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You are in:  Nations > Africa > South Africa
South Africa*South Africa flag
Basic facts
The country 
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Capital: Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (legislative), Bloemfontein (judicial)
Area: 1,219,090 sq km; 470,693 sq miles
Population: 43,981,758 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 50 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 50 per cent (1998 Estimate)


Exports: Gold, minerals and metals, food and beverages, chemicals, wool, precious and semi-precious stones

Industry: Mining of platinum, gold and chromium, car assembly, petroleum refining, metalworking, machinery, rubber goods, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizers, food processing, tobacco, paper and paper products

Agriculture: Principal products: maize, wheat, sugar cane, fruits, potatoes, vegetables, sorghum, barley, tobacco, cotton, peanuts, sunflower seeds, beans; livestock products: sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, wool, milk, eggs, hides, beef, pork

Currency: 1 rand (R), consisting of 100 cents

Natural resources: Gold, diamonds, chromium, coal, platinum, iron ore, manganese, vanadium, antimony, vermiculite, limestone, asbestos, fluorspar, lead, zinc, uranium, copper, nickel, tin, rutile, kaolin, zirconium, silver, phosphate, gypsum, mica, salt


The people

Ethnic: Black 76 per cent, White 13 per cent, Mixed 9 per cent, Indian 2 per cent

Language: 11 official languages: Afrikaans and English (European origin); Zulu, Xhosa, siSwati and Ndebele (Nguni language group); Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho and Tswana (Sotho language group); Tsonga; and Venda. South Africa has 11 official languages, which are as diverse as the population. The native languages spoken by black Africans are Zulu, Xhosa, siSwati and Ndebele, which form the Nguni language group; Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho and Tswana, which are Sotho languages; Tsonga; and Venda. Some black Africans also speak English or Afrikaans as their second language. A mixture of South African languages is used for communication between members of different ethnic groups in urban areas. Afrikaans (a Dutch derivation) is the first language of about three-fifths of all whites and most coloureds and English is the first language of most other whites and coloureds. Although Asians mostly speak various Indian languages, they also speak English

Religion: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, indigenous beliefs, Jewish. Just less than half of the African population belongs to Christian churches. One-fifth are members of African independent churches, such as the Zion Christian Church, which combine Christian and traditional African beliefs. The rest follow their traditional religions. Afrikaners belong mainly to the Dutch Reformed Church, whilst most of the English-speaking whites belong to one of the other Christian faiths. There is also a small but traditionally influential Jewish community. Most of the coloured population is Muslim. The Asians in South Africa are mainly Hindu, but some are Muslim or Christian.


The history

Independence: 31 May 1910 (from the United Kingdom)

Government: The President exercises executive power in consultation with at least two deputy Presidents. He or she is chosen by an elected parliament on the basis of the majority party's recommendation. One deputy President comes from the majority party and one from the strongest opposition party. Any party with at least 5 per cent of the seats in parliament has the right to a post in the President's cabinet. Parliament has two houses, 90-member National Council of Provinces and a 400-seat National Assembly. The National Assembly is elected directly by the people, while the National Council of Provinces members are elected by the country's nine provinces, each province choosing ten members. Each of the nine provinces also has its own legislature. All citizens are eligible to vote at age 18, regardless of race. The 1994 elections were the first with universal franchise, and they marked the start of a new and fully democratic system of Government. A new constitution was approved by the country's highest court and signed into law by the President in December 1996. It entered into force in February 1997 and was implemented in stages.

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