South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA

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South Africa Wikipedia



This article is about the modern country. For other uses, see South Africa (disambiguation).
FlagCoat of arms
Motto: "!ke e: ǀxarra ǁke" (ǀXam)


"Unity in Diversity"
Anthem: National anthem of South Africa
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Location of  South Africa  (dark blue)
– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)

– in the African Union  (light blue)
Capital
  • Pretoria (executive)
  • Bloemfontein (judicial)
  • Cape Town (legislative)
Largest cityJohannesburg (2006)
Official languages[Note 1]
Ethnic groups ( [Note 2])
  • 79.2% Black African
  • 8.9% Coloured
  • 8.9% White
  • 2.5% Indian or Asian
  • 0.5% other
DemonymSouth African
GovernmentConstitutional parliamentary republic
 - PresidentJacob Zuma
 - Deputy PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
 - Chairperson of the NCOPThandi Modise
 - Speaker of the National AssemblyBaleka Mbete
 - Chief JusticeMogoeng Mogoeng
LegislatureParliament
 - Upper houseNational Council of Provinces
 - Lower houseNational Assembly
Independence from the United Kingdom
 - Union31 May 1910 
 - Statute of Westminster11 December 1931 
 - Republic31 May 1961 
Area
 - Total1,221,037 km2 (25th)


471,443 sq mi
 - Water (%)negligible
Population
 - 2013 estimate52,981,991 (25th)
 - 2011 census51,770,560:18
 - Density42.4/km2 (169th)


109.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2014 estimate
 - Total$623.201 billion (25th)
 - Per capita$11,914 (82nd)
GDP (nominal)2014 estimate
 - Total$371.211 billion (33rd)
 - Per capita$7,096 (83rd)
Gini (2009)63.1


very high
HDI (2013)Increase 0.629


medium · 121st
CurrencySouth African rand (ZAR)
Time zoneSAST (UTC+2)
Drives on theleft
Calling code+27
ISO 3166 codeZA
Internet TLD.za
Coordinates: 30°S 25°E / 30°S 25°E / -30; 25

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It has 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north lie the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; and within it lies Lesotho, an enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 53 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world. Two of these languages are of European origin: English and Afrikaans, the latter originating from Dutch and serving as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fourth most-spoken first language.

About 80 percent of South Africans are of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European, Asian, and multiracial ancestry. All ethnic and linguistic groups have political representation in the country's constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa's unique multicultural character has become integral to its national identity, as signified by the Rainbow Nation concept.

South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, and is considered to be a newly industrialised country. Its economy is the second largest in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa, although poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day. Nevertheless, South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.

Mzansi, derived from the Xhosa noun umzantsi meaning "south", is a colloquial name for South Africa.

Contents

                History

                Main article: History of South Africa

                Prehistoric finds

                South Africa contains some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil sites in the world. Extensive fossil remains have been recovered from a series of caves in Gauteng Province. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been termed the Cradle of Humankind. The sites include Sterkfontein, which is one of the richest hominin fossil sites in the world. Other sites include Swartkrans, Gondolin Cave Kromdraai, Coopers Cave and Malapa. The first hominin fossil discovered in Africa, the Taung Child was found near Taung in 1924. Further hominin remains have been recovered from the sites of Makapansgat in Limpopo, Cornelia and Florisbad in the Free State, Border Cave in KwaZulu-Natal, Klasies River Mouth in eastern Cape and Pinnacle Point, Elandsfontein and Die Kelders Cave in Western Cape. These sites suggest that various hominid species existed in South Africa from about three million years ago starting with Australopithecus africanus. These were succeeded by various species, including Australopithecus sediba, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Homo rhodesiensis, Homo helmei and modern humans, Homo sapiens. Modern humans have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 170,000 years.

                Within the Vaal River valley, pebble tools have been located.

                Bantu colonisation




                Mapungubwe Hill, the site of the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe
                Settlements of Bantu-speaking peoples, who were iron-using agriculturists and herdsmen, were already present south of the Limpopo River (now the northern border with Botswana and Zimbabwe) by the fourth or fifth century CE. (See Bantu expansion.) They displaced, conquered and absorbed the original Khoisan speakers, the Khoikhoi and San peoples. The Bantu slowly moved south. The earliest ironworks in modern-day KwaZulu-Natal Province are believed to date from around 1050. The southernmost group was the Xhosa people, whose language incorporates certain linguistic traits from the earlier Khoisan people. The Xhosa reached the Great Fish River, in today's Eastern Cape Province. As they migrated, these larger Iron Age populations displaced or assimilated earlier peoples. In Mpumalanga, several stone circles have been found along with the stone arrangement that has been named Adam's Calendar.

