Everything you need to know about SA


Republic of South Africa

Republiek van Suid-Afrika

CAPITAL: Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial)

FLAG: The national flag, adopted in 1994, consists of a blue-black triangle placed vertical to the hoist and bordered in gold-yellow. Bands of red, white, green, white, and blue appear horizontally.

ANTHEM: Two anthems are currently in use: the official anthem, Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Call of South Africa), and Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika (God Bless Africa), a hymn adopted by most liberation groups.

MONETARY UNIT: The South African rand (r) is a paper currency of 100 cents. It is used throughout the South African monetary area. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 rand, and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 rand. r1 = $0.16155 (or $1 = r6.19) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Republic Day, 31 May; Kruger Day, 10 October; Day of the Vow, 16 December; Christmas, 25 December; Goodwill Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Ascension; Family Day is a movable secular holiday.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


The area of South Africa is 1,219,912 sq km (471,011 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by South Africa is slightly less than twice the size of the state of Texas. Considered as a whole, South Africa extends 1,821 km (1,132 mi) ne–sw and 1,066 km (662 mi) se–nw. It is bounded on the n by Botswana and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), on the ne by Mozambique and Swaziland, on the e by the Indian Ocean, on the s by the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, on the w by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the nw by Namibia. South Africa also controls two small islands, Prince Edward and Marion, which lie some 1,920 km (1,200 mi) southeast of Cape Town. South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, is located in the northeastern part of the country.


South Africa has a mean altitude of about 1,200 m (3,900 ft), and at least 40% of the surface is at a higher elevation. Parts of Johannesburg are more than 1,800 m (6,000 ft) above sea level. There are three major zones: the marginal regions, which range in width from 80 to 240 km (50–150 mi) in the east to 60–80 km (35–50 mi) in the west, and including the eastern plateau slopes, Cape folded belt, and western plateau slopes; a vast saucer-shaped interior plateau, separated from the marginal zone by the Great Escarpment; and the Kalahari Basin, only the southern part of which projects into north-central South Africa. The land rises steadily from west to east to the Drakensberg Mountains (part of the Great Escarpment), the tallest of which is Mt. Injasuti (3,408 m/11,181 ft), on the border with Lesotho.

The coastal belt of the west and south ranges between 150 and 180 m (500 and 600 ft) above sea level and is very fertile, producing citrus fruits and grapes, particularly in the western Cape. North of the coastal belt stretch the Little and the Great Karoo highlands, which are bounded by mountains, are semiarid to arid, and merge into sandy wastes that ultimately join the arid Kalahari. The high grass prairie, or veld, of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal is famous for its deposits of gold and silver; other minerals are found in the Transvaal’s bush veld. From the Drakensberg, the land falls toward the Indian Ocean in the rolling hills and valleys of Natal, which are covered with rich vegetation and, near the coast, subtropical plants, including sugarcane.

The two most important rivers draining the interior plateau are the Orange (with its tributary the Vaal), which flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Limpopo, which empties into the Indian Ocean through Mozambique. Of the fast-flowing rivers with steeply graded courses that produce spectacular waterfalls, the largest is the Tugela, which rises in the Mont-aux-Sources and flows swiftly to the Indian Ocean.


South Africa lies almost wholly within the southern temperate zone, and its climate is more equable than that of corresponding northern latitudes because of its surrounding waters. Temperature differentials between east and west coasts stem from the influences, respectively, of the warm Mozambique (Agulhas) Current and the cold Benguela Current. The average daily minimum temperature at Durban, on the east coast, ranges from 11°c (52°f) in July to 21°c (70°f) in February; on the west coast, at Port Nolloth, the range is from 7°c (45°f) to 12°c (54°f) during the corresponding months. Temperatures are cooler in the highlands: at Johannesburg, the average daily minimum is 4°c (39°f) in June and July and 14°c (57°f) in January. On the high veld there are sharp differences of temperature between day and night, but there is less daily fluctuation nearer the coast.

