South Africa

Republic of South Africa

According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, South Africa is the state that occupies the southern tip of the African continent. The country is divided into three large areas: the coastal lowlands, the edge step and the highlands further inward. The largest river is the Oranje with its tributary Vaal. The climate of South Africa is predominantly marginal tropical. The coastal areas are influenced by cold ocean currents in the west and warm ocean currents in the east. Precipitation decreases to the north and west to the Namib coastal desert. The climate in the Cape region of South Africa is Mediterranean. The vegetation ranges, depending on the amount of rainfall, from tropical rainforests to savannas and thorn bush savannahs to grasslands. Republic of South Africa

The majority of the population are black Africans of various races. European settlers, especially from the Netherlands, immigrated to South Africa in the 17th century. There is also a small proportion of residents of Asian origin. To this day, there are still strong social differences between the population groups. A large proportion of black people live in poverty. Apartheid laws resulted in strict racial segregation in South Africa. Apartheid was officially lifted in 1994 only after 30 years of severe conflicts.

South Africa has a productive agriculture. However, it is an emerging country and, due to its wealth of mineral raw materials, is on the way to becoming an industrialized country.

The Republic of South Africa borders in the north on Namibia and Botswana, in the northeast on Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. It is surrounded by the Indian Ocean to the east and south and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west.

The territory of South Africa includes the Kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa also includes the Prince Edward Islands in the southern Indian Ocean (Fig. 1).

South Africa is more than three times the size of Germany. It is one of the richest countries in Africa. A symbol of racism for decades, South Africa was isolated internationally because of its apartheid policy in the 1980’s. In 1994 this policy was ended and the state gained in reputation. The capital is Pretoria.

Surface shape

South Africa is divided into three major areas:
The almost 3000 km long coastline is relatively uniform. The narrow coastal lowlands are known as the Lowveld.

Behind the coastal lowlands the mountains of the great peripheral step rise abruptly. The highest heights are reached by the Drakesberg, which run parallel to the Indian Ocean. At 3376 m, Champagne Castle is the highest mountain in South Africa.

Most of the country is occupied by the inner highlands. The high plateau with an average altitude of 1500 m takes up most of the highlands. It is bounded in the north by the Witwatersrand, a 100 km long, 40 km wide and around 600 m high rock ridge. The highlands descend to the north to the Kalahari Basin.


The main river in South Africa is the Orange River. It rises in the Drakesberg and flows into the Atlantic Ocean after 2250 km in Namibia.

The Limpopo rises in the Witwatersrand. It is 1,600 km long and flows into the Indian Ocean in the south of Mozambique. The longest inland river is the Vaal, a tributary of the Oranje, with a length of 1251 km.


The climate in South Africa is largely tropical. On the west coast, it is influenced by the cold Benguela Current in the Atlantic Ocean. The warm mocambique flow in the Indian Ocean influences the climate on the east coast. The southeast trade winds bring moist air from the Indian Ocean to South Africa. Inland to the Drakesberg, therefore, there is higher rainfall in summer. Precipitation decreases more and more to the north and west to the Namib coastal desert on the Atlantic. They usually fall in summer, in the southwest in winter, on the east coast in all seasons.

In the Cape region, the extreme south of the country, there is a Mediterranean climate with winter rain and summer drought. The average temperature here is 12 °C in winter and 20 °C in summer. In the interior of Johannesburg, on the other hand, temperatures only reach 9 °C in winter and around 19 °C in summer. In Durban on the east coast of the Indian Ocean, temperatures rise to 17 °C in winter and 24 °C in summer. The high altitudes of the mountains, especially in the Drakesberg, have up to 200 frost days per year (Fig. 3).


The vegetation is extremely diverse. The vegetation zones are distributed according to the climatic regions. Tropical forests and mountain forests predominate on the damp east coast of the country. The highlands are overgrown with grasslands and savannas, which merge into dry and thorny savannas in the dry areas in the west. The Namib coastal desert lies on the dry west coast of the Atlantic.

The region at the Cape has its own flora, the so-called Cape flora kingdom. More than 6000 species of flowering plants thrive here, many of which are endemic, meaning that they do not occur naturally in any other region on earth.

South Africa

Important data about the country

Surface: 1,219,090 km²
Residents: 45.2 million
Population density: 37 residents / km²
Growth of population: 0.6% / year
Life expectancy: 46 years
State capital: Pretoria
Form of government: republic
Languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Setswana, North Sotho, South Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebele, Venda
Religions: Christian 68%, Hindus 1.5%, Muslim 2%
Climate: Marginal tropical climate, Mediterranean climate in the Cape region
Land use: Arable land 11.2%, pasture land 3.4%, forest 65.2%
Economic sectors:
(share of employees)
Agriculture 4%, industry 31%, services 65%
Export goods: Pearls, precious stones, metals, mineral substances, food and beverages, machines, vehicles, chemical products
Gross domestic product: US $ 159,886 million (2003)
Gross National Product: US $ 2,750 / residents (2003)

Ethnic diversity

People from different races and origins live in South Africa. Almost three quarters of South Africans are black Africans of various races, especially the Zulu, Xhose, Sotho and Tsana. Around 12% are white, mostly descendants of Dutch, German and French people. About 8.5% of the population are so-called colored, i. H. mostly common descendants of the original African population with the Hottentots who immigrated early. 2.6% of the population are of Asian, predominantly Indian descent.

