South Africa

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South Africa,

Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2015 est. pop. 55,291,000), 471,359 sq mi (1,220,813 sq km), S Africa. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean in the west, on Namibia in the northwest, on Botswana and Zimbabwe in the north, on Mozambique and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) in the northeast, and on the Indian Ocean in the east and south. Lesotho is an independent enclave in the east. The largest city is JohannesburgJohannesburg
, city, now part and seat of City of Johannesburg metropolitan municipality, Gauteng prov., NE South Africa, on the southern slopes of the Witwatersrand at an altitude of 5,750 ft (1,753 m).
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. Cape TownCape Town
or Capetown,
city, legislative capital of South Africa, capital of Western Cape prov., and seat of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality; a port on the Atlantic Ocean. It was the capital of Cape Province before that province's subdivision in 1994.
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 is the legislative capital, PretoriaPretoria
, city, Gauteng prov., administrative capital of South Africa and formerly capital of Transvaal. Pretoria is now part and seatof the City of Tshwane metropolitan municipality, and in 2005 the metropolitan council voted to rename Pretoria Tshwane, an action not yet
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 the administrative capital, and BloemfonteinBloemfontein
, city, judicial capital of South Africa, capital of Free State prov., and seat of Mangaung metropolitan municipality. It is a transportation hub and industrial center, containing railroad workshops, food-processing plants, and factories that produce furniture,
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 the judicial capital.


Physical Geography

South Africa has three main geographic regions: a great interior plateau; an escarpment of mountain ranges that rims the plateau on the east, south, and west; and a marginal area lying between the escarpment and the sea. Most of the plateau consists of highveld, rolling grassland situated at 4,000 to 6,000 ft (1,220–1,830 m). In addition, in the northeast are the WitwatersrandWitwatersrand
[Afrik.,=white water ridge] or the Rand,
region, Gauteng prov. (formerly a part of Transvaal), South Africa. The area, which forms the watershed between the Vaal and Olifants rivers, is c.
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 (a ridge of rock where gold has been mined since 1886), the Bushveld Basin (a zone of savanna situated at 2,000–3,000 ft/610–910 m), and the Limpopo River basin.

In the north are the southern fringes of the Kalahari desert; and in the west is the semiarid Cape middleveld, which includes part of the Orange River and is situated at 2,500 to 4,000 ft (760–1,220 m). The escarpment reaches its greatest heights (10,000–11,000 ft/3,050–3,350 m) in the Drakensberg Range in the east. The marginal area varies in width between 35 and 150 mi (60–240 km) and most of it is bordered by a narrow, low-lying coastal strip. The region also includes considerable stretches of grassland in the east; mountains and the semiarid Great and Little Karroo tablelands in the south; and desert (a southern extension of the Namib desert) in the west. Kruger National ParkKruger National Park,
game reserve, c.8,000 sq mi (20,720 sq km), Limpopo and Mpumalanga, NE South Africa. One of the world's largest wildlife sanctuaries, it has almost every species of game found in southern Africa.
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 is in NE South Africa.

Political Geography

South Africa is divided into nine provinces—Western CapeWestern Cape,
province (2011 pop. 5,822,734), 49,986 sq mi (129,462 sq km), SW South Africa, on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, Western Cape was created from the southwest portion of the former Cape Province.
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, Eastern CapeEastern Cape,
province (2011 pop. 6,562,053), 65,238 sq mi (168,966 sq km), S central South Africa, on the Indian Ocean. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, Eastern Cape was created from the eastern portion of the former Cape Province and the former Xhosa
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, Northern CapeNorthern Cape,
province (2011 pop. 1,145,861), 144,015 sq mi (372,889 sq km), NW South Africa. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, Northern Cape was created from the northern portion of the former Cape Province.
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, North WestNorth West,
province (2011 pop. 3,509,953), 40,495 sq mi (104,882 sq km), N central South Africa. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, North West was created from parts of the former provinces of Transvaal and Cape Province, as well as most of the former
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, Free StateFree State,
formerly Orange Free State, province (2011 pop. 2,745,590), 50,126 sq mi (129,825 sq km), E central South Africa. It was renamed Free State shortly after the 1994 post-apartheid constitution went into effect.
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, KwaZulu-NatalKwaZulu-Natal
, province (2011 pop. 10,267,300), 36,433 sq mi (94,361 sq km), E South Africa, on the Indian Ocean. Formerly Natal province, in the post-apartheid constitution of 1994 it was renamed KwaZulu-Natal.
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, GautengGauteng,
province (2011 pop. 12,272,263), 7,019 sq mi (18,178 sq km), NE South Africa. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, Gauteng was created from the southern portion of the former province of Transvaal.
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, LimpopoLimpopo,
province (2011 pop. 5,404,868), 48,554 sq mi (125,754 sq km), NE South Africa. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, Limpopo was created from the northern portion of the former province of Transvaal.
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, and MpumalangaMpumalanga,
province (2011 pop. 4,039,939), 29,535 sq mi (76,495 sq km), E South Africa. In 1994, under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, Mpumalanga was created from the eastern portion of the former province of Transvaal. Until 1995 it was called Eastern Transvaal.
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. Before 1994, there were four provinces: Cape ProvinceCape Province,
former province, S South Africa. Under the South African constitution of 1994 it was divided into Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, and part of a fourth province, North West.
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, Natal (largely coextensive with KwaZulu-Natal), Orange Free State (largely coextensive with Free State), and TransvaalTransvaal
, former province, NE South Africa. With the new constitution of 1994, it was divided into Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo), Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Veereeniging (now Gauteng), and part of North West prov.
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. In addition, during apartheid rule about 14% of the country's land area was set aside for blacks in pseudoindependent territories (originally called "bantustans"), allegedly to allow them self-government and cultural preservation. In fact, these "homelands" were used to give the white government greater control and to exclude blacks from the political process. Gazankulu, Kangwane, KwaNdebele, KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa were Bantu national homelands that existed under South African sovereignty. TranskeiTranskei
, former black "homeland" and nominal republic, E South Africa, in what is now Eastern Cape prov. Transkei was bounded by the Great Kei River on the south, by the Indian Ocean on the east, by Natal (now Kwazulu-Natal) on the north, and by Lesotho on the northwest.
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, the first homeland (1963), BophuthatswanaBophuthatswana
, former black "homeland" and nominal republic, c.17,000 sq mi (44,000 sq km), N South Africa. Bophuthatswana comprised seven separate areas, one along the Botswana border, the remainder enclaves within N and central South Africa.
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, CiskeiCiskei
, former black "homeland" and nominal republic, SE South Africa, in what is now Eastern Cape prov. Surrounded by the former Cape Province of South Africa, it consisted of two parcels of land, the larger one bordering the Indian Ocean to the southeast.
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, and VendaVenda
, former black "homeland" and nominal republic, NE South Africa. It comprised two connected areas near the Zimbabwe border in what is now Limpopo prov. Kruger National Park bordered on its northeast, and the former homeland of Gazankulu bordered on the southeast.
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 were all granted "independence" by the early 1980s and existed as nominal republics, although none were recognized internationally. With the end of white minority rule in 1994, the black homelands were abolished.


