and in Free State), consisting of the descendants of the oldest groups of settlers, and the English speakers (approx. 38% mainly in the Cape Province and KwaZulu / Natal). The other five percent are immigrants who came to South Africa in the 20th century.

A very large proportion of colored people live in the Cape Province. The colored people are descendants of Hottentots mixed with white settlers, blacks and slaves from the Middle East. In 1959 this population group was divided into Cape colored people, Cape Malayans, Griqua (mixture of Hottentots and Europeans from the northeast and northwest of the Cape Province), Chinese, "other Asians" and "other colored people". In 1967 this classification was partially revoked. In practice, descent became a more important criterion than appearance. The colored community is divided in terms of politics and culture: some seek connections with the whites, others feel more affinity with the blacks.

99% of the Asians are of Indian descent. Most of the nearly one million Indians live in Natal and are descendants of indentured servants who came to South Africa from what was then British India in the 19th century. In addition, about 12,000 Chinese have emigrated to South Africa since 1920. Africa's largest Indian community lives in and around Durban.

Female wool washers from India (19th century), South AfricaFemale wool washers from India (19th century), South AfricaPhoto: Public domain

The population distribution is uneven. Large parts of the country are almost empty because the desert-like regions, where no minerals are found, remain virtually uninhabited.

In 2017, more than 66% of the population lived in urban areas. The fastest growing urban area is Cape Town and its environs, in which more than 4.4 million people lived in 2017. Other major agglomerations are: Johannesburg / Soweto / Alexandra (approx. 9.2 million); Durban / Inanda / Kwamashu (approx. 3.1 million); Pretoria / Mamelodi / Soshanguve (approx.2.4 million).


In South Africa, 11 languages are more or less considered official after the early 1990s. English and African (since 1925) were until then considered the official languages by the government and are also used in parliament. The nine languages are often divided into four language groups, Venda, Tsonga, Nguni and Sotho. The most widely spoken languages are Zulu (28% of the black population) and Xhosa (27%), the main languages of communication, and further African, Tswana (12%), North Sotho (11%), English, South Sotho (9 %) and Tsonga (4%), Ndebele (3%), Swazi (3%) and Venda (3%).

Languages with no official status include - mainly spoken by Indians - Tamil (spoken by 24% of the Asian population), Hindi (19%), Gujerati (12%) and Urdu. Also without official recognition, the languages of European immigrants are: German, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian and Greek.

The "Fanagalo" is a mixed language that originated over time and is a mixed language of African English and Bantu languages.

Sign at the beach with text in English, Afrikaans and ZuluSign at the beach with text in English, Afrikaans and ZuluPhoto: Guinnog CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Afrikaans is one of the two official languages of the Republic of South Africa, and the mother tongue of approximately 4 million South Africans, as well as some populations in Namibia in eastern Zimbabwe. The language belongs to the West Germanic language group and has a great similarity in character and character to the Germanic languages. But of course in the first place with Dutch, from which the language originated since the mid-17th century. English and German influences are also clearly recognizable. Most words come from Dutch and as such are easily recognizable to Dutch people, but many new words have been formed over the centuries that are unknown in the Dutch language.

These words come in chronological order from Khoisan, the language of the Hottentots, Malay and Portuguese, and later from the Bantu languages and finally from English. English has by far had and still has the strongest influence on vocabulary.

In the 18th century, development into Afrikaans as a colloquial language was completed, and "High-Dutch" remained as a written language. The first writing that consciously used Afrikaans was the song in honor of the Swellendamsche and various other heroes, etc. from 1795.

The British occupation of the Cape resulted in the displacement of Dutch-African by English, and in 1822 English was made the first language and shortly afterwards it became the only official language. Nevertheless, Afrikaans as a colloquial language would remain alive, especially in the countryside. However, it would take until the founding of the 'Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners' started for a deliberate endeavor, to come to the recognition of Afrikaans as a national and national language and to develop it into a fully-fledged language of instruction. This endeavor was finally rewarded: from 1914 to 1918, African became increasingly the medium of education in primary and secondary education.