Rainfall is unpredictable in large parts of the country, and prolonged droughts are a serious restriction on farming in such areas. While the mean annual rainfall is 46 cm (18 in), 21% of the country receives less than 20 cm (8 in) and 31% gets more than 60 cm (24 in). Much of South Africa gets its rain in the summer months, but the western coastal belt is a winter rain area. Along the Cape south coast, rain falls during both seasons.


The variety of South Africa’s climate and altitude accounts for its diversified flora and fauna. Major vegetation zones include the forest and palm belt of the east, south, and southwest coasts; the temperate grasslands (veld) of the eastern portion of the interior plateau; the desert and semidesert (Karoo) vegetation of the western interior; and the bushveld (savanna) of the Kalahari and the northeast. Of the 200 natural orders of plants in the world, over 140 are represented and South Africa has over 25,000 species of flora, including a floral kingdom found nowhere else. There are 200 species of euphorbia, about 350 different kinds of heath in the Cape Province alone, and more than 500 species of grass. Wild flowers (including the protea, South Africa’s national flower) grow in great profusion throughout the Cape region.

Aardvark, jackal, lion, elephant, wild buffalo, hippopotamus, and various kinds of antelope are still found in some parts of the country. In the great game parks, animals may be seen living in natural surroundings. So extensive is the variety both of smaller mammals and of plants that they have not yet all been identified. The number of different kinds of birds is estimated at well over 300; that of snakes, 200. The number of species of insects is estimated at 40,000, and there are about 1,000 kinds of fish.


Recent industrialization and urbanization have taken their toll on the South African environment, as have such agricultural practices as veld fires, overgrazing of livestock, and intensive use of pesticides. Soil erosion and desertification are two more significant environmental issues in South Africa. Three hundred to four hundred million tons of soil per year are lost. The country’s limited water resources have been impaired by mineralization, eutrophication, and acidic mine drainage. South Africa has 45 cu km of renewable water resources, with 72% of annual withdrawals used for farming and 11% for industrial activity. The country’s cities produce about 4.2 million tons of solid waste per year. Air pollution in urban areas stems primarily from coal burning and motor vehicle exhausts. The government has taken steps to address these issues: Johannesburg was the site of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, and South Africa is seen as a leader of the developing world on issues such as climate change, conservation, and biodiversity.

The principal environmental bodies are the Department of Water Affairs, the Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Department of National Health and Population Activities. Pursuant to a government “white paper” about environmental conservation policy, approved in 1980, a comprehensive environmental protection bill was given parliamentary approval in 1982. It included development of a comprehensive technology for treating sewage and industrial effluents, surveys of threatened natural habitats, research on marine pollution, monitoring of atmospheric pollutants, and a program of environmental education in the public schools.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 29 types of mammals, 36 species of birds, 20 types of reptiles, 21 species of amphibians, 49 species of fish, 18 types of mollusks, 109 species of other invertebrates, and 75 species of plants. Threatened species in South Africa include the riverine rabbit, Cape Mountain zebra, Treur River barb, and several species of butterfly. Twelve species have become extinct, including the cape warthog, bluebuck, Burchell’s zebra, and quagga.

About 5.5% of the total land area is protected and there are numerous nature and game reserves and national parks. Some 120 rare Addo elephants are protected in Addo Elephant National Park, 56 km (35 mi) north of Port Elizabeth; Bontebok National Park (near Swellendam, Cape Province) is a habitat for the last surviving herd of bontebok antelope; Mountain Zebra National Park (near Cradock, in Cape Province) is a refuge for several hundred rare mountain zebras and springbok; and Kruger National Park, in northeastern Transvaal, has almost every species of South African wildlife in its natural habitat.


The population of South Africa in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 46,923,000, which placed it at number 27 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 33% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 96 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–2010 was expected to be 0.7%. The projected population for the year 2025 was 47,779,000. The overall population density was 39 per sq km (100 per sq mi); however, more than a third of the people live on only 4% of the land area.