The population of South Africa is about 80% black (African) and 10% white (European), with about 9% people of mixed white and black descent (formerly called "Coloured"), and a small minority of South and East Asian background. Although these ethnic divisions were rigidly enforced under the policy of apartheidapartheid
[Afrik.,=apartness], system of racial segregation peculiar to the Republic of South Africa, the legal basis of which was largely repealed in 1991–92. History
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 [Afrikaans,=apartness], racial distinctions are often arbitrary. People of African descent fall into several groups, based on their first language.

South Africa has 11 official languages, nine of which are indigenous—Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, Swazi, Venda, Ndebele, Pedi, and Tsonga. Many blacks also speak Afrikaans (the first language of about 60% of the whites and the majority of those of mixed race) or English (the first language of most of the rest of the nonblacks). A lingua franca called Fanagalo developed in the mining areas, but it is not widely used today. About 80% of the population is Christian; major groups include the Zionist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Dutch Reformed, and Anglican churches. There are small minorities of Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and followers of traditional African religions.


Until about 1870 the economy of the region was almost entirely based on agriculture. With the discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 19th cent., mining became the foundation for rapid economic development. In the 20th cent. the country's economy was diversified, so that by 1945 manufacturing was the leading contributor to the gross national product (GNP). Services now contribute about two thirds of the GNP, while industry contributes about 30% and agriculture only about 3%. The economy is still largely controlled by whites, but nonwhites make up more than 75% of the workforce. Working conditions and pay are often poor, and many nonwhites are subsistence farmers.

South Africa has a limited amount of arable land (about 12%) and inadequate irrigation; production is diminished during periodic droughts. The chief crops are corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, sorghum, potatoes, peanuts, cotton, and tobacco. In addition, large numbers of dairy and beef cattle, sheep, goats (including many Angora goats), and hogs are raised. There is a large fishing industry, and much fish meal is produced. Tourism also contributes significantly to the economy.

The main industrial centers are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port ElizabethPort Elizabeth,
city, now part and seat of Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan municipality, Eastern Cape prov., SE South Africa, on Algoa Bay, an arm of the Indian Ocean. It is a tourist center and a major seaport that ships diamonds, wool, fruit, and other items.
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, DurbanDurban
, city, now part and seat of eThekwini metropolitan municipality, KwaZulu-Natal prov., E South Africa, on Natal Bay, an arm of the Indian Ocean. Durban is an industrial center, a major seaport, and a year-round resort.
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, Pretoria, and GermistonGermiston
, city, now part and seat of Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality, Gauteng prov., NE South Africa, on the Witwatersrand. The chief industries are gold mining and processing and the manufacture of liquid oxygen; other chemicals, machinery, textiles, and clothing are
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. There is food processing and a large wine industry. Principal manufactures include machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, and forest products. South Africa is a world leader in the production of platinum, gold, chromium, diamonds, aluminosilicates, manganese, and vanadium. Other leading minerals extracted are copper ore, coal, iron ore, silver, titanium, and uranium. Automobile assembly, metalworking, and commercial ship repair are also important.