                At the time of European contact, the dominant ethnic group were Bantu-speaking peoples who had migrated from other parts of Africa about one thousand years before. The two major historic groups were the Xhosa and Zulu peoples.

                In 1487, the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias led the first European voyage to land in southern Africa. On 4 December, he landed at Walfisch Bay (now known as Walvis Bay in present-day Namibia). This was south of the furthest point reached in 1485 by his predecessor, the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão (Cape Cross, north of the bay). Dias continued down the western coast of southern Africa. After 8 January 1488, prevented by storms from proceeding along the coast, he sailed out of sight of land and passed the southernmost point of Africa without seeing it. He reached as far up the eastern coast of Africa as, what he called, Rio do Infante, probably the present-day Groot River, in May 1488, but on his return he saw the Cape, which he first named Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms). His King, John II, renamed the point Cabo da Boa Esperança, or Cape of Good Hope, as it led to the riches of the East Indies. Dias' feat of navigation was later memorialized in Luís de Camões' epic Portuguese poem, The Lusiads (1572).

                European colonisation

                See also: History of Cape Colony



                Arrival of Jan van Riebeeck, the first European to settle in South Africa, with Devil's Peak in the background
                In 1652, a century and a half after the discovery of the Cape Sea Route, Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become Cape Town, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch transported slaves from Indonesia, Madagascar, and India as labour for the colonists in Cape Town. As they expanded east, the Dutch settlers met the southwesterly migrating Xhosa people in the region of the Fish River. A series of wars, called the Cape Frontier Wars, were fought over conflicting land and livestock interests.

                Great Britain took over the Cape of Good Hope area in 1795, to prevent it from falling under control of the French First Republic, which had invaded the Dutch Republic. Given its standing interests in Australia and India, Great Britain wanted to use Cape Town as an interim port for its merchants' long voyages. The British returned Cape Town to the Dutch Batavian Republic in 1803, the Dutch East India Company having effectively gone bankrupt by 1795.

                The British annexed the Cape Colony in 1806, and continued the frontier wars against the Xhosa; the British pushed the eastern frontier through a line of forts established along the Fish River and they consolidated the territory by encouraging British settlement. During the 1820s both the Boers (original Dutch, Flemish, German, and French settlers) and the British 1820 Settlers claimed land in the north and east of the country. Conflicts arose among the Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaner groups who competed for territory.



                Depiction of a Zulu attack on a Boer camp in February 1838
                In the first two decades of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and expanded their territory under their leader, Shaka. Shaka's warfare led indirectly to the Mfecane ("crushing") that devastated and depopulated the inland plateau in the early 1820s. An offshoot of the Zulu, the Matabele people created a larger empire that included large parts of the highveld under their king Mzilikazi.

                During the 1830s, approximately 12,000 Boers (later known as Voortrekkers), departed from the Cape Colony, where they had been subjected to British control. They migrated to the future Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal regions. The Boers founded the Boer Republics: the South African Republic (now Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces) and the Orange Free State (Free State).

                The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration. This intensified the European-South African subjugation of the indigenous people. The struggle to control these important economic resources was a factor in relations between Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Boers and the British.



                Boers in combat (1881)
                The Boer Republics successfully resisted British encroachments during the First Boer War (1880–1881) using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well suited to local conditions. The British returned with greater numbers, more experience, and new strategy in the Second Boer War (1899–1902) but suffered heavy casualties through attrition; in spite of which they were ultimately successful.

                Within the country, anti-British policies among white South Africans focused on independence. During the Dutch and British colonial years, racial segregation was mostly informal, though some legislation was enacted to control the settlement and movement of native people, including the Native Location Act of 1879 and the system of pass laws. Power was held by the ethnic European colonists.

                Eight years after the end of the Second Boer War and after four years of negotiation, an act of the British Parliament (South Africa Act 1909) granted nominal independence, while creating the Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910. The Union was a dominion that included the former territories of the Cape and Natal colonies, as well as the republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal.