The UN estimated that 53% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.65%. The administrative capital, Pretoria had a population of 1,209,000 in that year. Johannesburg, the largest city and the commercial and industrial center of the country, had a metropolitan population of 3,228,000; Cape Town, the legislative capital, had a population of 3,103,000. Other major cities include East Rand, 3,043,000; Durban, 2,643,000; West Rand, 1,297,000; Sasolburg, 1,259,000; and Port Elizabeth, 998,000; Bloemfontein, the judicial capital, approximately 300,000.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of South Africa. The UN estimated that 21.3% of adults between the ages of 15–49 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


Preference was given in the past to immigrants from those countries from which South Africa’s present white population is derived. Between 1963 and 1984, the number of immigrants averaged about 37,000 annually, and the number of emigrants about 12,000. Between 1980–84, some 72,528 Zimbabwe residents emigrated to South Africa. After 1984, immigration fell, and, perhaps as a consequence, the white population actually declined between 1980–91. Of the 63,495 immigrants between 1986–91, 16,815 came from other African countries, 16,056 from the United Kingdom, 16,512 from other European countries, and 14,112 from other parts of the world. Emigration came to 46,541 during these years.

In 1986, it was estimated that between 1.5 million and 2 million black Africans migrate temporarily to South Africa each year to fulfill work contracts, although only about 500,000 foreign male Africans are living and working in the country at any given time. South Africa was providing informal sanctuary to perhaps 200,000 refugees from Mozambique in 1992, most of whom repatriated by 1996.

Since 1999, one of South Africa’s main challenges has been the increasing cross-border migration. In addition to the large number of undocumented migrants that enter the country, as of 1999, the country was hosting some 55,000 asylum seekers, only 8,500 of whom had been recognized as refugees. Also in 1999, xenophobia was on the rise, with 30 refugees and asylum seekers having been killed in attacks on foreigners since 1995. The number of migrants living in South Africa in 2000 was 1,303,000, including refugees. In 2004 there were 27,683 refugees and 115,224 asylum seekers. Over 7,000 refugees were from Somalia, 5,000 were from Angola, and the remainder from the DROC. Asylum seekers were from Zimbabwe, the DROC, Somalia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -0.21 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


Legal separation of the racial communities was a cornerstone of government policy through most of the 20th century. This racial policy, often called apartheid but referred to in South African government circles as “separate development,” created and maintained one of the most rigidly segregated societies in the world. During the 1970s and 1980s, enforcement of separatist policies eased, but the division of the population into four racial communities, Africans (blacks), whites, coloreds, and Asians, remained. The rules of apartheid were formally abolished in 1991, but most citizens still describe themselves as one of the four traditional categories.

At the 2001 census, about 79% of the population were black Africans. This black population includes a large number of peoples, including the Zulu, Xhosa, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Tswana, Shangana-Tsongo, and Swazi. Whites account for about 9.6% of the total population. About 60% of the whites are descendants of Dutch, French Huguenot, and German settlers, and about 40% are of British descent; South Africans of European, especially Dutch, descent are called Afrikaners. The Cape Coloureds, accounting for about 8.6% of the total population, are a long-established racial amalgam of white, Hottentot, and other African, Indian, and Malay lineage. Asians make up about 2.5% of the population; they include descendants of Indian, East Indian, and Chinese indentured laborers who were not repatriated after their brief period of service as miners. There are a few thousand Khoikhoi within the country, an indigenous nomadic people who are primarily sheep and cattle herders.


The interim constitution adopted in 1993 recognized 11 languages as official at the national level: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. All were still recognized officially in 2005. The African languages spoken in South Africa are of the Niger-Congo family. In general, English is more commonly spoken in the cities, and Afrikaans in the rural areas.