56% of the whites speak Afrikaans, the rest speak English (Fig. 4).


The faiths in South Africa are just as diverse as the ethnic groups. 78% of South Africans profess Christianity. Most of them belong to African churches. There are also many members of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Methodists, Anglicans and Lutherans. Non-Christian religious minorities are the Hindus, Muslims, Jews and the followers of African natural religions.


Apartheid, derived from “apart from the others”, that means “separated from the others”, describes the racial segregation that was legally enacted in South Africa until 1994. The descendants of European settlers in South Africa, a minority of around 12%, saw themselves as “White Africans”. They had built an efficient economy in the country and afforded a high standard of living – at the expense of the colored majority, which was made up of blacks and immigrant Indians.

Apartheid laws resulted in a strict spatial and social separation of the citizens of South Africa according to races. Among other things, they forbade whites to marry blacks. Public facilities and transport were only allowed to be used separately in black and white. Different residential areas were established in the cities. So-called townships were built as rings around the big cities. Separate settlement areas for the blacks, the so-called homelands, emerged in the countryside. Inhumane living conditions prevailed here.

South Africa’s apartheid policy has isolated the state internationally for a long time. The politics of racism met with criticism worldwide.

The resistance of blacks in 30 years of civil war-like conditions and massive economic sanctions by the USA and the EU finally forced the South African government to give up apartheid in 1994. A new constitution came into force. It defines the independent development of the various population groups and their equality. The racially segregated use of all facilities has been abolished. However, around a quarter of the population, almost exclusively black, still lives below the poverty line. Most of them continue to live in the townships, such as Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg, as they cannot afford more expensive accommodation in the city.


The Republic of South Africa is the most economically developed country in sub-Saharan Africa. The country has a high proportion of employees in industry and a low proportion of agricultural workers. 32% of those in employment are in industry, 64% in the service sector, but only 4% in agriculture.

Nevertheless, South Africa has a productive agriculture. It depends on irrigation. Corn, wheat, apples, southern and citrus fruits, wine, vegetables, sugar cane and cotton are grown. The livestock industry is of great importance.

It is one of the richest mining regions of the world. Mineral raw materials such as gold, hard coal, iron, manganese and chrome ores, diamonds and uranium are mined. Mining has not only made South Africa an important exporter of valuable raw materials. Mining contributed to the establishment of a relatively highly developed industry in the country (Fig. 5). South Africa is the most industrialized country in Africa. It is one of the emerging countries, that is to say, one of the developing countries on the way to becoming an industrialized country.

The industrial and economic center is the mining area on the Witwatersrand around Johannesburg. About half of the total industrial production comes from here. Other important locations are Durban, Cape Town and Port Elisabeth.

The main foreign trade partners for the export of mineral raw materials, especially gold, industrial products, agricultural products and processed foods are the EU, the USA and South Korea.

Tourism, especially in the Kruger National Park, has been gaining importance since the end of apartheid.


1652: JAN VON RIEBECK founds a supply base for sailing ships (Cape Town) on their voyage to India at the Cape of Good Hope on behalf of the Dutch East India Company.

End of the 17th century: Immigration of Dutch farmers (Boers) to South Africa: They take possession of land and forcibly expand the settlement area. Hottentots and Bushmen are pushed into the barren hinterland.

18th century: As nomadic cattle breeders, the Boers penetrate further north You will meet black people who have immigrated from East Africa. The whites prevail in the fight for pastureland.

1795: English occupy Cape Town and claim the hinterland.

1806: Great Britain annexes the Dutch Cape Colony.

1836–1844: The great Boer Trek to the northeast to escape British rule – clashes with black Africans

1840–1880: Settlers advancing east found the Boer states Natal, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. Great Britain recognizes the republics except Natal.

Mid- 19th century: Indians are hired by the English in Natal to work on the sugar cane plantations. Another population group comes into the country.

1899: War between England and the Boer Republics – the British are in economic interest in the diamond and gold finds.

1902: Surrender of the Boers – the Boer republics join the British Empire.

1907: Autonomy of the Cape Colony – The whites have a free hand over the blacks.

1910: The Cape Colony becomes part of the South African Union (all British colonies in southern Africa).

1931: All Dominion states in South Africa become independent.

1948: Introduction of apartheid in South Africa

1961: South Africa leaves the Commonwealth – it becomes a republic.

1994: End of apartheid and new constitution – first president: NELSON MANDELA (until 1999)

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