The country has good road and rail networks. The chief seaports are Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East LondonEast London,
city, now part and seat of Buffalo City metropolitan municipality, Eastern Cape prov., SE South Africa, on the Indian Ocean. East London grew around a British military post founded in 1847.
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, Saldonha Bay, and Mossel Bay, where natural gas is now extracted offshore. The Orange River Project, a major hydroelectric and irrigation scheme, began in 1963 in central South Africa and was fully operational by the mid-1980s. By 2008, however, the lagging development of electrical power generation capacity led to power shortages within South Africa.

The main imports are machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, and foodstuffs. The chief exports are gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, equipment, chemicals, and arms. The principal trade partners are Germany, the United States, Japan, and Great Britain. South Africa carries on a large-scale foreign trade and generally maintains a favorable trade balance.


South Africa is a federal republic. Until 1994 it was governed by the white minority with minimal mixed-race and Asian representation and virtually no black representation. In Apr., 1994, the country became a fully multiracial democracy, under an interim constitution; a permanent constitution was adopted in 1996. It provides for a strong central government headed by a president, who is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term and serves as both the head of state and head of government. The bicameral Parliament consists of a 400-member National Assembly, which is elected by proportional representation, and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces, which is elected by the provincial legislatures. Legislators serve five-year terms. The constitution contains an extensive bill of rights and provides for an independent judiciary; the Constitutional Court is the highest court of appeal. The leading political parties are the African National Congress, the predominantly white Democratic Alliance, and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom party. Administratively, the country is divided into nine provinces. Provinces are given exclusive powers in only a few areas, such as roads and recreation.


Early History

The SanSan
, people of SW Africa (mainly Botswana, Namibia, Angola, and South Africa), consisting of several groups and numbering about 100,000 in all. They are generally short in stature; their skin is yellowish brown in color; and they have broad noses, flat ears, bulging foreheads,
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 (Bushmen) are among the oldest indigenous peoples of South Africa. About 2,000 years ago, the pastoral KhoikhoiKhoikhoi
, people numbering about 55,000 mainly in Namibia and in W South Africa. The Khoikhoi have been called Hottentots by whites in South Africa. In language and in physical type the Khoikhoi appear to be related to the San (Bushmen), i.e.
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 (called Hottentots by Europeans) settled mainly in the southern coastal region. By at least the 8th cent., Bantu speakers moving southward from E central Africa had settled the N region of present-day South Africa. These Bantu-speaking groups developed their own complex community organizations. In 1488, Bartolomeu DiasDias, Bartolomeu
, d. 1500, Portuguese navigator. He was the first European to round (1488) the Cape of Good Hope, which he called Cabo Tormentoso [cape of storms]. That voyage opened the road to India.
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, a Portuguese navigator, became the first European to round the Cape of Good Hope (so named by King John II of Portugal). The diaries of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors attest to a large Bantu-speaking population in present-day KwaZulu-Natal by 1552.

Colonialism and African-European Relations

Although European vessels frequently passed by South Africa on their way to E Africa and India, and sometimes stopped for provisions or rest, no permanent European settlement was made until 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck and about 90 other persons set up a provisioning station for the Dutch East India Company at Table Bay on the Cape of Good Hope. Soon van Riebeeck began to trade with nearby Khoikhoi, gave Europeans land for farms, and brought in Africans (from W and E Africa) and Malays as slaves. By 1662, about 250 Europeans were living near the Cape and gradually they moved inland, founding StellenboschStellenbosch
, city and local municipality (2011 pop. 155,125), Western Cape prov., SW South Africa, in the Eerste River valley. It is a wine-making and fruit-growing center. Other industries include sawmilling and the manufacture of bricks and tiles.
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 in 1679. In 1689 about 200 Huguenot refugees from Europe arrived; they established a wine industry and intermarried with the earlier Dutch settlers. By 1707 there were about 1,780 freeholders of European descent in South Africa, and they owned about 1,100 slaves.

By the early 18th cent., most San had migrated into inaccessible parts of the country to avoid European domination; the more numerous Khoikhoi either remained near the Cape, where they became virtual slaves of the Europeans, or dispersed into the interior. A great smallpox outbreak in 1713 killed many Europeans and most of the Khoikhoi living near the Cape. During the 18th cent. intermarriage between Khoikhoi slaves and Europeans began to create what became later known as the Coloured population. At the same time white farmers (known as BoersBoer
[Du.,=farmer], inhabitant of South Africa of Dutch or French Huguenot descent. Boers are also known as Afrikaners. They first settled (1652) near the Cape of Good Hope in what was formerly Cape Province.
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 or Afrikaners) began to trek (journey) increasingly farther from the Cape in search of pasture and cropland.

By 1750 some farmers had migrated to the region between the Gamtoos and Great Fish rivers, where they encountered the Xhosa. At first the whites and blacks engaged in friendly trade, but in 1779 the first of a long series of Xhosa Wars (1789, 1799, 1812, 1819, 1834, 1846, 1850, 1877) broke out between them, primarily over land and cattle ownership. The whites sought to establish the Great Fish as the southern frontier of the Xhosa.