Afrikaans is a variant of the Dutch spoken by the 17th-century colonists, and it includes lexical items, phrases, and syntactic structures from Malay, Portuguese, the Bantu group, Hottentot, and other African languages, as well as from English, French, and German. Afrikaans has borrowed from English words such as gelling (gallon), jaart (yard), sjieling (shilling), and trippens(three pence), while English has taken over kraal, veld, and other Afrikaans words. More than 70% of South African whites are bilingual. Afrikaans is the primary language of about 13.3% and English of 8.2%. The most widely spoken primary language is Zulu, spoken by about 23.8% of the population. Xhosa follows with about 17.6% of the population as primary speakers. Sepedi is spoken by 9.4% of the population, Setswana by 8.2%, Sesotho by 7.9%, and Tsonga by 4.4%. The remaining 7.2% included speakers of German, Portuguese, and other languages.


According to a 2001 census, approximately 80% of the population claimed to be Christian, with the largest group of Christian churches linked to the African Independent Churches. These include the Zion Christian Church (accounting for about 11% of the population) and the Apostolic Church (about 10% of the population), as well as some Pentecostal offshoots which were founded as breakaways from various missionary churches, or the so-called Ethiopian churches. The Dutch Reformed churches make up about 6.7% of the population and include the Nederduits Gereformeerde, Nederduitsch Hervormde, and the Gereformeerde Churches. The next-largest denomination was the Roman Catholic Church at 7.1% of the population, followed by the Methodists at 6.8%, Anglicans at 3.8%, Lutherans at 2.5%, Presbyterians at 1.9%, Baptists at 1.5%, and Congregationalists at 1.1%. There are a number of Pentecostal and charismatic churches as well as congregations of Greek Orthodox and Seventh-Day Adventists. About 87% of all whites are Christian, as are about 80% of all Blacks and 87% of all Coloureds.

About 1.2% of the population are Hindu and another 1.5% are Muslim, with most adherents being of Indian descent. There are very small numbers of Jews, Buddhists, Confucians, and Rastafarians. About 15% of the population claim no formal religious affiliation, but many of these individuals practice traditional indigenous customs, including the veneration of deceased ancestors and the use of herbs, therapeutic techniques, and even black magic to manipulate the powers of the spirits. There are some who combine traditional practices with Christianity.

Though there is no state religion, Christian holidays are officially observed. Relations between most religious groups is amicable. The South African Council of Churches is an interfaith and interracial groups that promotes mutual understanding among religions and maintains good relations with the government.


South Africa’s transportation network is among the most modern and extensive on the continent. In 2002, there were an estimated 275,971 km (171,654 mi) of national and provincial roads, of which 57,568 km (35,807 mi) were paved, including 2,032 km (1,264 mi) of expressways. There were 4,154,593 automobiles and 2,079,860 commercial vehicles in 2003.

The South African Transport Service, a government department under the minister of transport affairs, operates the railways, principal harbors, South African Airways, and some road transportation services. In 2004, South Africa’s railroad network totaled 20,872 km (12,982 mi), all of it narrow gauge. Of that total, 10,436 km (6,491 mi) were electrified.

In 2005, the South African merchant fleet consisted of two ships of 1,000 GRT or more, with a total volume of 31,505 GRT. South Africa’s seven ports, owned and operated by the government, include the deepwater ports of Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Table Bay (at Cape Town); other ports with good facilities are Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay, East London, and Mosselbaai (or Mossel Bay).

Airports in 2004 totaled an estimated 728, of which 146 had paved runways as of 2005. The government-owned South African Airways operates both international and domestic flights. Jan Smuts Airport, near Johannesburg, is the major international airport; other international airports are located at Cape Town and Durban. In 2003, about 9.481 million passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.


Fossil skulls suggest that South Africa may have been one of the earliest scenes of human evolution. Little is known of the original settlers, but when Europeans first arrived, there were two distinct groups of peoples—the Bushmen, primitive nomadic hunters of the western desert upland country, and the Hottentots, a pastoral people who occupied the southern and eastern coastal areas. Before ad 100, Bantu-speaking peoples entered the Transvaal from the north, settling territories in the north and east.