                The Natives' Land Act of 1913 severely restricted the ownership of land by blacks; at that stage natives controlled only 7% of the country. The amount of land reserved for indigenous peoples was later marginally increased.

                In 1931 the union was fully sovereign from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which abolishes the last powers of the British Government on the country. In 1934, the South African Party and National Party merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Afrikaners and English-speaking "Whites". In 1939 the party split over the entry of the Union into World War II as an ally of the United Kingdom, a move which the National Party followers strongly opposed.



                "For use by white persons" – apartheid sign
                In 1948, the National Party was elected to power. It strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule. The Nationalist Government classified all peoples into three races and developed rights and limitations for each. The white minority (less than 20%) controlled the vastly larger black majority. The legally institutionalised segregation became known as apartheid. While the White minority enjoyed the highest standard of living in all of Africa, comparable to First World Western nations, the Black majority remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. The Freedom Charter, adopted in 1955 by the Congress Alliance, demanded a non-racial society and an end to discrimination.

                Republic

                On 31 May 1961, the country became a republic following a referendum in which white voters narrowly voted in favour thereof (the British-dominated Natal province rallied against the issue). Queen Elizabeth II was stripped of the title Queen of South Africa, and the last Governor-General, namely Charles Robberts Swart, became State President. As a concession to the Westminster system, the presidency remained parliamentary appointed and virtually powerless until P. W. Botha's Constitution Act of 1983, which (intact in these regards) eliminated the office of Prime Minister and instated a near-unique "strong presidency" responsible to parliament. Pressured by other Commonwealth of Nations countries, South Africa left the organisation in 1961 and was readmitted only in 1994.

                Despite opposition both within and outside the country, the government legislated for a continuation of apartheid. The government harshly oppressed resistance movements, and violence became widespread, with anti-apartheid activists using strikes, marches, protests, and sabotage by bombing and other means. The African National Congress (ANC) was a major resistance movement. Apartheid became increasingly controversial, and some Western nations and institutions began to boycott doing business with South Africa because of its racial policies and oppression of civil rights. International sanctions, divestment of holdings by investors accompanied growing unrest and oppression within South Africa.



                F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands in January 1992
                In the late 1970s, South Africa began a programme of nuclear weapons development. In the following decade, it produced six deliverable nuclear weapons.

                The Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith, signed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Harry Schwarz in 1974, enshrined the principles of peaceful transition of power and equality for all, the first of such agreements by black and white political leaders in South Africa. Ultimately, F. W. de Klerk negotiated with Nelson Mandela in 1993 for a transition of policies and government.

                In 1990 the National Party government took the first step towards dismantling discrimination when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other political organisations. It released Nelson Mandela from prison after twenty-seven years' serving a sentence for sabotage. A negotiation process followed. The government repealed apartheid legislation. South Africa destroyed its nuclear arsenal and acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. South Africa held its first universal elections in 1994, which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since. The country rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations.



                Nelson Mandela, first black African President of Republic of South Africa
                In post-apartheid South Africa, unemployment has been extremely high as the country has struggled with many changes. While many blacks have risen to middle or upper classes, the overall unemployment rate of blacks worsened between 1994 and 2003. Poverty among whites, previously rare, increased. In addition, the current government has struggled to achieve the monetary and fiscal discipline to ensure both redistribution of wealth and economic growth. Since the ANC-led government took power, the United Nations Human Development Index of South Africa has fallen, while it was steadily rising until the mid-1990s. Some may be attributed to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the failure of the government to take steps to address it in the early years.

                In May 2008, riots left over sixty people dead. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions estimates over 100,000 people were driven from their homes. The targets were mainly migrants and refugees seeking asylum, but a third of the victims were South African citizens. In a 2006 survey, the South African Migration Project concluded that South Africans are more opposed to immigration than anywhere else in the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2008 reported over 200,000 refugees applied for asylum in South Africa, almost four times as many as the year before. These people were mainly from Zimbabwe, though many also come from Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Competition over jobs, business opportunities, public services and housing has led to tension between refugees and host communities. While xenophobia is still a problem, recent violence has not been as widespread as initially feared.