Afrikaans, an official language in South AfricaAfrikaans, an official language in South AfricaPhoto: ECSequeira CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

From 1918, Afrikaans was introduced as a subject of study at universities and became the language of instruction, and in 1925 the African language became the official national language in addition to English. On May 29, 1933, the first shipment of the London-printed Bible in African was brought to Cape Town. This was an important moment in the history of this language and the crowning of the Second African Movement.

Examples of this language influence;

From Khoisan tribe:

From Bantu:

From Malay:

Bobotie, a South African dishBobotie, a South African dishPhoto: Olga Ernst CC 4.0 International no changes made

From Portuguese:

From English:

Afrikaans originated in the dialect and vernacular of the early settlers. They came from various regions, but mainly from South Holland, Zeeland and the west of Utrecht. Contacts with the motherland soon faded and the dialects mixed with the usual consequences: the language was leveled and the differences in pronunciation, word usage and sentence structure were arbitrarily chosen, and a strong tendency to simplify developed. Thus, conjugation and inflection have largely disappeared. For example, the verb orphan, in Dutch, "to be" is conjugated as follows:

ek is = you is
hy is = is us
julle is = you are

Very striking within Afrikaans is also the double denial:

ek het dit nie gedoen nie

The near absence of the simple past:
ek het vir my vrou gesê = I told my wife

The diminutive ending tjie:
bietjie, meisietjie, seuntjie.

New words emerged for specific African affairs, animals and plants and words that related to specific Dutch affairs disappeared or were transferred to similar phenomena in the new country. New African words were also formed from existing Dutch words. Examples of these developments are:


About 77% of all South Africans are members or consider themselves members of one of the many Christian churches or movements. The establishment of the Calvinist church in South Africa was a result of the colonial policy of the United East India Company. During that period, other churches were not allowed to hold worship or mission.

It was not until 1779 that German Lutherans were allowed to open a church building, and many other missionaries followed in the centuries that followed. The so-called black independent churches, the African Independent Churches, have been the largest religious community in South Africa since approx. 1850, with more than 3000 different independent churches, together more than 6 million members. Sometimes they consist of only one congregation and sometimes they have tens of thousands of members. These exclusively black churches are distinguished in the Ethiopian Church and the Zionist Church, where the Holy Spirit, healing and elements of traditional African religion play a major role.

Both directions adhere to a deeply entrenched belief experience, are very focused on their leaders, are very conservative, are opposed to European beliefs, and are generally based on their own interpretation of the Bible. The largest of these churches is the Zionist Christian Church, which has several million members throughout southern Africa and was founded in 1914 by "prophet" Engenas Lekganyane. Another big black church is that of the Baptist Church, established in Natal in 1911 by the Zulu Isaias Shembe de Nazareth.

There are three white churches in South Africa, of which the strong Calvinist Lower German Reformed Church with 1,350,000 members is the most influential. In the 19th century the Lower German Reformed Church of Africa (1853) and the Reformed Church of Africa or the Dopperkerk (1859) split from the Lower German Reformed Church. The meeting of the Lower German Reformed Church in 1857 allowed racially separate church services.

Nizamiye Masjid, biggest mosque in South Afriica, MidrandNizamiye Masjid, biggest mosque in South Afriica, MidrandPhoto: MaseehKat CC 4.0 International no changes made

As a kind of daughter church, the Lower German Reformed Sending Church for Reformed Colorists was founded in 1881, followed by separate Reformed Churches for blacks (Lower German Reformed Church in Africa) and for the Indians the Reformed Church in Africa. The white Lower German Reformed continued to dominate these three divisions both financially and ideologically. Since 1974, opposition to this dominant position has increased by the Broederkring, a group of pastors and lay people who were renamed the Confessing Circle in 1983.

Old Duitch Reformed chruch, Mainstreet, Clanwilliam, South AfricaOld Duitch Reformed chruch, Mainstreet, Clanwilliam, South AfricaPhoto: Andrew Hall CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Within the Lower German Reformed Church in Africa and the Lower German Reformed Sending Church, resistance grew in the 1980s against this expression of apartheid policy. One of the prominent figures of the Sendingkerk was Dr. Allan Boesak who was also a strong supporter of the joining of both groups in the United Reformed Church. For multiracial churches such as the Roman Catholic (established in South Africa only in the 2nd half of the 19th century), the Methodist, the Anglican (from 1749), the Lutheran (especially in the Cape Province and Transkei) and the Presbyterian (from 1806), a large majority of supporters are blacks. Later Baptists, Greek Orthodox and the Pentecostal church were added.