In 1488, the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeu Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope, and on Christmas Day of 1497, Vasco da Gama discovered Natal. The first European settlement at the Cape was made in 1652 under Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Co., which needed a refreshment station on the route to the East. Because there was a shortage of farm labor, the Dutch imported slaves from West Africa, Madagascar, and the East Indies, and because of the scarcity of European women, mixed marriages took place, eventually producing the Cape Coloured people. Huguenot settlers joined the small Dutch settlement in 1688. Continued demands for meat and relatively poor agricultural production encouraged the development of cattle farming, which in turn led to the need for more grazing land. Settlements were established on the coastal plain, along the valleys, and on the Great Karoo. The European population multiplied, but the Bushmen and Hottentots declined in numbers. The first contacts with Bantu-speaking Africans were made along the Great Fish River, which, in 1778, the Cape authorities proclaimed the boundary between the colonists and the Africans. The first serious clash came in 1779, when invading Xhosa tribesmen were driven back across the river border. Three more frontier wars were fought by 1812.

In 1795, Britain occupied the Cape, and in 1814, the area was ceded to the United Kingdom by the Treaty of Vienna. The free Coloured inhabitants of the Cape were given the same legal and political status as whites, and in 1834, slavery was abolished. Because of severe droughts and in reaction to British policy and administration, about 6,000 Boers (Dutch farmers) undertook the Great Trek in 1834–36, migrating northward into the present Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Some crossed the Drakensberg Mountains into Natal. The British annexed Natal in 1843 and extended their rule over Kaffraria in 1847, Griqualand West in 1871, and Zululand and Tongaland in 1887. The Transvaal was annexed in 1877 but returned to independence after a revolt in 1880–81, culminating in a British defeat by the Boers at Majuba Hill. In 1881, Swaziland also was declared independent. After a war between the Boers and Basutos, the British proclaimed Basutoland (now Lesotho) a British territory, and in 1884, it became a British protectorate. The British granted local self-government to the Cape in 1872 and to Natal in 1897.

Meanwhile, the spread of European settlements into areas occupied by Africans led to the setting aside of large native reserves and to the development of separate white and black communities. In 1860, indentured Indians were brought into Natal to work on the sugarcane plantations; by 1911, when India halted the emigration because of what it called “poor working conditions,” more than 150,000 Indians had come to South Africa as contract laborers. It was in South Africa, while pursuing the Indians’ claims of injustice, that Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, then a young lawyer, developed his philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

The discovery around 1870 of diamonds along the Orange and Vaal rivers and in the Kimberley district led to an influx of foreigners and brought prosperity to the Cape and the Orange Free State. Railways were built and trade increased. The discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886 brought in thousands of additional newcomers and made Transvaal potentially the wealthiest state. Tension between the Boers and outsiders attracted to Transvaal was accentuated by an unsuccessful attempt to capture Johannesburg by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson (Jameson Raid) in 1895–96 and culminated in the South African (or Boer) War in 1899–1902. After a desperate struggle against the larger British forces, the Boer republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State gave up their independence by the Treaty of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902 but shortly thereafter were granted self-government by the British. In a convention during 1908–9, the leaders of the Afrikaners (as the Boers were now called), together with those from the Cape and Natal, drafted a constitution for a united South Africa that passed the British Parliament as the South Africa Act in 1909 and became effective on 31 May 1910. The constitution provided for a union of the four territories or provinces, to be known as the Union of South Africa. In 1913, the Union Parliament passed the Bantu Land Act, setting aside 8.9 million hectares (22 million acres) of land as black areas; an additional 6.3 million hectares (15.6 million acres) were added to the black homelands by another parliamentary act in 1936.

