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Africa Files: South Africa

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 5:03 PM | Jennifer Wisniewski (Administrator)

At a glance:

Population:  57,725,600 (2018)

Capitol:  Pretoria

Official Languages:  11 official languages including isiZulu (24.7%), isiXhosa (15.6%), and Afrikaans (12.1%)

Religion:  Christian (86%), Traditional (5.4%), and Muslim (1.9%)

Fertility Rate: 2.26 births per woman (2018)

HIV/AIDs Prevalence Rate:  18.8% (2017)

Life Expectancy:  63 years (2017)


Image Source:  Wikipedia

Literacy Rate:  94.4% (2015)

Currency:  South African Rand

Form of Government:  Parliamentary Republic

Natural Resources:  gold, nickel, diamonds, platinum, copper, coal, iron ore, natural gas, and salt

Exports:  gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment

Geography

South Africa has a diversity of geographical features with low-lying coastal areas, mountains in the eastern/northeastern section of the country, and the Kalahari desert in the north.  The Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world. The Orange River is South Africa’s longest, beginning in Lesotho, flowing westward, and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.

Bordering South Africa are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland.  South Africa also completely encircles the tiny country of Lesotho. (4)

History

Early inhabitants of the southern tip of the African continent were Bantu-speaking tribes who settled in the northern areas of what would one day be called South Africa.  These tribes gradually moved south towards the coastline. (5)

Over many centuries South Africa became an amalgamation of many different peoples.  This took place as a result of immigration, colonization, and the importation of slaves.  It was in 1652 that the first European settlers arrived. Their settlement came to be known as Cape Town. The Dutch East India Company was formed to supply passing ships with fresh produce.  Dutch farms spread, and after the colony was established, brought in slaves from East Africa, Madagascar, and the East Indies. (2)

Other Europeans were not far behind.  The Huguenots (French Protestant refugees) arrived in 1688, followed by groups from Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain.  Not surprisingly, conflict erupted between the colonists and the indigenous peoples beginning in the 1770s. (3)

In the 1820s, a famous Zulu king and warrior named Shaka led a series of incursions into the territory of other tribes.  This long and bloody war left space for the Dutch and British colonists to gain control. In the mid-1800s the Dutch began moving farther into the interior and came to rule two landlocked republics called Transvaal and Orange Free State.  The Boers (farmers) practiced Calvinism and developed the language of Afrikaans. In 1886 with the discovery of a major goldfield, the English, in a desire to maintain mining rights for English immigrants, went to war with the Dutch in what became known as the Anglo-Boer wars. (2)

It is ironic that in a place that abolished slavery in 1838, a system based on white power became legendary around the world.  In 1910 the Union of South Africa ( a white union) was created followed by the 1912 founding of the African National Congress(ANC).  The seed was planted. In 1948 the pro-Afrikaner National Party came to power with the idea of Apartheid. By 1961 residential segregation was enforced with blacks forcibly removed from white areas.  When the ANC protested, leaders, including the famous Nelson Mandela, were thrown in jail. Resistance continued for many years, with international support, until Apartheid fell and a democratic election was finally held in 1994.  After being released from prison, Mandela served as president of South Africa for five years. (2)

Source:  Pixabay


The ANC has been ruling South Africa since 1994.  During this time, the poverty level has fallen from 33.8% in 1996 to 16.9% in 2008. Unemployment continues to pose a challenge with a rate of 27.2% in 2018. South Africa has also struggled with the HIV/AIDs epidemic. (7)

Culture

With this complex history comes an equally rich culture.  This multi-ethnic nation has a cacophony of voices and 11 official languages.  South Africans also enjoy many forms of music. One form that emerged in the 1990s with the fall of Apartheid was Kwaito, a fusion of old and contemporary African beats, some describe as a variant of hip hop. (5)

Dance is popular in South Africa, too.  Gumboot is a style of dance which originated in the gold mines and is unique to South Africa.  The dancers wear boots and rhythmically stomp and clap. Because talking was prohibited in the mines, stomping was a means of communicating. Zulu dances are also common, the dancers dressed as warriors in traditional garb. (5)

Another favorite pastime for South Africans is participating in and watching sports.  Their favorites are rugby, cricket, and soccer.

Source:  Pixabay

As in any culture, South African cuisine is reflective of their geography and history.  In fact, their food is sometimes referred to as “rainbow cuisine” because of the array of food from many different cultures. Throughout most of the country, though, the menu of a South African is based on meat and maize. (Nearly half of arable land is planted with maize.)  A few favorites include biltong, a dried salted meat; bobotie, a version of shepherd's pie; and boerewors, a hand-made farm sausage. One traditional dish considered a delicacy in the northern part of the country ( and unique to many other cultures) is mopane worms, caterpillars that live on mopane trees.  The worms are dried and then fried, grilled or cooked in a stew. Mopane worms are still served as hors d’oeuvres at restaurants. (6)


Sources:

1.http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southafrica/overview

2.https://www.gov.za/about-sa/history

3.http://thecommonwealth.org/our-member-countries/south-africa/history

4.https://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/africa/southafrica/zaland.htm

5.https://www.iexplore.com/articles/travel-guides/africa/south-africa/history-and-culture

6.https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/tourism-south-africa/travel/food/south-african-cuisine

7.https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html



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