The British and the Boers

During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars the British replaced the Dutch at the Cape from 1795 to 1803 and again from 1806 to 1814, when the territory was assigned to Great Britain by the Congress of Vienna. In 1820, 5,000 British settlers were given small farms near the Great Fish River. They were intended to form a barrier to the southern movement of the Xhosa, but most soon gave up farming and moved to nearby towns such as Port Elizabeth and GrahamstownGrahamstown,
city, now part and seat of Makana local municipality, Eastern Cape prov., SE South Africa. It manufactures pottery and is the commercial center for a rich agricultural region.
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. They were the first large body of Europeans not to be assimilated into the Afrikaner culture that had developed in the 17th and 18th cent.

Great Britain alienated the Boers by remodeling the administration along British lines, by calling for better treatment of the Coloured and blacks who worked for the Boers as servants or slaves, by granting (Ordinance 50, 1828) free nonwhites legal rights equal to those of the whites, and by restricting the acquisition of new land by the Boers. In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British Empire, an act that angered South African slaveowners, but the freed slaves remained oppressed and continued to be exploited by white landowners.

To escape the restrictions of British rule as well as to obtain new land, about 12,000 Boers left the Cape between 1835 and 1843 in what is known as the Great Trek. The Voortrekkers (as these Boers are known) migrated beyond the Orange River. Some remained in the highveld of the interior, forming isolated communities and small states. A large group traveled eastward into what became Natal, where 70 Boers were killed (Feb., 1838) in an attack by Dingane's Zulu forces. Andries PretoriusPretorius, Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus
, 1799–1853, Boer (Afrikaner) leader. He was elected (1838) commandant general of the Boers of Natal and in that year defeated a large force of Zulus at Blood River.
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 defeated (Dec., 1838) the Zulu at the battle of Blood River, and the Boers proceeded to establish farms in Natal. After Britain annexed Natal in 1843, however, most of the Boers there returned to the interior. In the 1850s the Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were established. In 1860 the first indentured laborers from India arrived in Natal to work on the sugar plantations, and by 1900 they outnumbered the whites there.

Natural Riches and British Victory

Diamonds were discovered in 1867 along the Vaal and Orange rivers and in 1870 at what became (1871) KimberleyKimberley
, city, now part and seat of Sol Plaatje local municipality, Northern Cape prov., South Africa. Since the 19th cent. the city has been primarily a diamond-mining center, but underground mining, which had not been profitable for some time, was halted in mid-2005.
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; in 1886 gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. These discoveries (especially that of gold) spurred great economic development in S Africa during 1870–1900; foreign trade increased dramatically, rail trackage expanded from c.70 mi (110 km) in 1870 to c.3,600 mi (5,790 km) in 1895, and the number of whites rose from about 300,000 in 1870 to about 1 million in 1900.

At the same time there were complex political developments. In 1871 the British annexed the diamond-mining region (known as Griqualand West), despite the protests of the Orange Free State. Britain annexed the Transvaal in 1877 but, after a revolt, restored its independence in 1881. In 1889, Cape Colony and the Orange Free State joined in a customs union, but the Transvaal (led by Paul KrugerKruger, Paul
(Stephanas Johannes Paulus) , 1825–1904, South African Transvaal statesman, known as Oom Paul. As a child he accompanied (1836) his family northward from the Cape Colony in the Great Trek that was eventually to cross the Vaal River and establish the
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) adamantly refused to take part.

In 1890, Cecil J. RhodesRhodes, Cecil John
, 1853–1902, British imperialist and business magnate. Business Career

The son of a Hertfordshire clergyman, he first went to South Africa in 1870, joining his oldest brother, Herbert, on a cotton plantation in Natal.
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, an ardent advocate of federation in S Africa, became prime minister of Cape Colony, and by 1894 he was encouraging the non-Afrikaner whites (known as the Uitlanders) in the Transvaal to overthrow Kruger. In Dec., 1895, Leander Starr JamesonJameson, Sir Leander Starr,
1853–1917, British colonial administrator and statesman in South Africa. He went to Kimberley (1878) as a physician, became associated with Cecil Rhodes in his colonizing ventures, and was appointed (1891) administrator of Mashonaland. On Dec.
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, a close associate of Rhodes, invaded the Transvaal with a small force, planning to assist a hoped-for Uitlander rising; however, the Uitlanders did not revolt, and Jameson was defeated by early Jan., 1896. Tension mounted in the following years as British Prime Minister Joseph Chamberlain and the British high commissioner in South Africa, Alfred MilnerMilner, Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount,
1854–1925, British statesman and colonial administrator. He distinguished himself as a student at Oxford and was briefly a journalist in London.
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, supported the Uitlanders against the dominant Afrikaners. In 1896, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State formed an alliance, and in 1899 they declared war on Great Britain. The South African WarSouth African War
or Boer War,
1899–1902, war of the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State against Great Britain. Background
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 (Boer War; 1899–1902) was won by the British.