The Union of South Africa fought with the Allies in World War I, signed the Treaty of Versailles, and became a member of the League of Nations. In 1920, the League gave South Africa a mandate over the former German colony of South West Africa (now generally called Namibia), which lasted until 1946, when South Africa refused to recognize UN authority over the area and regarded it as an integral part of the country. In 1926, a British declaration granted South Africa national autonomy and equal legal status with the United Kingdom. Mining and industrialization advanced in the period between the two wars. More intensive exploitation of the wealth of the country led to better living standards. South Africa sent troops to fight the Nazis in World War II, although many Afrikaners favored neutrality. In 1948, the National Party (NP) took power, influencing the general character of life in South Africa and, in particular, enforcing its policies of apartheid, or racial separation (officially called “separate development” after 1960) of whites and nonwhites.

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South Africa’s white electorate approved a republican form of government in a 1960 referendum, and South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961. The republican constitution did not deviate substantially from the former one, the only major change being the substitution of a president for the monarch as the head of state. As a result of objections from nonwhite members of the Commonwealth of Nations to South Africa’s presence, South Africa withdrew its application for continued Commonwealth membership in 1961.

The immediate period surrounding the creation of the republic was one of mounting pressures applied to the government because of its apartheid policies. In 1960, black unrest swelled to the point where a state of emergency was declared. On 21 March 1960, a black demonstration was staged against the “pass laws,” laws requiring blacks to carry “reference books,” or internal passports, thus enabling the government to restrict their movement into urban areas. The demonstration resulted in the killing at Sharpeville of 69 black protesters by government troops and provided the touchstone for local black protests and for widespread expressions of outrage in international forums. During 1963–64, the government acted to stiffen its control over blacks living in white areas. After 1 May 1963, the General Law Amendment Act allowed the government to hold people for consecutive 90-day periods without trial (the length was decreased to 15 days in 1966). In 1965, the Suppression of Communism Amendment Bill renewed the government’s authority to detain for security reasons persons who had completed prison sentences.

As the Portuguese colonial empire disbanded and blacks came to the fore in Mozambique and Angola during the mid-1970s, South African troops joined the Angolan civil conflict, in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a Soviet-backed faction from coming to power, but then withdrew from Angola in March 1976. South Africa subsequently launched sporadic attacks on Angola (which supported insurgents seeking to end South African rule over Namibia) and Mozambique and aided insurgencies in the two former Portuguese territories; these operations (and other raids into Botswana, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe) were apparently in response to the aid and political support given by South Africa’s neighbors to the African National Congress (ANC), a black nationalist group.

Beginning in June 1976, the worst domestic confrontation since Sharpeville took place in Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where blacks violently protested the compulsory use of Afrikaans in schools; suppression of the riots by South African police left at least 174 blacks dead and 1,139 injured. The Afrikaans requirement was subsequently modified. During the late 1970s, new protest groups and leaders emerged among the young blacks. After one of these leaders, 30-year-old Steven Biko, died on 12 September 1977 while in police custody, there were renewed protests. As a result, on 4 November, the UN Security Council approved a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa—the first ever imposed on a member nation.

As of 1981, the government had designated four of the ten black homelands as “sovereign” states: Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei, and Venda. All members of the ethnic groups associated with these homelands automatically lost their South African citizenship; the government’s stated intent to grant independence to the remaining six homelands meant that the vast majority of South Africa’s blacks would eventually lose their South African citizenship. In an effort to conciliate nonwhites and international opinion, the government scrapped many aspects of apartheid in the mid-1980s, including the “pass laws” and the laws barring interracial sexual relations and marriage. A new constitution established legislative houses for Coloureds and Indians in 1984, although only 31% and 20% of the respective eligible voters went to the polls.

These measures failed to meet black aspirations, however, and as political violence mounted, in July 1985, the government imposed a state of emergency in 36 magisterial districts, embracing nearly all of the urban black population, which lasted over seven months. During this time, 7,996 persons were detained and 757 people died in political violence, by government count. A new, nationwide state of emergency was imposed in June 1986, with police and the military exercising extraordinary powers of arrest and detention. At least 4,000 and possibly as many as 10,000 were detained in 1986, including over 1,400 aged 18 or under.

