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Flag of South Africa
Map of South Africa
Introduction South Africa
After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.
Geography South Africa
Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Geographic coordinates:
29 00 S, 24 00 E
Map references:
total: 1,219,912 sq km
land: 1,219,912 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries:
total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km
2,798 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resources:
gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use:
arable land: 12.13%
permanent crops: 0.77%
other: 87.1% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
13,500 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
prolonged droughts
Environment - current issues:
lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
People South Africa
note: South Africa took a census October 1996 that showed a population of 40,583,611 (after an official adjustment for a 6.8% underenumeration based on a postenumeration survey); estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 31.6% (male 6,943,761; female 6,849,745)
15-64 years: 63.4% (male 13,377,011; female 14,300,850)
65 years and over: 5% (male 816,222; female 1,360,069) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.02% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
20.63 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
18.86 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.56 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.6 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
61.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 45.43 years
female: 45.68 years (2002 est.)
male: 45.19 years
Total fertility rate:
2.38 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
19.94% (2000 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
5.2 million (2000 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
300,000 (2000 est.)
noun: South African(s)
adjective: South African
Ethnic groups:
black 75.2%, white 13.6%, Colored 8.6%, Indian 2.6%
Christian 68% (includes most whites and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians), indigenous beliefs and animist 28.5%
11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 85%
male: 86%
female: 85% (2000 est.)
Government South Africa
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
conventional short form: South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA
Government type:
Pretoria; note - Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Western Cape
31 May 1910 (from UK)
National holiday:
Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)
10 December 1996; this new constitution was certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, was signed by then President MANDELA on 10 December 1996, and entered into effect on 3 February 1997; it is being implemented in phases
Legal system:
based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Thabo MBEKI (since 16 June 1999); Executive Deputy President Jacob ZUMA (since 17 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 2 June 1999 (next scheduled for sometime between May and July 2004)
head of government: President Thabo MBEKI (since 16 June 1999); Executive Deputy President Jacob ZUMA (since 17 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
election results: Thabo MBEKI elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - 100% (by acclamation)
note: ANC-IFP is the governing coalition
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Assembly (400 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms) and the National Council of Provinces (90 seats, 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities); note - following the implementation of the new constitution on 3 February 1997 the former Senate was disbanded and replaced by the National Council of Provinces with essentially no change in membership and party affiliations, although the new institution's responsibilities have been changed somewhat by the new constitution
elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held 2 June 1999 (next to be held by 2 August 2004)
election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 66.4%, DP 9.6%, IFP 8.6%, NP 6.9%, UDM 3.4%, ACDP 1.4%, FF 0.8%, other 2.9%; seats by party - ANC 266, DP 38, IFP 34, NP 28, UDM 14, ACDP 6, FF 3, other 11; National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - ANC 61, NP 17, FF 4, IFP 5, DP 3
Judicial branch:
Constitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts
Political parties and leaders:
African Christian Democratic Party or ACDP [Kenneth MESHOE, president]; African National Congress or ANC [Thabo MBEKI, president]; Democratic Alliance (formed from the merger of the Democratic Party or DP and the New National Party or NP; note - NP split from DP in 2001) [Anthony LEON]; Freedom Front or FF [Dr. Pieter MULDER, president]; Inkatha Freedom Party or IFP [Mangosuthu BUTHELEZI, president]; New National Party or NP [Marthinus VAN SCHALKWYK]; Pan-Africanist Congress or PAC [Stanley MOGOBA, president]; United Democratic Movement or UDM [Bantu HOLOMISA]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Congress of South African Trade Unions or COSATU [Zwelinzima VAVI, general secretary]; South African Communist Party or SACP [Blade NZIMANDE, general secretary]; South African National Civics Organization or SANCO [Mlungisi HLONGWANE, national president]; note - COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the ANC
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Makate Sheila SISULU
consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York
FAX: [1] (202) 265-1607
telephone: [1] (202) 232-4400
chancery: 3051 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Cameron H. HUME
embassy: 877 Pretorius Street, Pretoria
mailing address: P. O. Box 9536, Pretoria 0001
telephone: [27] (12) 342-1048
FAX: [27] (12) 342-2244
consulate(s) general: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg
Flag description:
two equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band which splits into a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side; the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green band and its arms by narrow white stripes
note: prior to 26 April 1994, the flag was actually four flags in one - three miniature flags reproduced in the center of the white band of the former flag of the Netherlands, which had three equal horizontal bands of orange (top), white, and blue; the miniature flags were a vertically hanging flag of the old Orange Free State with a horizontal flag of the UK adjoining on the hoist side and a horizontal flag of the old Transvaal Republic adjoining on the other side
Economy South Africa
Economy - overview:
South Africa is a middle-income, developing country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. However, growth has not been strong enough to cut into high unemployment, and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially the problems of poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. Other problems are crime, corruption, and HIV/AIDS. At the start of 2000, President MBEKI vowed to promote economic growth and foreign investment, and to reduce poverty by relaxing restrictive labor laws, stepping up the pace of privatization, and cutting unneeded governmental spending. The economy slowed in 2001, largely the result of the slowing of the international economy.
