South Africa

Aerial view of Durban, South Africa

Situated at the Southern tip of the continent of Africa, South Africa is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Ocean on three sides. With 11 official languages and home to many different cultures and religious beliefs it really is the “Rainbow Nation”.

About South Africa

South Africa is the world’s 25th-largest country by land area, and with 57 million people as at 2018. South Africa is a constitutional democracy. The South African Parliament is made up of the National Assembly of South Africa (the lower house) and the National Council of Provinces (the upper house). The National Assembly of South Africa consists of 400 members and members are elected to serve a five year term. The National Council of Provinces consists of 90 members and members serve a five year term. The President of South Africa is the Head of State.   When the votes for the National Assembly are counted, the leader of the political party which wins a majority of seats is named President. All citizens have the right to vote from the age of 18.

The latest elections were held in May 2019.  The results were African National Congress, led by Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC) 57.50% with 20.77% of the vote going to the Democratic Alliance (DA).  Therefore Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC was elected as President. The Capital of South Africa is Pretoria and other major cities are Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. The country is divided into 9 provinces, each with a provincial capital. It has the largest economy on the African continent and the 24th largest in the world.  However unemployment is high (estimates range from 25% to 40%) and individual income is low for most people, with large numbers of people in poverty.  Inequality of income is also high and the country is amongst the 10 worst countries globally in these terms. Crime rates are high in South Africa, and unfortunately violent crime, murder and rape reflect these statistics.  However there has been a steady decline in crime over recent years and although there is some controversy over the accuracy of some crime figures, it is accepted that the trend is downward,  for example, murder.  The high crime rates have lead to in a rise in gated communities where the middle class live in protected communities, and the private security industry is very big, outnumbering the police and army combined in terms of numbers employed.

Culturally South Africa is very diverse, with 80% of the population being of black African descent and the remainder made of Asian, European and mixed heritage.  Since the end of apartheid, all ethnic and linguistic groups have full political representation in the country’s political system. December 2013 saw the sad passing of one of South Africa’s greatest statesmen – Nelson Mandela who was 95 years of age at the time of his death was a tireless campaigner against apartheid, poverty and inequality.  His strong beliefs led to him being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 – he was released in 1990, having served 27 years of his life sentence.  Upon his release he addressed the assembled crowds and stated that his main focus would now be to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in local and national elections.  He worked tirelessly for his beliefs and in 1994, history was made when he became President of South Africa – an event which was watched by more than one billion television viewers throughout the world.  His Presidency saw the transition from apartheid to a multicultural democracy.

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