In 1984, South Africa and Mozambique signed an agreement by which each country pledged not to aid the antigovernment forces in the other country; also in 1984, South Africa signed an agreement under which it withdrew forces that it had sent into southern Angola in an effort to forestall aid to guerrillas in Namibia. However, the government continued to hold its neighbors responsible for ANC violence, and South African raids into Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were conducted during 1985–86. In 1987, the government announced that it was withdrawing troops that it had sent into Angola to aid the rebels fighting against the Angolan government, which was supported by Cuban and Soviet troops.

In July 1987, the government cracked down on the United Democratic Front (UDF), an umbrella organization of over 600 civic, sports, church, trade union, women’s, professional, youth and student bodies opposed to apartheid. Some 22 of its leaders were charged with treason and many more were forced to go underground. The government banned 17 antiapartheid organizations, including the UDF and the largest trade union, on 24 February 1988. Repression increased throughout 1987 and 1988, as did protest against state policies. Alternative newspapers, New Nation and Weekly Mail, were prohibited briefly from publishing. Various antiapartheid leaders were assassinated by secret hit squads identified with the police and military intelligence. Others were detained and otherwise restricted; still others were served with banning orders. In retaliation, protest strikes and demonstrations mounted, as did organization efforts among antiapartheid activists.

In 1989, President P.W. Botha resigned as head of the NP after a “mild stroke” in January. He was replaced by F. W. de Klerk who, on 15 August, was also named acting state president. After the general election, held 6 September, de Klerk was elected to a five-year term as president.

De Klerk launched a series of reforms in September 1989 that led speedily to the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela and others on 10 February 1990. The ANC and other resistance militants, including the Communist Party, were legalized. Mandela had been in prison 27 years and had become a revered symbol of resistance to apartheid.

At that point, the ANC began to organize within South Africa. Government began “talks about talks” with the ANC and in August 1990, the ANC suspended its armed struggle. Most leaders of the ANC returned from exile. Still, fighting continued, largely between ANC activists and supporters of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party, strongest in Natal province. More than 6,000 people were killed in political violence in 1990 and 1991, many victims of fighting provoked by a “third force” of operatives employed by hardliners within the Defense Force and the police.

In 1991, de Klerk introduced and parliament passed measures to repeal laws that had institutionalized apartheid policies—the Land Act (1913 and 1936), the Group Areas Act (1950), and the Population Registration Act (1950). A number of repressive security acts were repealed as well.

In July, the ANC convened its first full conference in South Africa in 30 years. They elected Mandela president and Cyril Ramaphosa the secretary general. The ailing Oliver Tambo moved from president to a new post, National Chairman.

Meanwhile, negotiations continued over constitutional changes and plans for nonracial elections and the transition to majority rule. Numerous parties engaged in a Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) starting in December 1991. On 14 September 1991, government, the ANC and Inkatha signed a pact to end factional fighting. Other groups signed on, but it hardly stemmed the high levels of violence. The militant right wing refused to cooperate with any negotiations and agreements. In order to strengthen his negotiating hand, de Klerk called a whites-only referendum for 17 March 1992. Of the 85% turnout, 68.7% supported de Klerk’s efforts to negotiate a settlement. By May, however, CODESA talks bogged down. The ANC mounted a series of mass protests against the stalemated CODESA talks. After 42 residents were horribly murdered at Boipatong Township by Zulu hostel dwellers allegedly assisted by police, the ANC withdrew from CODESA. On 7 September, 24 ANC supporters were killed by the Ciskei army troops as they marched in protest on the homeland’s capital.