The most imaginative ecclesiastical leader is Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was therefore not surprising that he was the first black South African to take charge of the Anglican Church, which has always resisted the apartheid system. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his opposition to apartheid.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South AfricaArchbishop Desmond Tutu, South AfricaPhoto: Benny Gool in the public domain

Ecumenical cooperation developed from the General Missionary Conference (founded in 1904), through the Christian Council for South Africa (1936), to the South African Council of Churches, which was founded in 1968 and internationally acclaimed. Tutu, CF. Beyers Naudé and F. Chikane are their leaders.

The number of Hindus is more than half a million, making this religion by far the most important among the Indians. The majority of the more than 400,000 Muslims are found among the colored people and the Indians in large cities such as Durban and Cape Town, the number of Jews is estimated at 150,000.

Before the arrival of the whites, the original inhabitants of South Africa, Hottentots, Bushmen and the various Banto people each had their own indigenous religions. Fertility rituals, harvest rituals, ancestor worship and the holy belief in the existence of higher powers and forces are common features. At the end of the 20th century, another quarter of the black population would adhere to these religions. Inyangas and sangomas, traditional African healers, also play an important role in the culture and religious life of the black South Africans, even in the big cities.

Inyanga Sylvester from Alexandra, Johannesburg South AfricaInyanga Sylvester from Alexandra, Johannesburg South AfricaPhoto: Mycelium101 at English Wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


State Structure

South Africa is a presidential republic, which previously consisted of a three-chamber parliament of whites, colored people and Asians.

The current constitution of the Republic of South Africa dates from 1996. The new constitution provides for a 400-seat Commons or National Assembly and a 90-member Senate (ten for each province) that have been operating since April 27, 1994. The House of Commons contains the elected representatives of national and regional electoral lists of the political parties. Everyone from the age of 18 has voting rights. The House of Commons is elected every four years, the Senate is composed of representatives of the provinces. The House of Commons elects the President, who holds about as much power as the President of the United States or France.

Meeting room of the National Assembly, South AfricaMeeting room of the National Assembly, South AfricaPhoto: Shi Zao CC 2.0 Unported no changes made

Administrative division

South Africa is divided into nine provinces according to the new constitution. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Provinces of South AfricaProvinces of South AfricaPhoto: Htonl CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Education among the black population was also severely affected by the apartheid regime. In 1953, the "Bantu Education Act" further restricted education for blacks, and mission education was also taken over entirely by the state. The government also determined education policy in terms of content and facilities. For example, education could only be taught in one's own language and the level was deliberately kept low.

In 1959, students were only allowed to go to a university of their own "color". Studying at the large "white" universities such as the University of Cape Town and that of Witwatersrand was excluded for colored people and blacks. Only In 1986, all races were in principle allowed to universities. This situation remained the same until 1990 and, for example, compulsory education for blacks was only arranged in 1991. For whites, compulsory education started in 1953, for Asians in 1979 and for colored people in 1980. However, black schools were struggling from the beginning with poor buildings, poor teaching materials, far too large classes, too small budgets. Illiteracy among the black population was very high. In 1985, 68% of the black population was unable to read or write against 7% of the white population. In 1990, only 36% of black students graduated from 90% of whites, colored people and Asians.

University of Cape Town, oldest university of South Africa University of Cape Town, oldest university of South AfricaPhoto: Adrian Frith CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

At present, the government is naturally striving for an integrated school system that should in principle be accessible to everyone. It will be clear that it is still far from ideal in practice. There will still be many cultural and psychological barriers to be overcome before really everyone has equal opportunities. In particular, the organization of education in the black townships, on which the majority of black children are dependent, is getting off to a slow start. In 1999, less than half of black secondary school students passed their final exams.

The Mandela government prepared the "Curriculum 2005", an attempt to solve most of the problems in education in 2005. Independent thinking and more harmonization of education on the labor market are central to this ambitious plan. People are also obliged to follow African and English in addition to education in their own (black) language. Strong emphasis is also placed on adult education, further training and written education. Whether this plan will be realized, however, remains to be seen, especially in view of the inadequate infrastructure of education.

