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South Africa Overview

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded on the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, on the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and on the east and northeast by Mozambique and Swaziland, and surrounding the kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 56 million people, is the world’s 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. It is the only country that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan 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 (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry.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: Afrikaans developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans; English reflects the legacy of British colonialism, and is commonly used in public and commercial life, though it is fourth-ranked as a spoken first language. The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d’état, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. However, the vast majority of black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to recover its rights from the dominant white minority, with this struggle playing a large role in the country’s recent history and politics. The National Party imposed apartheid in 1948, institutionalising previous racial segregation. After a long and sometimes violent struggle by the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid activists both inside and outside the country, discriminatory laws began to be repealed or abolished from 1990 onwards.

Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have had political representation in the country’s democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” to describe the country’s newly developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology. The World Bank classifies South Africa as an upper-middle-income economy, and a newly industrialised country. Its economy is the second-largest in Africa, and the 34th-largest in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa. However, 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.

Flag_of_South_Africa - Republic of South Africa Flag, colours are red, blue, green, black, gold, black and white  South Africa Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: “!ke e: ǀxarra ǁke” (ǀXam)
“Unity in Diversity”
Anthem: National anthem of South Africa


Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
Morena boloka setshaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setshaba sa heso,
Setshaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika.
Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land!


Location South Africa AU Africa

Location of  South Africa  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & dark grey)
– in the African Union  (light blue)
South Africa - Location_Map_(2013)_-_ZAF_-_UNOCHA.svg (1)
  • Pretoria(executive)
  • Bloemfontein(judicial)
  • Cape Town(legislative)
Largest city Johannesburg
Official languages 11 languages

Ethnic groups(2014)
  • 80.2% Black
  • 8.8% Coloured
  • 8.4% White
  • 2.5% Asian
Demonym South African
Government Unitary; parliamentary; republic
• President
Jacob Zuma
• Deputy President
Cyril Ramaphosa
Legislature Parliament
• Upper house
National Council
• Lower house
National Assembly
Independence from the United Kingdom
• Union
31 May 1910
• Self-governance
11 December 1931
• Republic
31 May 1961
• Current constitution
4 February 1997
• Total
1,221,037 km2(471,445 sq mi) (24th)
• Water (%)
• 2015 estimate
54,956,900 (25th)
• 2011 census
• Density
42.4/km2 (109.8/sq mi) (169th)
GDP (PPP) 2016 estimate
• Total
$742.461 billion (30th)
• Per capita
$13,321 (90th)
GDP (nominal) 2016 estimate
• Total
$326.541 billion (35th)
• Per capita
$5,859 (88th)
Gini (2009) 63.1
very high
HDI (2014) Increase 0.666
medium · 116th
Currency South African rand (ZAR)
Time zone SAST(UTC+2)
Drives on the left
Calling code +27
ISO 3166 code ZA
Internet TLD .za

South Africa – What’s in the Name

The name “South Africa” is derived from the country’s geographic location at the southern tip of Africa. Upon formation the country was named the Union of South Africa in English, reflecting its origin from the unification of four formerly separate British colonies. Since 1961 the long form name in English has been the “Republic of South Africa”. In Dutch the country was named Republiek van Zuid-Afrika, replaced in 1983 by the Afrikaans Republiek van Suid-Afrika. Since 1994 the Republic has had an official name in each of its 11 official languages.

Mzansi, derived from the Xhosa noun umzantsi meaning “south”, is a colloquial name for South Africa, while some Pan-Africanist political parties prefer the term “Azania”.

There are eleven official names of South Africa, one in each of its eleven official languages. The number is surpassed only by India. These languages include English, Afrikaans, the Nguni languages (Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Swazi), as well as the Sotho languages, which include Tswana, Sotho and Northern Sotho. The remaining two languages are Venda and Tsonga.

There are smaller but still significant groups of speakers of Khoi-San languages which are not official languages, but are one of the eight unofficially recognised languages. There are even smaller groups of speakers of endangered languages, many of which are from the Khoi-San family, but receive no official status; however, some groups within South Africa are attempting to promote their use and revival.

The official names are:

Language Long form Short form
Afrikaans Republiek van Suid-Afrika Suid-Afrika
English Republic of South Africa South Africa
Northern Sotho Repabliki ya Afrika-Borwa Afrika Borwa
Southern Ndebele iRiphabliki yeSewula Afrika iSewula Afrika
Southern Sotho Rephaboliki ya Afrika Borwa Afrika Borwa
Swazi iRiphabhulikhi yeNingizimu Afrika iNingizimu Afrika
Tsonga Riphabliki ra Afrika Dzonga Afrika-Dzonga
Tswana Rephaboliki ya Aforika Borwa Aforika Borwa
Venda Riphabuḽiki ya Afurika Tshipembe Afurika Tshipembe
Xhosa iRiphabliki yomZantsi Afrika uMzantsi Afrika
Zulu iRiphabhuliki yaseNingizimu Afrika iNingizimu Afrika

And one former name:

Language Long form Short form Period
Dutch Republiek van Zuid-Afrika Zuid-Afrika 1961 — 1983

South Africa’s country code, ZA, is an abbreviation of this former official name, Zuid-Afrika.






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