                Geography

                Main article: Geography of South Africa
                Satellite picture of South Africa


                Satellite picture of South Africa



                Important geographical regions in South Africa. The thick line traces the course of the Great Escarpment which edges the central plateau. The eastern portion of this line, coloured red, is known as the Drakensberg. The Escarpment rises to its highest point, at over 3000 m, where the Drakensberg forms the border between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. None of the regions indicated on the map has a sharp well-defined border, except where the Escarpment, or a range of mountains forms a clear dividing line between two regions. Some of the better known regions are coloured in; the others are simply indicated by their names, as they would in an atlas.
                South Africa is located at the southernmost region of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2,500 km (1,553 mi) and along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian). At 1,219,912 km2 (471,011 sq mi), South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world and is comparable in size to Colombia. Mafadi in the Drakensberg at 3,450 m (11,320 ft) is the highest peak in South Africa. Excluding the Prince Edward Islands, the country lies between latitudes 22° and 35°S, and longitudes 16° and 33°E.

                The interior of South Africa consists of a vast, in most places, almost flat, plateau with an altitude of between 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and 2,100 m (6,900 ft), highest in the east, sloping gently downwards towards the west and north, and slightly less so to the south and south-west. This plateau is surrounded by the Great Escarpment whose eastern, and highest stretch is known as the Drakensberg.



                Flat topped hills (called Karoo Koppies) are highly characteristic of the southern and southwestern Karoo landscape. These hills are capped by hard, erosion resistant dolerite sills. This is solidified lava that was forced under high pressure between the horizontal strata of the sedimentary rocks that make up most of the Karoo’s geology about 180 million years ago. Since then Southern Africa has undergone a prolonged period of erosion removing the relatively soft Karoo rocks, except where they are protected by a cap of dolerite. This photograph was taken near Cradock in the Eastern Cape
                The south and south-western parts of the plateau (at approximately 1100–1800 m above sea level), and the adjoining plain below (at approximately 700–800 m above sea level - see map on the right) is known as the Great Karoo, which consists of sparsely populated scrubland. To the north the Great Karoo fades into the even drier and more arid Bushmanland, which eventually becomes the Kalahari desert in the very north-west of the country. The mid-eastern, and highest part of the plateau is known as the Highveld. This relatively well-watered area is home to a great proportion of the country’s commercial farmlands, and contains its largest conurbation (Gauteng Province). To the north of Highveld, from about the 25° 30' S line of latitude, the plateau slopes downwards into the Bushveld, which ultimately gives way to the Limpopo lowlands or Lowveld.
                Image depicting the Drakensberg


                Drakensberg, the eastern and highest portion of the Great Escarpment which surrounds the east, south and western borders of the central plateau of Southern Africa.
                The coastal belt, below the Great Escarpment, moving clockwise from the northeast, consists of the Limpopo Lowveld, which merges into the Mpumalanga Lowveld, below the Mpumalanga Drakensberg (the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment). This is hotter, drier and less intensely cultivated than the Highveld above the escarpment. The Kruger National Park occupies a large portion of the Lowveld. South of the Lowveld the annual rainfall increases as one enters KwaZulu-Natal Province, which, especially near the coast, is subtropically hot and humid. The KwaZulu-Natal – Lesotho international border is formed by the highest portion of the Great Escarpment, or Drakensberg, which reaches an altitude of over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). The climate at the foot of this part of the Drakensberg is temperate.

                The coastal belt below the south and south-western stretches of the Great Escarpment contains several ranges of Cape Fold Mountains which run parallel to the coast, separating the Great Escarpment from the ocean. (These parallel ranges of fold mountains can clearly be seen on the satellite picture above. Note the course of the Great Escarpment to the north of these mountain ranges.) The land (at approximately 400–500 m above sea level) between two of these ranges of fold mountains in the south (i.e. between the Outeniqua and Langeberg ranges to the south and the Swartberg range to the north) is known as the Little Karoo, which consists of semi-desert scrubland similar to that of the Great Karoo, except that its northern strip along the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains, has a somewhat higher rainfall and is therefore more cultivated than the Great Karoo. The Little Karoo is historically, and still, famous for its ostrich farming around the town of Oudtshoorn. The lowland area (700–800 m above sea level) to the north of the Swartberg mountain range up to the Great Escarpment is the lowland part of the Great Karoo (see map at top right), which is climatically and botanically almost indistinguishable from the Karoo above the Great Escarpment.