Students of the Lukhanyo Primary School, Zwelihle Township of Hermanus, Western Cape provincie, South AfricaStudents of the Lukhanyo Primary School, Zwelihle Township of Hermanus, Western Cape provincie, South AfricaPhoto: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0 no changes made


The Republic of South Africa has a wide variety of traditions, peoples and cultures. The white minority of the population has always held a dominant position in the economic, political and military spheres. This has created a society model since 1928 that has become internationally known as "apartheid". According to this ideology, all sections of the population were entitled to "a separate and distinct development towards independence"; in practice, however, the blacks could only develop if the whites were not affected and their position was not affected.

After years of resistance by legal organizations such as unions and churches, underground liberation movements and international pressure through mainly economic sanctions, the government has gradually parted ways with apartheid ideology and, in part, with the practice of apartheid, although this is not always evident. South Africa is still marked by the apartheid policy of yesteryear, for example in infrastructure, in the media, in street names, in education and in monuments. Submission and delusions of superiority still proliferate under the skin.

The population was divided into racial groups during the time of apartheid: whites, blacks, so-called "colored people" and Indians. This classification was very arbitrary because, for example, the Japanese population was counted among the whites and no distinction was made between whites of British, Dutch, French or German origin, for example. Black South Africans, on the other hand, were further classified by the government, which made a distinction between, among others, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Venda, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele.

In 1991, the Population Registration Act (1950) was repealed, the cornerstone of the apartheid system. Under this law, all South Africans were racially classified. Therefore, South Africans born after June 1991 no longer needed to be registered by race.

Example of a form of the racist Population Registration Act, South AfricaExample of a form of the racist Population Registration Act, South AfricaPhoto: Government of South Africa in the public domain



The development of the modern economy is strongest in the industrial heart of South Africa, South Transvaal, which started with the discovery of minerals there, including gold and diamonds, since the late 19th century. Due to the presence of sea ports, other important industrial areas are Durban, Port Elizabeth and the Western Cape.

To prevent many blacks from migrating to the white developed areas, the government also sought to provide economic support to the black homelands. This policy largely failed and, moreover, the industrial centers needed more and more (cheap) labor. Both attempts were made to solve this problem by establishing new industries just across the borders of the home countries, the so-called "border cutting industry".

Before World War I, there was only some mining. Only after the First World War, industry, strongly stimulated by the government, started to develop well. This was also done to prevent the threat of foreign domination of the industry and to build a real Afrikaner industry.

Between 1945 and 1970, the entire South African economy, except agriculture, experienced constant strong economic growth and Gross National Product (GDP) grew by 76% between 1960 and 1970. Very important for South Africa as a gold producing country is of course the price of gold on the world market and acts as the engine for the economy, but causes a lot of economic problems when prices fall.

Gold Reef City Gold MineGold Reef City Gold MinePhoto: Nolween CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the early 1970s, the South African economy was severely troubled by the global economic recession and foreign economic sanctions following the 1976 Soweto massacre. The cost of the oil embargo alone cost South Africa at least $ 25 billion and economic growth did not exceed 2% in the years between 1975 and 1988. All kinds of government measures did not make much difference, and even today economic power is still in the hands of a few multinationals.

The economic inequality in the country also means that millions of mainly black people live below the poverty line. Yet South Africa has the potential to grow economically, but everyone should benefit from it. Excessive differences in the income distribution between whites and blacks inevitably create great tensions between the two populations and pose a great threat to political and economic stability.

Since 1995, when economic isolation has come to an end, GDP has seen real growth, driven by high optimism, high expectations and effective new foreign investment. Exports also picked up again, but domestic demand also increased rapidly, which threatened to reduce the balance of payments surplus. In general, government policy is aimed at increasing economic growth, rather than redistributing it equally among whites and blacks. And to create a healthy economy, much more will have to be invested abroad. South Africa has turned into an emerging market in the 21st century. The country's modern infrastructure supports relatively efficient distribution of goods to the major urban centers in the region. However, the unstable electricity supply is slowing growth. The global financial crisis lowered commodity prices and global demand. GDP declined in 2009, but has recovered since then, albeit slowly, with growth estimated at around 1.3% in 2017. South Africa's economic policy has focused on controlling inflation, but the country has significant budget deficits that limit its ability to deal with pressing economic challenges. The current government is facing increasing pressure from interest groups to use state-owned enterprises to provide basic services to low-income areas and increase job growth.

