South Africa Information

General Information for South Africa

Country: South Africa
Location: Southern Africa
Independence: May 31, 1910
Nationality: South African
Capital City: Pretoria
Population: 45,095,459
Important Cities: Cape Town, Joannesburg, Durban
Head of State: Thabo Mbeki
Area: 1,222,480
Type of Government: Republic
Currency: 2.78 SA rands=1 USD
Major peoples: Zulu, Xhosa, Sesetho, Tswana, Afrikaaners
Religion: Christian 81%, Hindu and Muslim 19%
Climate: Temperate to semiarid
Literacy: 76%
Official Language: Afrikaans, English
Principal Languages: Xhosa, Zulu
Major Exports: Gold, Diamonds, Uranium
Pre-Colonial History People speaking Khosain languages are the oldest surviving inhabitants of the territory of South Africa. Most of today's black South Africans belong to the Bantu language group, which migrated south from central Africa, settling in the Transvaal region sometime before 100 A.D. The Nguni, ancestors of Zulu and Xhosa, occupied most of the eastern coast by 1500. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in 1488. However, permanent white settlement did not begin until 1562, when the Dutch East Indian Company established a provisioning station of Cape. In subsequent decades, French Huguenot refugees, the Dutch, and Germans began to settle the cape. Collectively, they form the Afrikaaner segment of today's population. The British gained control of the Cape of Good Hope at the end of the 18th century. Beginning in 1836, partly to escape British rule and cultural hegemony and partly out of resentment of the recent abolition of slavery, many Afrikaaner farmers (Boers) undertook a northern migration which became known as the "Great Trek." Under their leader, Shaka (1787-1828), the Zulu conquered most of the territory between the Drakensburg Mountains and the sea (now KwaZulu-Natal). In 1828, Shaka was assassinated and replaced by his half-brother Dingane.
Post-Colonial History In 1912, the South Africa Native National Congress was formed in Bloemfontein and became known the African National Congress (ANC) with the goal of eliminating restrictions based on skin color. In 1948, the National Party (NP) won the all-white elections and began passing legislation codifying and enforcing the policy of white dominance and racial separation known as "apartheid" (pronounced apart-hate). Nelson Mandela and many other anti-apartheid leaders were convicted and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of treason. In May 1961, South Africa relinquished its dominion status and declared itself a republic. In February 1990, State President F. W. de Klerk-who had come to power in 1989-announced the unbanning of the ANC and all other anti-apartheid groups. Two weeks later Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The country's first nonracial elections were held on April 26 to 29, 1994, resulting in the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President on May 10, 1994.

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