The Union of South Africa

In 1910 the Union of South Africa, with dominion status, was established by the British; it included Cape of Good Hope, Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal as provinces. Under the Union's constitution, power was centralized; the Dutch language (and in 1925 Afrikaans) was given equal status with English, and each province retained its existing franchise qualifications (the Cape permitted voting by some nonwhites). After elections in 1910, Louis BothaBotha, Louis
, 1862–1919, South African soldier and statesman. A Boer (Afrikaner), he participated in the founding (1884) of the New Republic, which joined (1888) the Transvaal.
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 became the first prime minister; he headed the South African party, an amalgam of Afrikaner parties that advocated close cooperation between Afrikaners and persons of British descent. In 1912, J. B. M. HertzogHertzog, James Barry Munnik
, 1866–1942, South African military and political leader. Before the South African War, in which he commanded a division of the Boer forces (1899–1902), he had been a judge in the Orange Free State.
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 founded the Afrikaner-oriented National party. By 1914, largely as a result of the efforts of Mohandas K. GandhiGandhi, Mohandas Karamchand
, 1869–1948, Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar. In South Africa

Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years.
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, the Indians living there were receiving somewhat better treatment. Botha led (1914) South Africa into World War I on the side of the Allies and quickly squashed a revolt by Afrikaners who opposed this alignment.

In 1915, South African forces captured South West Africa (present-day NamibiaNamibia
, officially Republic of Namibia, republic (2015 est. pop. 2,426,000), c.318,000 sq mi (823,620 sq km), SW Africa. It is bordered by Angola in the north, by Zambia in the northeast, by Botswana in the east, by South Africa in the southeast and south, and by the Atlantic
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) from the Germans, and after the war the territory was placed under the Union as a League of Nations mandate. In 1919, Botha was succeeded as prime minister by his close associate J. C. SmutsSmuts, Jan Christiaan
, 1870–1950, South African statesman and soldier, b. Cape Colony.

Of Boer (Afrikaner) stock but a British subject by birth, he was educated at Victoria College (at Stellenbosch) and at Cambridge, where he won highest honors in law.
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. In 1921–22 skilled white mine workers on the Witwatersrand, fearful of losing their jobs to lower-paid nonwhites, staged a major strike, which Smuts ended only with a use of force that cost about 230 lives. As a result, Hertzog was elected prime minister in 1924 and remained in office until 1939; from 1934 to 1939 he was supported by Smuts, with whom he formed the United South African National party.

Hertzog led an Afrikaner cultural and economic revival; was influential in gaining additional British recognition of South African independence (through the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster of 1931); took (Dec., 1932) South Africa off the gold standard, thus raising the price of gold and stimulating the gold-mining industry and the economy in general. He also curtailed the electoral power of nonwhites and furthered the system of allocating "reserved" areas for blacks as their permanent homes, at the same time regulating their movement in the remainder of the country.

The Smuts-Hertzog alliance disintegrated over whether to support Great Britain in World War II. Winning a crucial vote in parliament (Sept., 1939), Smuts became prime minister again and brought South Africa into the war on the British (Allied) side; Hertzog, who was not alarmed by Nazi German aggression and had little affection for Great Britain, went into opposition. South African troops made an important contribution to the Allied war effort, helping to end Italian control in Ethiopia and fighting with distinction in Italy and Madagascar.

National Party Ascendancy and Apartheid

The National party won the 1948 elections, partly by criticizing the more liberal policy toward nonwhites associated with Jan Hofmeyr, Smuts's close aide. D. F. Malan of the National party was prime minister from 1948 to 1954, and he was followed by J. G. Strijdom (1954–58), H. F. VerwoerdVerwoerd, Hendrik Frensch
, 1901–66, South African political leader, b. Holland. He was taken as an infant to South Africa when his parents emigrated as missionaries. He graduated from Stellenbosch Univ.
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 (1958–66), B. J. VorsterVorster, Balthazar Johannes
, 1915–83, South African political leader. A lawyer, John Vorster became involved in the Afrikaner nationalist movement and helped found a militant anti-British organization.
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 (1966–78), and P. W. BothaBotha, Pieter Willem
, 1916–2006, South African political leader. An Afrikaner and a member of the right-wing National party, he first entered parliament in 1948. Botha gained prominence as minister of defense (1966–80) and became prime minister in 1978.
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 (1978–89)—all members of the National party, which won the general elections between 1953 and 1979. These governments greatly strengthened white control of the country. The policy of apartheid in almost all social relations was further implemented by a varied series of laws that included additional curbs on free movement (partly through the use of passbooks, which most blacks were required to carry) and the planned establishment of a number of independent homelands for African ethnic groups.

Black South Africans had long protested their inferior treatment through organizations such as the African National Congress (ANC; founded 1912) and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa (founded 1919 by Clements Kadalie). In the 1950s and early 60s there were various protests against the National party's policies, involving passive resistance and the burning of passbooks; in 1960 a peaceful protest against the pass laws organized by the Pan-Africanist Congress (an offshoot of the ANC) at Sharpeville (near Johannesburg) ended when police opened fire, massacring 70 protesters and wounding about 190 others. In the 1960s most leaders (including ANC leader Nelson MandelaMandela, Nelson Rolihlahla
, 1918–2013, South African statesman. He earned a degree (B.A., 1943) after being expelled from the University College of Fort Hare (for taking part in a student protest) and finishing his studies with the Univ.
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) of the opposition to apartheid were either in jail or were living in exile, and the government proceeded with its plans to segregate blacks on a more permanent basis.