Building of the Standard Bank in Church Street, Pretoria South AfricaBuilding of the Standard Bank in Church Street, Pretoria South AfricaPhoto: PHParsons CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The South African economy is by far the largest in the African continent. In 2017, the workforce comprised approximately 22.2 million people who mainly work in mining, industry and services. About 27.5% of the labor force is unemployed according to official figures; in reality, this number is very likely to be much higher, especially among the black population. Due to the high unemployment, the black population tries to meet her needs in all sorts of ways. This informal sector, which is getting bigger and more important, consists for example of selling fruit and vegetables, pottery, making mats and baskets, taxi companies. A problem is the many illegal immigrants from Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi. Due to the very low wages they receive, they pose a threat to South African workers.

South Africa's economy is ambiguous. The modern developed economy in and around some large cities contrasts sharply with the many underdeveloped areas where practically only one type of survival agriculture is concerned. Some black townships and former homelands likely employ 80% of the labor force.

Agriculture, fisheries and forestry

Agriculture is the predominant activity outside the four major population agglomerations. Once again there is the contradiction between modern "white" agriculture and "black" agriculture that purely meets one's own needs. In addition, a large part of South Africa's agricultural land is owned by white farmers, making the opportunity to build an independent life virtually nil. In the good harvest years, South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that exports more food than its import goods.

Slightly more than 10% of South Africa's total area is used for agriculture, which is highly dependent on physical and geographical conditions. The extremely dry periods in the 1980s and 1990s therefore had major negative consequences for agriculture.

Government policy is aimed at exporting agricultural surpluses via subsidies and selling important public food such as maize cheaply to the masses. Other important products are sunflower and cotton seeds, tobacco, groundnuts, sugar and citrus fruits, certainly also for export.

The west of the Cape Province is of great importance for viticulture. South African wine can be found on more and more shelves of European supermarkets and is highly appreciated by connoisseurs.

South African wineSouth African winePhoto: NJR ZA CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Sheep farming is the most important part of livestock farming. But beef and pork, poultry, eggs and wool are also important products.

Fishing mainly consists of catches of cod, anchovies, sardines and mackerel. More than one million tons of fish are caught on the west coast of the Atlantic every year.

Forestry employs approximately 100,000 people and approximately 1% of the territory is forested. The economically most important types of wood are acacia and eucalyptus. Stinkwood is one of the most expensive furniture woods in the world.


Mining is the second most important sector for the economy. Of the sixty mined raw materials, gold is still the most important mining product, despite declining production due to the depletion of various mines, among other things.

More than three quarters of the country's energy supply depends on coal, and South Africa is also one of the largest exporters of coal.

South Africa is also the world's largest producer of platinum metals in particular, as well as vanadium, chromium and andalusite. The country is also an important producer of diamonds, asbestos, fluorine fir, iron, lead, manganese, antimony, nickel, uranium and vermiculite.

South Africa is a an important producer of vanadiumSouth Africa is a an important producer of vanadiumPhoto: W. Oelen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Unlike most other African countries, industry occupies an important place in the economy. There are still (semi-) state-owned companies that, however, are being privatized at a rapid pace. Main industrial area is South Transvaal and further the Western Cape, Durban and environs and Port Elizabeth / Uitenhage. The main sector is the iron and steel industry, as well as the car assembly companies and the manufacture of car tires, the food and chemical industry. Weapons are also an important export product. In three large factories, an estimated 20% of the national petroleum needs are derived from the production of coal oil. Sasol has developed an extensive chemical industry and supplies, among other things, ammonium sulphate, tar, wax, solvents, plastics, synthetic rubber and gas.

Logo Sasol, South AfricaLogo Sasol, South AfricaPhoto: RitaLPGarcia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Since the Regional Industrial Development Policy became the starting point for industrial policy in 1982, decentralization has been of paramount importance. However, this development was limited to a few areas.

The economic outlook for industry is not good: dependence on exports of primary raw materials is high, employee training and productivity are low, while technological development is very limited.