purchasing power parity - $412 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $9,400 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 31%
services: 66% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line:
50% (2000 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 46% (1994) (1994)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
59 (1993-94 )
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.8% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
17 million economically active (2000)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 30%, industry 25%, services 45% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
37% (2001 est.)
revenues: $22.6 billion
expenditures: $24.7 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA billion (FY02/03 )
mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textile, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs
Industrial production growth rate:
7% (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
194.38 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 93%
hydro: 1%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 7%
Electricity - consumption:
181.52 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
4.549 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
5.294 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
$32.3 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Exports - partners:
EU 33%, US 20%, Japan 6%, Mozambique 2.5% (2001 est.)
$28.1 billion f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, foodstuffs and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments
Imports - partners:
EU 41%, US 11.4%, Saudi Arabia 7.3%, Japan 7% (2001 est.)
Debt - external:
$25.5 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$539 million (1999)
rand (ZAR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
rand per US dollar - 11.58786 (January 2002), 8.60918 (2001), 6.93983 (2000), 6.10948 (1999), 5.52828 (1998), 4.60796 (1997)
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications South Africa
Telephones - main lines in use:
more than 5 million (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
7.06 million (2001)
Telephone system:
general assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: consists of carrier-equipped open-wire lines, coaxial cables, microwave radio relay links, fiber-optic cable, radiotelephone communication stations, and wireless local loops; key centers are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria
international: 2 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 14, FM 347 (plus 243 repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
17 million (2001)
Television broadcast stations:
556 (plus 144 network repeaters) (1997)
6 million (2000)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
150 (2001)
Internet users:
3.068 million (2002)
Transportation South Africa
total: 20,384 km
narrow gauge: 20,070 km 1.067-m gauge (9,090 km electrified); 314 km 0.610-m gauge
note: in addition, South Africa has an electrified 1.065-m gauge commuter rail system, with a total length of 1,254 km, which serves Johannesburg-Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, East London, and Port Elizabeth (2001)
total: 358,596 km
paved: 59,753 km (including 1,927 km of expressways)
unpaved: 298,843 km (1996)
crude oil 931 km; petroleum products 1,748 km; natural gas 322 km
Ports and harbors:
Cape Town, Durban, East London, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha
Merchant marine:
total: 8 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 271,650 GRT/268,604 DWT
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Denmark 3, Netherlands 1 (2002 est.)
ships by type: container 6, petroleum tanker 2
740 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 143
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 50
914 to 1,523 m: 67
under 914 m: 11 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 584
1,524 to 2,437 m: 34
914 to 1,523 m: 298
under 914 m: 252 (2002)
Military South Africa
Military branches:
South African National Defense Force (including Army, Navy, Air Force, and Medical Services), South African Police Service
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 11,557,242 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 7,031,337 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 466,399 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$1.79 billion (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.6% (FY01)
Military - note:
the National Defense Force continues to integrate former military, black homelands forces, and ex-opposition forces
Transnational Issues South Africa
Disputes - international:
Swaziland continues to press South Africa into ceding ethnic Swazi lands in Kangwane region of KwaZulu-Natal province, that were long ago part of the Swazi Kingdom
Illicit drugs:
transshipment center for heroin, hashish, marijuana, and possibly cocaine; cocaine consumption on the rise; world's largest market for illicit methaqualone, usually imported illegally from India through various east African countries; illicit cultivation of marijuana; attractive venue for money launderers given the increasing level of organized criminal and narcotics activity in the region

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003