The Republic of South Africa and Racial Strife

In 1961, South Africa left the Commonwealth of Nations (whose members were strongly critical of South Africa's apartheid policies) and became a republic. The first president of the new republic was C. R. Swart; he was succeeded by T. E. Donges and J. J. Fouché. In the 1960s there were international attempts to wrest South West Africa from South Africa's control, but South Africa tenaciously maintained its hold on the territory. In 1966, Prime Minister Verwoerd was assassinated by a discontented white government employee. From the late 1960s, the Vorster government began to try to start a dialogue on racial and other matters with independent African nations; these attempts met with little success, except for the establishment of diplomatic relations with Malawi and the adjacent nations of Lesotho, Botswana, and Swaziland, all of which were economically dependent on South Africa.

South Africa was strongly opposed to the establishment of black rule in the white-dominated countries of Angola, Mozambique, and Rhodesia, and gave military assistance to the whites there. However, by late 1974, with independence for Angola and Mozambique under majority rule imminent, South Africa, as one of the few remaining white-ruled nations of Africa, faced the prospect of further isolation from the international community. In the early 1970s increasing numbers of whites (especially students) protested apartheid, and the National party itself was divided, largely on questions of race relations, into the somewhat liberal verligte [Afrikaans,=enlightened] faction and the conservative verkrampte [Afrikaans,=narrow-minded] group.

In the early 1970s, black workers staged strikes and violently revolted against their inferior conditions. South Africa invaded Angola in 1975 in an attempt to crush mounting opposition in exile, but the action was a complete failure. In 1976, open rebellion erupted in the black township of Soweto near Johannesburg as a protest against the requirement of the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black schools. Over the next months rioting spread to other large cities of South Africa, resulting in the deaths of more than 600 blacks. In 1977, the death of black leader Steve BikoBiko, Steve
(Steven Biko) , 1946–77, South African political leader. A medical student, he founded (1969) a black student organization and developed a national "black consciousness" movement to combat racism and apartheid policies.
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 in police custody (and under suspicious circumstances) prompted protests and sanctions.

After Botha became prime minister in 1978, he pledged to uphold apartheid as well as improve race relations. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the government granted "independence" to four homelands: Transkei (1976), Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979), and Ciskei (1981). In the early 1980s, as the regime hotly debated the extent of reforms, it launched military strikes on the exiled ANC and other insurgent groups in neighboring countries, including Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

In 1984, a new constitution was enacted which provided for a tricameral parliament. The new Parliament included the House of Representatives, comprised of Coloureds; the House of Delegates, comprised of Indians; and the House of Assembly, comprised of whites. This system left the whites with more seats in the Parliament than the Indians and Coloureds combined. Blacks violently protested being shut out of the system, and the ANC, which had traditionally used nonviolent means to protest inequality, began to advocate more extreme measures as well.

A Regime Unravels

As attacks against police stations and other government installations increased, the regime announced (1985) an indefinite state of emergency. In 1986, Anglican Bishop Desmond TutuTutu, Desmond Mpilo,
1931–, South African religious leader. Educated in South Africa and London and ordained in 1961, he became (1975) the first black Anglican dean of Johannesburg.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a black South African leader, addressed the United Nations and urged further sanctions against South Africa. A wave of strikes and riots marked the tenth anniversary of the Soweto uprising in 1987. In 1989, President Botha fell ill and was succeeded, first as party leader, then as president, by F. W. de Klerkde Klerk, F. W.
(Frederik Willem de Klerk) , 1936–, South African statesman, president of South Africa (1989–94). Holding ministerial posts from 1978, he became (1989) acting president when P. W. Botha resigned.
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. De Klerk's government began relaxing apartheid restrictions, and in 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years of imprisonment and became head of the recently legalized ANC.

In late 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), a multiracial forum set up by de Klerk and Mandela, began efforts to negotiate a new constitution and a transition to a multiracial democracy with majority rule. In Mar., 1992, voters in a referendum open only to whites endorsed constitutional reform efforts by a wide margin. However, there was continuing violence by opponents of the process, especially by supporters of Chief Mangosuthu ButheleziButhelezi, Mangosuthu Gatsha
(Ashpenaz Nathan Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi) , 1928–, South African political leader. A Zulu chief, he served as chief minister of the bantustan KwaZulu (1970–94, initially as head of the Zululand Territorial Authority; see Zululand) but
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, leader of the Zulu-based Inkatha movement, with the backing and sometimes active participation of South African security forces. There were also reprisals by supporters of the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress. In Sept., 1992, government-backed black police fired on a crowd of ANC demonstrators in Ciskei, killing 28. In Apr., 1993, the secretary-general of the South African Communist party was murdered by a right-wing extremist.

