Country information

Country information

Overview of South Africa

You probably have so many questions about South Africa.  What is the official language spoken? Is South Africa a democracy? Are there big cities with modern amenities? Are the roads tarred? How far will my money go? To answer a few of your questions:

South Africa is located on the southern tip of Africa. It is where two great oceans meet, and warm weather lasts most of the year, and big game roam in the African bush. It is where humanity is rooted, where our ancestors’ traces are still evident in fossilised footprints 80 000 years old, and in the world’s oldest rock paintings. (www.gov.za)

Summary of facts

Location & geography             

South Africa has nine provinces. Gauteng, the smallest and most densely populated, adjoins Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga in the north. The Northern Cape, the largest province with the smallest population, is in the west. The Free State is in the middle of the country. And the coastal provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape lie to the south.

Population and culture

South Africa is a nation of approximately 51 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages and beliefs. Around 79% are black (or African), 9% white, 9% “colored” – the local label for people of mixed African, Asian and white descent – and 2.5% Indian or Asian. Just over half the population lives in cities.

There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa. Around 40% of the population speaks either isiZulu or isiXhosa. You don’t speak either? If your English is passable, don’t worry. Everywhere you go, you can expect to find people who speak or understand English.  English is the language of the cities, of commerce and banking, of government, of road signs and official documents. Another major language is Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch, which northern Europeans will find surprisingly easy to follow.

Religion

Nearly four-fifths of South Africans are Christian, the largest church being the indigenous Zion Christian Church, followed by the Dutch Reformed and Catholic churches. Many churches combine Christian and traditional African beliefs, and many non-Christians espouse these traditional beliefs. Other significant religions – though with much smaller followings – are Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. (www.capetowntourism.co.za/www.gov.za)
Recommended books to read in South Africa:

  • A long walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  • Spud – John Van der Ruit
  • 13 hours – Deon Meyer

Recommended movies to watch:

  • Skin
  • Invictus
  • Tsotsi
  • Forgiveness

Useful website www.gov.za

Summary of facts about South Africa

Capital Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial),
Population + 51 million
Currency Rand (ZAR)
Official languages English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Zulu, Northern Sotho, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Venda and Southern Ndebele
Time South Africa is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich mean (or universal time), 1 hour  ahead of central European winter time and 7 hours ahead of USA, Eastern standard winter time.
Climate & Other Facts South Africa generally has a pretty temperate climate, as it is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, is located in the milder southern hemisphere and to the average elevation rising towards the equator. South Africa runs as a democracy and although still developing, runs as a developed country, but much of its population still lives in poverty.  All major urban areas have world-class hotels and tourist facilities.  Food and tap water are safe, and a wide variety of consumer goods and medicines are easily available.