South Africa is a country situated on the most southern tip of Africa cradled by the icy Atlantic Ocean on the west and the warm Indian Ocean on the south and east. The southernmost tip jutting out into the ocean is called Cape Aghulhas (Cape of Needles) and separates these two great oceans. To the north are Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. South Africa encircles the independent kingdoms of Swaziland and Lesotho.
The 11 official languages are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. The three most spoken first languages are Zulu (22.7%), Xhosa (16%) and Afrikaans (13.5%). English is the language of commerce and science and is the first language of 9.6% South Africans. There are also semi-official and unofficial languages.
The unofficial languages of the Khoikhoi and San are in grave danger of extinction. They are the aboriginal peoples of South Africa and are physically distinct with an ancient culture founded on hunter-gatherer societies.
The country is made up of nine provinces Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumulanga and Free State. The main cities are Durban (coastal Kwazulu-Natal), Johannesburg (inland Gauteng), Cape Town (coastal Western Cape) and Pretoria (inland northern Gauteng).
Population and Size
South Africa takes up four percent of Africa’s landmass i.e. 1 221 040 square kilometers making it three times bigger than Texas and five times bigger than Britain. This area is populated by about 52 million people.
Our first peoples were the San and Khoikhoi established for thousands of years before the arrival of the Bantu-speaking tribes who were established hundreds of years before the Europeans. The Europeans were sent by the Dutch East India Company and arrived at the Cape in 1652 to build a fort and start a garden for ships on the eastern trading route. Eventually, this route also brought slaves to the Cape until slaves were freed in 1833.
The Afrikaans speaking Boers, descended mainly from Europeans, trekked north and east to establish the Boer republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal. They did not want to be under British rule. After diamonds were discovered in 1867, and gold in 1876, a war broke out between Boers and British. In 1902, the Boers were defeated and in 1910 South Africa became a Union of 2 British and 2 Boer colonies.
The ANC was founded in 1912 but in 1936 black South Africans were expunged from the voter rolls. In 1950, more than 1 million black South Africans were forced from cities to rural areas and poverty.
In 1961, South Africa became a republic under the white supremacist Nationalists and the country was gradually weakened by internal black opposition and international boycotts. In 1990, this led to de Klerk releasing Mandela from 27 years in prison. In a 1992 referendum, white South Africans voted to support de Klerk’s negotiations and in 1994 the ANC won the first democratic election and Mandela became president on 10 May.
My country has experienced a tragic history but today, all South Africans strive equally for a better future and to maintain democratic values e.g. the country is united in preventing current President Zuma from restricting freedom of speech. Our biggest challenge is reducing poverty but this is possible due to tourism, mineral wealth and Johannesburg being the thriving power-house of business on the African continent.