The New South Africa

Despite obstacles and delays, an interim constitution was completed in 1993, ending nearly three centuries of white rule in South Africa and marking the end of white-minority rule on the African continent. A 32-member multiparty transitional government council was formed with blacks in the majority. In Apr., 1994, days after the Inkatha Freedom party ended an electoral boycott, the republic's first multiracial election was held. The ANC won an overwhelming victory, and Nelson Mandela became president. South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth in 1994 and also relinquished its last hold in Namibia, ceding the exclave of Walvis BayWalvis Bay
, municipality (1991 pop. 12,100), W central Namibia, on Walvis Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. Walvis Bay is Namibia's most important port and the terminus of a railroad from the hinterland. Fishing fleets are stationed there, and the town has fish canneries.
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In 1994 and 1995 the last vestiges of apartheid were dismantled, and a new national constitution was approved and adopted in May, 1996. It provided for a strong presidency and eliminated provisions guaranteeing white-led and other minority parties representation in the government. De Klerk and the National party supported the new charter, despite disagreement over some provisions; Inkatha followers had walked out of constitutional talks and did not participate in voting on the new constitution. Shortly afterward, de Klerk and the National party quit the national unity government to become part of the opposition, after 1998 as the New National party. The new government faced the daunting task of trying to address the inequities produced by decades of apartheid while promoting privatization and a favorable investment climate.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996–2003), headed by Archbishop Tutu, sought to establish the truth about atrocities committed during the country's apartheid era, while avoiding the expense and divisiveness of trials. The commission's final report said the apartheid government had institutionalized violence in its fight against racial equality but was also critical of most of the groups involved in the liberation struggle, including the ANC. By the end of the 1990s, many blacks had entered the middle class, often through government jobs. Unemployment remained critically high, however, and crime and labor unrest were on the rise. In the 1999 elections Thabo MbekiMbeki, Thabo Mvuyelwa
, 1942–, South African political leader. Mbeki was born into a politically active family; his father, Govan Mbeki, an official with the African National Congress (ANC), was imprisoned (1964) at Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela, released (1987),
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, who had succeeded Mandela as head of the ANC, led the party to a landslide victory and became South Africa's new president. The liberal Democratic party became the leading opposition party, and in 2000 it joined with the New National party to form the Democratic Alliance (DA). That coalition, however, survived only until late 2001, when the New National party left it to form a coalition with the ANC.

The end of apartheid led as well to a reemergence of South Africa on the international stage, particularly in Africa. The country has become active in the African Union (the successor of the Organization of African Unity) and the nonaligned movement, and has helped broker peace agreements in strife-torn Burundi (2001) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2002). In Apr., 2002, the small Federal Alliance party joined the Democratic party in the Democratic Alliance; and in Nov., 2003, the Alliance agreed to form a coalition with Inkatha against the ANC in the 2004 elections. AIDS has become a significant health problem in South Africa, and in late 2003 the government finally agreed to provide a comprehension anti-AIDS prevention and treatment program through the public health system.

Parliamentary elections in Apr., 2004, resulted in a resounding victory for the ANC, which won nearly 70% of the vote; the DA remained the largest opposition party and increased its share of the vote. The new parliament subsequently reelected President Mbeki. As a result of its poor showing, the New National party merged with the ANC, and voted to disband in Apr., 2005. In June, Mbeki dismissed Deputy President Jacob ZumaZuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa,
1942–, South African political leader, b. Indkandla, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) prov. Zuma received no formal schooling and joined the African National Congress (ANC) when he was 17, becoming active in the party's military wing in 1962.
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 after Zuma's financial adviser was convicted of paying the deputy president bribes. The ANC, however, refused to remove Zuma from his deputy party leadership post, even after he was arraigned on corruption charges later in the month; he was formally indicted in November. In Dec., 2005, Zuma was also charged with rape in an unrelated case, and suspended his participation in the ANC leadership for the duration of that case. After his acquittal on the rape charge in May, 2006, he resumed his ANC duties; the corruption case was dismissed in Sept., 2006, for procedural reasons. Zuma was elected head of the ANC in Dec., 2007, defeating Mbeki; the result reflected widespread unhappiness with South Africa's president within the ANC. In May, 2008, there were a series of attacks on foreigners in various South African cities and towns, apparently sparked by frustrationss over economic issues; thousands of immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Nigeria were displaced and many fled South Africa.

In Sept., 2008, a judge again dismissed (for procedural reasons) the renewed corruption case against Zuma, but the trial judge also stated that it appeared that Mbeki's government had interfered with the prosecution of Zuma for political reasons. Although Mbeki strongly denied that accusation, the ANC called for him to resign as president and he did. Kgalema MotlantheMotlanthe, Kgalema Petrus
, 1949–, South African politician, b. Johannesburg. A fierce opponent of apartheid, he was influenced by Steve Biko and organized student protests and joined the militant wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
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, the ANC's deputy leader and a Zuma ally, was elected as South Africa's interim president. The decision in the Zuma case was overturned on appeal in Jan., 2009, and the charges were dropped three months later, but in 2017 the country's appeals court ruled, in a case brought by the opposition, the Zuma should stand trial.

In the Apr., 2009, National Assembly elections the ANC again won by a landslide, but it narrowly failed to secure a two-thirds majority, which would have enabled it to amend the constitution without support from another party. The DA, which again increased its share of the vote, remained the largest opposition party, and the Congress of the People (COPE), formed by ANC members who left the party after Mbeki resigned the presidency, placed a distant third. The victory assured Zuma's election as president by the legislature, which occurred the following month. In July, as South Africa suffered through its worst recession in some two decades, township protests against poor living conditions and inadequate services turned violent in a number of provinces. The murder of Eugene Terreblanche, a white supremist leader, by two black farmhands in Apr., 2010, raised fears that the incident would spark racial violence.