                The narrow coastal strip between the most seaward Cape Fold Mountain range (i.e. the Langeberg-Outeniqua mountains) and the ocean has a moderately high year-round rainfall, especially in the George-Knysna-Plettenberg Bay region, which is known as the Garden Route. It is famous for the most extensive areas of indigenous forests in South Africa (a generally forest-poor country).

                In the south-west corner of the country the Cape Peninsula forms the southernmost tip of the coastal strip which borders the Atlantic Ocean, and ultimately terminates at the country’s border with Namibia at the Orange River. The Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean climate, making it and its immediate surrounds the only portion of Africa south of the Sahara which receives most of its rainfall in winter.



                Spring flowers in Namaqualand
                The greater Cape Town metropolitan area is situated on the Cape Peninsula and is home to 3.7 million people according to the 2011 population census. It is the country’s legislative capital.

                The coastal belt to the north of the Cape Peninsula is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and the first row of north-south running Cape Fold Mountains to the east. The Cape Fold Mountains peter out at about the 32° S line of latitude, after which the coastal plain is bounded by the Great Escarpment itself. The most southerly portion of this coastal belt is known as the Malmesbury Plain, which is an important wheat growing region, relying on winter rains. The region further north is known as Namaqualand, which becomes more and more arid as one approaches the Orange River. The little rain that falls, tends to fall in winter, which results in one of the world’s most spectacular displays of flowers carpeting huge stretches of veld in spring (August – September).

                South Africa also has one possession, the small sub-Antarctic archipelago of the Prince Edward Islands, consisting of Marion Island (290 km2 or 110 sq mi) and Prince Edward Island (45 km2 or 17 sq mi) (not to be confused with the Canadian province of the same name).

                Climate

                Main article: Climate of South Africa
                South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location in the climatically milder southern hemisphere and due to the average elevation rising steadily towards the north (towards the equator) and further inland. Due to this varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exist. The climatic zones range from the extreme desert of the southern Namib in the farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the Mozambique border and the Indian Ocean. Winters in South Africa occur between June and August.

                The extreme southwest has a climate remarkably similar to that of the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers, hosting the famous Fynbos biome of shrubland and thicket. This area also produces much of the wine in South Africa. This region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around the Cape of Good Hope particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east on the south coast, rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. This area is popularly known as the Garden Route.

                The Free State is particularly flat because it lies centrally on the high plateau. North of the Vaal River, the Highveld becomes better watered and does not experience subtropical extremes of heat. Johannesburg, in the centre of the Highveld, is at 1,740 m (5,709 ft) and receives an annual rainfall of 760 mm (29.9 in). Winters in this region are cold, although snow is rare.

                The high Drakensberg mountains, which form the south-eastern escarpment of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities in winter. The coldest place in South Africa is Sutherland in the western Roggeveld Mountains, where midwinter temperatures can reach as low as −15 °C (5 °F). The deep interior has the hottest temperatures: a temperature of 51.7 °C (125.06 °F) was recorded in 1948 in the Northern Cape Kalahari near Upington., but this temperature is unofficial and was not recorded with standard equipment, the official highest temperature is 48.8 °C (119.84 °F) at Vioolsdrif in January 1993.

                Biodiversity

                See also: Wildlife of South Africa and Protected areas of South Africa
                South Africa signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 4 June 1994, and became a party to the convention on 2 November 1995. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 7 June 2006. The country is ranked sixth out of the world's seventeen megadiverse countries.

                Animals



                South African giraffe, Kruger National Park
                Numerous mammals are found in the bushveld including lions, leopards, white rhinos, blue wildebeest, kudus, impalas, hyenas, hippopotami and giraffes. A significant extent of the bushveld exists in the north-east including Kruger National Park and the Mala Mala Reserve, as well as in the far north in the Waterberg Biosphere. South Africa houses many endemic species, among them the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticullaris) in the Karoo.

