Official name Republic of South Africa
Form of state A federal state, comprising a national government and nine provincial governments.
Legal system Based on Roman-Dutch law and the 1996 Constitution.
Population (mid-2011): 50.59-million
Measures metric system
Currency One rand (R) = 100 cents
Time Two hours ahead of GMT
Internet domain .za
Area 1 219 090 square kilometres
Agriculture 81.6% of total land area
Arable land 12.1% of total
Irrigated land 10.15% of arable land
- Pretoria (administrative)
- Cape Town (legislative)
- Bloemfontein (judicial)
- Eastern Cape
- Northern Cape
- North West
- Free State
- Western Cape
Geography and Climate
South Africa is a medium-sized country, with a total land area of 1 219 090 square kilometres, or roughly equivalent in size to Niger, Angola, Mali or Colombia. It is one-eighth the size of the US, about a third the size of the European Union, twice the size of France and over three times the size of Germany. It measures some 1 600km from north to south, and roughly the same from east to west.
The country lies between 22º and 35º south, flanked on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean, whose waters meet at the country's – and Africa's – most southern tip, Cape Agulhas.
The coastline stretches 2 798 kilometres from a desert border in the northwest, down the icy Skeleton Coast to Cape Agulhas, then up along the green hills and wide beaches on the coast of the Indian Ocean, to a border with subtropical Mozambique in the northeast.
The low-lying coastal zone is narrow for much of that distance, soon giving way to a mountainous escarpment that separates it from the high inland plateau.
A subtropical location, moderated by ocean on three sides of the country and the altitude of the interior plateau, makes South Africa a warm and sunny country. But it's also dry, with an average annual rainfall of about 464mm. While the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is mostly a summer-rainfall region.
South Africa is a nation of diversity, with 50.58-million people and a variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs.
According to Statistics South Africa's mid-2011 estimates, the country's population stands at 50 586 757 people. Africans are in the majority at 40 206 275, making up 79.5% of the total population.
The white population is estimated at 4 565 825 (9.0%), the coloured population at 4 539 790 (9.0%) and the Indian/Asian population at 1 274 867 (2.5%).
Females make up about 52% of the population, and males 48%.
South Africa is a multilingual country. The country's democratic Constitution, which came into effect on 4 February 1997, recognises 11 official languages, to which it guarantees equal status. These are:
- Sesotho sa Leboa
Besides the official languages, scores of others – African, European, Asian and more – are spoken in South Africa, as the country lies at the crossroads of southern Africa.
According to the 2001 census, isiZulu is the most common home language is, spoken by nearly a quarter of the population. It is followed by isiXhosa at 17.6%, Afrikaans at 13.3%, Sepedi at 9.4%, and Setswana and English each at 8.2%.
Sesotho is the mother tongue of 7.9% of South Africans, while the remaining four official languages are spoken at home by less than 5% of the population each.
Most South Africans are multilingual, able to speak more than one language. English- and Afrikaans-speaking people tend not to have much ability in indigenous languages, but are fairly fluent in each other's language. Most South Africans speak English, which is fairly ubiquitous in official and commercial public life. The country's other lingua franca is isiZulu.
South Africa's constitution is the world's most progressive, drawing on the experiences of advanced democracies. It stipulates such rights as freedom of expression and association, equality, political and property rights, education and health care, access to information and the courts. It prohibits discrimination against homosexuals and people with disabilities. There are few places in the world where constitutional rights figure so prominently in public discourse. And the government actively encourages greater gender and racial equality in both public and corporate life.
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and traditional religions
South Africa use 220V 50Hz standard. South Africa generates two-thirds of Africa’s electricity. Most plugs have three round pins (15A) but some plugs with two smaller pins (5A) are also found on appliances. Adaptors can be purchased to convert US, UK and other standards.
The standards of hygiene and food preparation is most excellent. It is safe to eat or drink in In hotels, restaurants, cafes etc.
Tap water in South Africa is safe to drink as it is treated and is free of harmful micro-organisms.
It is also safe to eat fresh fruit and salads and to put as much ice as you like in your drinks.