South Africa

November 25, 2012 9:51 pm

South Africa is at the southern end of Africa. It’s a large land of great natural beauty and abundant resources. It has a troubled history and many problems, but South Africa is moving ahead even as it struggles with its difficult past.
Facts About South Africa
Official name
Republic of South Africa
Capital
Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial)
Population
43,800,000 people
Rank among countries in population
27th
Major cities
Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg
Area
471,000 square miles
1,220,000 square kilometers
Rank among countries in area
24th
Highest point
Njesuthi
11,306 feet/3,446 meters
Currency
Rand
WHAT’S THE CAPITAL?
That’s a tough question, because South Africa has three capital cities! The parliament meets in Cape Town. Cape Town is the biggest city in South Africa, with about 3 million people. But the president runs his branch of government from the city of Pretoria. The judicial branch (the court system) is seated in yet another city, Bloemfontein.
VELD TO OCEAN
The landscape of South Africa is spectacular. The interior of the country is a high plateau called the Veld. The Veld is separated from the coast by the Great Escarpment. The Escarpment is a long mountain range that runs through much of southern Africa. In the Drakensberg Mountains in eastern South Africa, this ridge rises over 11,000 feet (3,400 meters). In some places, it’s a sheer cliff dropping down from the Veld.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Maybe you’ve seen lions or giraffes in a zoo near home. But wouldn’t you like to see how these animals live in the wild? You can see this in South Africa.
In northeast South Africa, along its border with Mozambique, is Kruger National Park. It’s one of South Africa’s great tourist attractions. Here you can see lions, elephants, zebras, monkeys, rhinoceroses, antelope, and hundreds of other animals. You can even camp out in the park. But be careful, and don’t feed the animals!
GOLD AND DIAMONDS
More gold is mined in South Africa than in any other country in the world. South Africa is also famous for its diamonds. The largest diamond ever found came from South Africa. It was as big as an orange!
Many European settlers came to South Africa in search of gold or diamonds. Johannesburg, South Africa’s second biggest city, was founded in 1886 when gold was discovered. Talk about gold fever! Within ten years, Johannesburg was a city of 100,000 people.
THE FIRST SOUTH AFRICANS
The people of South Africa are as varied as the land. Three-fourths are black Africans. They were the country’s first inhabitants. Today, they belong to many different native groups and speak several different languages.
The Zulu are the largest native group, making up about one-fifth of South Africa’s total population. Most live in KwaZulu-Natal, a province in eastern South Africa. There was once a great Zulu kingdom there.
SETTLERS FROM EUROPE
The first Europeans to settle in South Africa came from Holland in the late 1600s. People from Germany and France came after the Dutch settlers. The descendents of these European settlers are called Afrikaners. Afrikaners have their own language, called Afrikaans.
Settlers from Great Britain began arriving during the early 1800s. Britain later ruled South Africa for more than a century. Afrikaners and descendants of British settlers make up most of South Africa’s white population.
APARTHEID
Until the early 1990s, white South Africans ruled the country through a system called apartheid. Apartheid means “separateness” in the Afrikaans language. It allowed the small, white population of South Africa to control the country’s large, black population.
Most black South Africans were poor during apartheid. Black South Africans had very few rights. They could not vote or live near whites. Millions were forced to live in shacks in shantytowns.
FROM PRISON TO PRESIDENT
Many South Africans, both black and white, battled against apartheid. Nelson Mandela was one of them. He spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid. Mandela was released in 1990. Soon afterward, black South Africans were granted the right to vote. Four years later, Mandela became president of South Africa! Today, South Africa still has many problems and many poor people, but it is a working democracy.
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