The important mining industry was affected by strikes and violence in the second half of 2012 that began in part as a conflict between two competing labor unions; the labor unrest in the mining industry continued into 2014. A Mar., 2014, anticorruption report that ordered Zuma to repay the government for opulent property improvements that were not an appropriate part of the security upgrade of his private home did not significantly affect the results of the May, 2014, national elections in which the ANC run 62% of the vote. The DA again increased its share of the vote and remained the largest opposition party, and Julius MalemaMalema, Julius Sello,
1981–, South African political leader. Involved in the African National Congress (ANC) from a young age, he rose quickly in its influential Youth League, becoming a regional chairman in 1995.
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's leftist Economic Freedom Fighters placed third.

Zuma subsequently failed to make restitution as ordered in the anticorruption report, and in Mar., 2016, the constitutional court ruled he had violated the constitution and ordered him to repay the government. A move to impeach Zuma was defeated by ANC lawmakers, but in Dec., 2017, the court ruled the the parliament had failed to properly investigate Zuma. In the country's local elections in August, the ANC for the first time failed to win a majority in a number of large metropolitan municipalities outside Western Cape prov., and its share of the vote fell below 60% (to 56%). Zuma's removal in Mar., 2017, of Pravin Gordhan, regarded as an advocate of fiscal responsibility, as finance minister sparked criticism from many aligned with the ANC and in the opposition.

In August, Zuma survived his sixth no-confidence vote in parliament, but by a much narrower margin than before. Following the election in Dec., 2018, of Cyril RamaphosaRamaphosa, Cyril
(Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa), 1952–, South African political leader, b. Johannesburg. A lawyer, he became involved in the antiapartheid Black Consciousness Movement while a university student and was detained (1974, 1976) for his political activities.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the country's deputy president, to succeed Zuma as ANC leader, Zuma lost support from ANC leaders, and in Feb., 2018, he resigned as president under pressure from the ANC. Ramaphosa was then elected president of South Africa. In the parliamentary elections of May, 2019, the ANC again won (with 57.5%), and Ramaphosa was subsequently reelected president. In Ramaphosa's second term, his government increased its focus on fighting political corruption. In 2020 the country was the worst hit nation in Africa, accounting for two fifths of the continent's cases.


See M. Wilson and L. Thompson, ed., The Oxford History of South Africa (2 vol., 1969–71); T. Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 (1983); S. R. Lewis, The Economics of Apartheid (1989); L. Thompson, A History of South Africa (1990); R. H. Davis, ed., Apartheid Unravels (1991); P. Waldmeir, Anatomy of a Miracle (1997); T. R. H. Davenport and C. Saunders, South Africa (5th ed. 2000); M. Meredith, Diamonds, Gold and War: The British, the Boers and the Making of South Africa (2007); R. Ross et al., ed, The Cambridge History of South Africa (2 vol., 2009–11).

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South Africa

Official name: Republic of South Africa

Capital city: Pretoria

Internet country code: .za

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

National anthem: A combination of “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfri­ka” by Enoch Sontonga and “The Call of South Africa” (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika), lyrics by C. J. Langenhoven, music by M. L. de Villiers

National animal: Springbuck/springbok (Antidorcas mar­supialis)

National bird: Blue crane (Anthropoides paradisia)

National fish: Galjoen (Coracinus capensis)

National flower: King Protea (Protea cynaroides)

National tree: Real yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius)

Geographical description: Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa

Total area: 470,462 sq. mi. (1,219,912 sq. km.)

Climate: Mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Nationality: noun: South African(s); adjective: South African

Population: 43,997,828 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5%

Languages spoken: IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, isiNdebele—all offi­cial; other (including siSwati and Tshivenda) 7.2%

Religions: Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Roman Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Chris­tian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1%

Legal Holidays:

Christmas DayDec 25
Day of GoodwillDec 26
Day of ReconciliationDec 16
Family DayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Freedom DayApr 27
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Heritage DaySep 24
Human Rights DayMar 21
National Women's DayAug 9
New Year's DayJan 1
Workers' DayMay 1
Youth DayJun 16
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

South Africa

Republic of. a republic occupying the southernmost part of the African continent: the Dutch Cape Colony (1652) was acquired by Britain in 1806 and British victory in the Boer War resulted in the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, which became a republic in 1961; implementation of the apartheid system began in 1948 and was abolished, following an intense civil rights campaign, in 1993, with multiracial elections held in 1994; a member of the Commonwealth, it withdrew in 1961 but was re-admitted in 1994. Mainly plateau with mountains in the south and east. Mineral production includes gold, diamonds, coal, and copper. Official languages: Afrikaans; English; Ndebele; Pedi; South Sotho; Swazi; Tsonga; Tswana; Venda; Xhosa; Zulu. Religion: Christian majority. Currency: rand. Capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative), Bloemfontein (judicial). Pop.: 45 214 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1 221 044 sq. km (471 445 sq. miles)
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