                Fungi

                Up to 1945, more than 4900 species of fungi (including lichen-forming species) had been recorded. In 2006, the total number of fungi which occur in South Africa was conservatively estimated at about 200,000 species, but that did not take into account fungi associated with insects. If correct, then the number of South African fungi dwarfs that of its plants. In at least some major South African ecosystems, an exceptionally high percentage of fungi are highly specific in terms of the plants with which they occur. The country's biodiversity strategy and action plan does not mention fungi (including lichen-forming fungi).

                Plants

                With more than 20,000 different plants, or about 10% of all the known species of plants on Earth,[citation needed] South Africa is particularly rich in plant diversity. The most prevalent biome in South Africa is the grassland, particularly on the Highveld, where the plant cover is dominated by different grasses, low shrubs, and acacia trees, mainly camel-thorn and whitethorn. Vegetation becomes even more sparse towards the northwest due to low rainfall. There are several species of water-storing succulents like aloes and euphorbias in the very hot and dry Namaqualand area. The grass and thorn savannah turns slowly into a bush savannah towards the north-east of the country, with denser growth. There are significant numbers of baobab trees in this area, near the northern end of Kruger National Park.

                The Fynbos biome, which makes up the majority of the area and plant life in the Cape floristic region, one of the six floral kingdoms, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9,000 of those species, making it among the richest regions on earth in terms of plant diversity.[citation needed] Most of the plants are evergreen hard-leaf plants with fine, needle-like leaves, such as the sclerophyllous plants. Another uniquely South African flowering plant group is the genus Protea. There are around 130 different species of Protea in South Africa.

                While South Africa has a great wealth of flowering plants, only 1% of South Africa is forest, almost exclusively in the humid coastal plain of KwaZulu-Natal, where there are also areas of Southern Africa mangroves in river mouths. There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach of fire, known as montane forests. Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native eucalyptus and pine.

                Conservation issues

                South Africa has lost a large area of natural habitat in the last four decades, primarily due to overpopulation, sprawling development patterns and deforestation during the nineteenth century. South Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to invasion by alien species with many (e.g. Black Wattle, Port Jackson, Hakea, Lantana and Jacaranda) posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity and the already scarce water resources. The original temperate forest found by the first European settlers was exploited ruthlessly until only small patches remained. Currently, South African hardwood trees like Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius), stinkwood (Ocotea bullata), and South African Black Ironwood (Olea laurifolia) are under government protection. Statistics from South African National Parks show a record 333 rhinos have been killed in 2010.

                Climate change is expected to bring considerable warming and drying to much of this already semi-arid region, with greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and drought. According to computer generated climate modelling produced by the South African National Biodiversity Institute parts of southern Africa will see an increase in temperature by about one degree Celsius along the coast to more than four degrees Celsius in the already hot hinterland such as the Northern Cape in late spring and summertime by 2050. The Cape Floral Kingdom, been identified as one of the global biodiversity hotspots, it will be hit very hard by climate change. Drought, increased intensity and frequency of fire and climbing temperatures are expected to push many rare species towards extinction.


                Biodiversity of South Africa
                King protea, national flower
                Fynbos, Cape Floristic Region
                Blue Crane, national bird
                Flowers in the West Coast National Park

                Politics

                Main articles: Government of South Africa, Politics of South Africa, Law of South Africa and Human rights in South Africa
                Photo of the Union Buildings


                Union Buildings in Pretoria, seat of the executive



                Houses of Parliament in Cape Town, seat of the legislature
                South Africa is a parliamentary republic, although unlike most such republics the President is both head of state and head of government, and depends for his tenure on the confidence of Parliament. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the Constitution, and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional.

                The National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, consists of 400 members and is elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation. The National Council of Provinces, the upper house, consists of ninety members, with each of the nine provincial legislatures electing ten members.

                After each parliamentary election, the National Assembly elects one of its members as President; hence the President serves a term of office the same as that of the Assembly, normally five years. No President may serve more than two terms in office. The President appoints a Deputy President and Ministers, who form the Cabinet which consists of Departments and Ministries. The President and the Cabinet may be removed by the National Assembly by a motion of no confidence.



                Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa since 2009
                In the most recent election, held on 7 May 2014, the African National Congress (ANC) won 62.2% of the vote and 249 seats, while the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 22.2% of the vote and 89 seats. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded by Julius Malema, the former President of the ANC's Youth Wing who was later expelled from the ANC, won 6.4% of the vote and 25 seats. The ANC has been the governing political party in South Africa since the end of apartheid.