Energy supply

The South African situation also provides a remarkable picture of the energy supply. On the one hand, while South Africa is Africa's largest electricity producer and exporter, more than 20 million South Africans do not have electricity. They often only depend on firewood. Nuclear energy and hydropower also make a substantial contribution to the production of South African electricity.


South Africa is highly dependent on international trade. Imports are mainly machines, vehicles, petroleum and chemical products. Imports totaled $ 89.4 billion in 2017, and the main import partners are China, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Exports include agricultural products and minerals. The main export partners are China, the United States, Japan and Germany. Total export value in 2017 was $ 94.9 billion.

South Africa is in a customs union with Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.

Export South-AfricaExport South-AfricaPhoto: R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo,, CC3.0 no changes made


South Africa has an extensive and well-maintained road network. Part of this falls under the responsibility of the central government and part falls under the provincial governments.

The rail network is partly electrified. However, a large part has been put out of operation, which has reduced the length from 34,000 to 21,500 kilometers. Some rail lines, mainly for freight, are operated by private companies.

The largest port in Africa is Durban and it is also the most important port in South Africa. Other important seaports are: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Saldanah Bay and Richard's Bay.

The flag carrier is South African Airways, which maintains international air connections. The international airports Jan Smuts Airport (Johannesburg), D.F. Malan Airport (Cape Town) and Louis Botha Airport (Durban) are the most important. There are also 200 airports for domestic traffic and about 500 landing strips.

South African Airways, national airline of South AfricaSouth African Airways, national airline of South AfricaPhoto: Bob Adams from Amanzimtoti South Africa, CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Holidays and Sightseeing

The tourist industry is becoming increasingly important for the South African economy. Many millions of foreigners visit South Africa every year. That number may increase many times, but for the time being there is not enough facilities to receive many more tourists. Most visitors come from Africa, but the number of visitors from outside Africa is increasing very quickly.

One of South Africa's biggest attractions is the Kruger Park. This is a large wildlife park in the northeast of South Africa, on the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. There are many animal species to spot. The most famous are the Big Five. This means the lion, the rhinoceros, the buffalo, the leopard and the African elephant. Another attraction is Drakensbergen. This is a mountain range with a lot of natural beauty, which can count on increasing tourist interest.

Drakensberg, South Africa Drakensberg, South AfricaPhoto: Iri Soda CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Johannesburg with the famous Soweto has emerged as one of the most popular tourist places in South Africa. Some of the major attractions in Johannesburg include: • Lesedi Cultural Village • James Hall Transport Museum • AECI Dynamite Factory Museum • Florence Bloom Bird Park • South African National Museum of Military History • Witwatersrand Botanical Garden

History museums such as the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Museum attract tourists from all parts of the world. The city also has several art museums such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery, with many South African and European landscape paintings and figurative paintings, and the Africa Museum describing the history of the city of Johannesburg.

Cape Town with Table Mountain and a swinging center is also worth a visit. The Groote Kerk is probably the most famous church in South Africa. The church was built in the 19th century on the site of an earlier Dutch Reformed Church. The Groote Kerk has a number of particularly interesting sights, such as the lockable pews, the enormous pulpit, the pipe organ with 6000 pipes and an unusual soapstone floor, under which about 200 people are buried.

Table Mountain, highlight touristic South AfricaTable Mountain, highlight touristic South AfricaPhoto: Brendon Wainwright CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The renovated Victoria and Albert Waterfront is now a vibrant cultural and recreational center.

Table Mountain is Cape Town's most visited landmark. A cable car (gondola) takes visitors to the top at 1085 meters in just six minutes. Once there, on a clear day you can see spectacular panoramic views that make a big impression. The more adventurous can follow different trails that run across the mountain and enjoy even more beautiful views of the city and ocean.

Robben Island is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is accessible with a short ferry ride across Table Bay. The most famous prisoner of this infamous prison was of course Nelson Mandela. Prison tours are conducted by former political prisoners.

Entrance Robben Island, South AfricaEntrance Robben Island, South AfricaPhoto: Moheen Reeyad CC BY-SA 4.0 no changes made

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Dekker, M. / Zuid-Afrika

Luirink, B. / Zuid-Afrika : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen,

Moerkamp, J. / Zuid-Afrika

Schaap, D. / Zuid-Afrika

Minbuza Kosmos-Z&K


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Last updated December 2021
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