The Republic of South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent with a 2,798km coastline on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. To the north lie Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; Lesotho is an independent country wholly surrounded by South African territory. South Africa has a hot and humid climate The Highveld extends to the north and has the richest arable area. It surrounds the Witwatersrand, a mining area in the Transvaal where large cities and industries are found.
South Africa has a very diverse culture with eleven official languages recognised in the constitution. South Africa is ethnically diverse with 79.5% of the South African population having African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups. South Africa also contains the largest European, Asian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. About a quarter of the population is unemployed and lives below the poverty line.
Following the end of apartheid, the new leadership encouraged reconciliation. Having held two successful national elections an inclusive democratic culture appears to have been established. The Commonwealth was much involved in the struggle to end the apartheid system and South Africa rejoined the association as a full member following the first non-racial, democratic elections of 1994. South Africa hosted the 1999 CHOGM in Durban. South Africa is now a constitutional democracy in the form of a parliamentary republic; unlike most parliamentary republics the positions of head of state and head of government are merged in a parliamentary dependent President.
Health and Education
The cost of the years of apartheid will be paid for a long time yet, particularly in terms of social disruption, lawlessness, and lost education. There are high rates of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, smoking related diseases and cardio vascular disease. The literacy rate is 86.4% and people spend, on average, 13 years of their lives in school, more so in urban areas.
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of gold and diamonds, the second largest producer of manganese and the eighth largest producer of coal. The country’s economic base lies in the exploitation of mineral resources. The country’s water resources are overused; soil salination is the major threat in dry areas. Soil erosion is a serious problem, particularly in the former Bantustans.
Population: 50.5 million (UN, 2010)
Head of State: President, The Hon Jacob Zuma
Head of Government: President, The Hon Jacob Zuma
Joined Commonwealth: 1931 (Statute of Westminster; left in 1961, rejoined in 1994)
Major Languages: 11 Official languages including; English, Afrikaans, Fesotho,
Fetswana, Xhosa, Sesotho, Setswana and Zulu
Major Religions: Christianity, Islam, Indigenous Beliefs
Life Expectancy: 52 years (men), 54 years (women) (UN)
Infant Mortality: 44.8 per 1000 births
Literacy Rate: 88%
Monetary Unit: Rand (R)
Main Exports: Gold, diamonds, metals and minerals, cars, machinery
GNI per capita: US $5,770 (World Bank, 2009)
- Democratic Consolidation and Development
- Environmental Issues
- Needs for Economic Growth
- WRO and Free Trade
- Regional Issues (particularly Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo)
Commonwealth Secretariat: www.thecommonwealth.org
BBC Country Profiles: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/country_profiles/default.stm
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade: www.dfat.gov.au/
World Health Organisation: www.who.int/countries/en/
UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs: www.irinnews.org
One World Civil Society Network: www.oneworld.net
United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) http://www.unfpa.org/public/
Economist Intelligence Unit - EIU Viewswire http://viewswire.eiu.com/
CIA World Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html
Country Watch http://www.countrywatch.com/cw_default.aspx
All Africa: www.allafrica.com
Africa Online: www.africaonline.com
South Africa Government Online: www.gov.za
Mail and Guardian: www.mg.co.za