                South Africa has no legally defined capital city. The fourth chapter of the Constitution of South Africa, states that "The seat of Parliament is Cape Town, but an Act of Parliament enacted in accordance with section 76(1) and (5) may determine that the seat of Parliament is elsewhere." The country's three branches of government are split over different cities. Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria, as the seat of the President and Cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein, as the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, is the judicial capital, while the Constitutional Court of South Africa sits in Johannesburg. Most foreign embassies are located in Pretoria.

                Since 2004, the country has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the "most protest-rich country in the world". There have been a number of incidents of political repression as well as threats of future repression in violation of this constitution leading some analysts and civil society organisations to conclude that there is or could be a new climate of political repression, or a decline in political tolerance.

                In 2008, South Africa placed 5th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. South Africa scored well in the categories of Rule of Law, Transparency & Corruption and Participation & Human Rights, but was let down by its relatively poor performance in Safety & Security. In November 2006, South Africa became the first African country to legalise same-sex marriage.

                Law

                See also: Crime in South Africa
                Photo of the Constitutional Court


                Constitutional Court in Johannesburg
                The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme rule of law in the country. The primary sources of South African law are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law, as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism. The first European based law in South Africa was brought by the Dutch East India Company and is called Roman-Dutch law. It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law, both common and statutory. Starting in 1910 with unification, South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies.

                The judicial system consists of the magistrates' courts, which hear lesser criminal cases and smaller civil cases; the High Courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction for specific areas; the Supreme Court of Appeal, which is the highest court in all but constitutional matters; and the Constitutional Court, which hears only constitutional matters.

                Nearly 50 murders are committed each day in South Africa. In the year ended March 2009 there were 18,148 murders, in contrast the UK had 662. Middle-class South Africans seek security in gated communities. The private security industry in South Africa is the largest in the world, with nearly 9,000 registered companies and 400,000 registered active private security guards, more than the South African police and army combined. Many emigrants from South Africa also state that crime was a big motivator for them to leave. Crime against the farming community has continued to be a major problem.

                It is estimated that 500,000 women are raped in South Africa every year with the average woman more likely to be raped than complete secondary school. A 2009 survey found one in four South African men admitted to raping someone and another survey found one in three women out of 4000 surveyed women said they had been raped in the past year. Rapes are also perpetrated by children (some as young as ten). Child and baby rape incidences are some of the highest in the world, largely as a result of the virgin cleansing myth, and a number of high-profile cases (sometimes as young as eight months) have outraged the nation.

                Foreign relations

                Main article: Foreign relations of South Africa
                As the Union of South Africa, the country was a founding member of the United Nations. The then Prime Minister Jan Smuts wrote the preamble to the United Nations Charter. The country is one of the founding members of the African Union (AU), and has the largest economy of all the members. It is also a founding member of the AU's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). South Africa has played a key role as a mediator in African conflicts over the last decade, such as in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, and Zimbabwe. After apartheid ended, South Africa was readmitted to the Commonwealth of Nations. The country is a member of the Group of 77 and chaired the organisation in 2006. South Africa is also a member of the Southern African Development Community, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, Southern African Customs Union, Antarctic Treaty System, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, G20 and G8+5.

                South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese President Hu Jintao upgraded bilateral ties between the two countries on 24 August 2010, when they signed the Beijing Agreement, which elevated South Africa's earlier "strategic partnership" with China to the higher level of "comprehensive strategic partnership" in both economic and political affairs, including the strengthening of exchanges between their respective ruling parties and legislatures. In April 2011, South Africa formally joined the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRICS) grouping of countries, identified by President Zuma as the country's largest trading partners, and also the largest trading partners with Africa as a whole. Zuma asserted that BRICS member countries would also work with each other through the UN, the Group of Twenty (G20) and the India, Brazil South Africa (IBSA) forum.

                Military

                Main articles: South African National Defence Force and South Africa and weapons of mass destruction



                SANDF soldiers
                The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was created in 1994, as an all volunteer force composed of the former South African Defence Force, the forces of the African nationalist groups (Umkhonto we Sizwe and Azanian People's Liberation Army), and the former Bantustan defence forces. The SANDF is subdivided into four branches, the South African Army, the South African Air Force, the South African Navy, and the South African Military Health Service. In recent years, the SANDF has become a major peacekeeping force in Africa, and has been involved in operations in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi, amongst others. It has also served in multi-national UN peacekeeping forces.

                South Africa is the only African country to have successfully developed nuclear weapons. It became the first country (followed by Ukraine) with nuclear capability to voluntarily renounce and dismantle its programme and in the process signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991. South Africa undertook a nuclear weapons programme in the 1970s According to former state president FW de Klerk, the decision to build a "nuclear deterrent" was taken "as early as 1974 against a backdrop of a Soviet expansionist threat." South Africa may have conducted a nuclear test over the Atlantic in 1979, though De Klerk asserted that South Africa had "never conducted a clandestine nuclear test." Six nuclear devices were completed between 1980 and 1990, but all were destroyed before South Africa signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991.

                Provinces

                Main article: Provinces of South Africa



                Provinces of South Africa
                Each of the nine provinces is governed by a unicameral legislature, which is elected every five years by party-list proportional representation. The legislature elects a Premier as head of government, and the Premier appoints an Executive Council as a provincial cabinet. The powers of provincial governments are limited to topics listed in the Constitution; these topics include such fields as health, education, public housing and transport.

                The provinces are in turn divided into 52 districts: 8 metropolitan and 44 district municipalities. The district municipalities are further subdivided into 226 local municipalities. The metropolitan municipalities, which govern the largest urban agglomerations, perform the functions of both district and local municipalities.
                ProvinceProvincial capitalLargest cityArea (km2)Population (2013)
                Eastern CapeBhishoPort Elizabeth168,9666,620,100
                Free StateBloemfonteinBloemfontein129,8252,753,200
                GautengJohannesburgJohannesburg18,17812,728,400
                KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgDurban94,36110,456,900
                LimpopoPolokwanePolokwane125,7545,518,000
                MpumalangaNelspruitNelspruit76,4954,128,000
                North WestMahikengRustenburg104,8823,597,600
                Northern CapeKimberleyKimberley372,8891,162,900
                Western CapeCape TownCape Town129,4626,016,900

                Economy

                Main article: Economy of South Africa



                The JSE is the largest stock exchange on the African continent.
                South Africa has a mixed economy, the second largest in Africa after Nigeria. It also has a relatively high GDP per capita compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa ($11,750 at PPP as of 2012). Despite this, South Africa is still burdened by a relatively high rate of poverty and unemployment, and is also ranked in the top 10 countries in the world for income inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient. Unlike most of the world's poor countries, South Africa does not have a thriving informal economy; according to OECD estimates, only 15% of South African jobs are in the informal sector, compared with around half in Brazil and India and nearly three-quarters in Indonesia. The OECD attributes this difference to South Africa's widespread welfare system. World Bank research shows that South Africa has one of the widest gaps between per capita GNP versus its Human Development Index ranking, with only Botswana showing a larger gap.

                After 1994 government policy brought down inflation, stabilised public finances, and some foreign capital was attracted, however growth was still subpar. From 2004 onward economic growth picked up significantly; both employment and capital formation increased.

                South Africa is a popular tourist destination, and a substantial amount of revenue comes from tourism. Illegal immigrants are involved in informal trading. Many immigrants to South Africa continue to live in poor conditions, and the immigration policy has become increasingly restrictive since 1994.

                Principal international trading partners of South Africa—besides other African countries—include Germany, the United States, China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Spain.

                The South African agricultural industry contributes around 10% of formal employment, relatively low compared to other parts of Africa, as well as providing work for casual labourers and contributing around 2.6% of GDP for the nation. Due to the aridity of the land, only 13.5% can be used for crop production, and only 3% is considered high potential land.

                In August 2013, South Africa was ranked as the top African Country of the Future by FDi magazine based on the country's economic potential, labour environment, cost-effectiveness, infrastructure, business friendliness, and Foreign direct investment Strategy.

                The FSI ranks South Africa as the 36th safest tax haven in the world, ahead of the Philippines but behind the Bahamas.

                Labour market




                Workers packing pears for export in the Ceres valley
                During 1995–2003, the number of formal jobs decreased and informal jobs increased; overall unemployment worsened.

                The government's Black Economic Empowerment po
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