Later that month, negotiations began again between government and the ANC. A 26 September summit between Mandela and de Klerk produced a Record of Understanding that met several key ANC demands. But this angered KwaZulu Chief Mangosuthu G. Buthelezi, so he withdrew from the talks. In February 1993, government and the ANC reached agreement on plans for a transition to democracy. Multiparty negotiations followed in April. An interim parliament was to be elected for a five-year period after a general election in April 1994. All parties gaining over 5% of the vote would be represented in the new cabinet. The new parliament would also serve as a constituent assembly to iron out details of a new constitution. The broad guidelines were agreed upon by the government, the ANC, and other parties in late December 1993. A transitional Executive Council to oversee some aspects of government, including security, came into existence in December 1993. Inkatha, led by Buthelezi, and the right wing Conservative Party refused to participate. The Conservative Party and Inkatha boycotted the talks on multiparty government. But just a few days before the scheduled elections, Inkatha agreed to participate. White conservatives tried to hold out for an Afrikaner homeland, yet the white right was divided on whether to participate in preelection talks, in the election itself, or whether to take up arms as a last resort. There were inefficiencies and some claims of electoral fraud and intimidation, especially by the ANC against Inkatha in Natal province. The elections proceeded relatively peacefully and with great enthusiasm. They were pronounced “free and fair” by international observers and the independent Electoral Commission.

The results left the ANC as the major vote getter with 62.5%. The NP gained 20.4%; the Inkatha Freedom Party, 10.5%; the Freedom Front, 2.2%; the Democratic Party, 1.7%; and the Pan-Africanist Congress, 1.2%. ANC, thus, was awarded 252 of the 400 seats in parliament. It was the governing party in all but two of the nine regions. The IFP carried KwaZulu/Natal and the NP held the Western Cape. Mandela became president and the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki and the NP’s de Klerk, deputy presidents. Even Buthelezi was persuaded to take a ministerial post in the cabinet.

In May 1994, the Constitutional Assembly convened to lay the groundwork for the new constitution. All parties were included in the initial sessions, but Inkatha boycotted the Assembly’s drafting of an interim constitution when its demand for international mediation on regional autonomy was not met. At the same time, violent clashes between Inkatha and ANC supporters flared anew in the Natal Province.

South Africa held local elections on 1 November 1995, although last-minute changes to the interim constitution allowed for seven provinces—including Kwa-Zulu Natal—to delay elections until 1996. The ANC also swept the provincial elections, with the NP winning the largest minority share of the vote.

Bishop Desmond Tutu convened a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in early 1996 to expose apartheid atrocities committed in the years of white rule. Although those who refused to cooperate with the commission could be subject to criminal penalties, the commission granted immunity and amnesty to those who admitted their roles in apartheid crimes. Testimony in a 1995 court case also linked death squads to the highest levels of government, including the prime minister’s office.

In 1997, the Constitutional Court ratified the new constitution after rejecting a first submitted draft in 1996. The new constitution was inaugurated in February 1997. It granted a strong central government with some limited powers vested in the provinces. Inkatha, which boycotted the drafting sessions to the end, accepted the Constitutional Court’s decree.

The NP withdrew from the government of national unity immediately after ratification of the constitution to take its place as the official opposition party. De Klerk, who would leave politics in August 1997, also resigned his post to head the opposition party.

By 1997, the exuberance of the new constitutional era and two years of economic expansion had given way to uncertainty in the months following ratifications. South Africa was struggling with the new political structure, a flagging economy, revolutions of the Truth and Reconciliation, and a crime wave seemingly out of control. The latter was deemed by citizens as the number one problem facing the new government. The murder rate had grown to ten times higher than the murder rate in the United States. Robbery, assault, and carjackings had left downtown Johannesburg in ruins, and vigilante groups were prevalent throughout the nation. The high crime rate had deterred foreign investment and affected the tourist industry as well.

Early in 1999, Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa since 1994, delivered his final “state of the nation” address. The vote in June 1999 passed without a single political killing and was quickly embraced by all political parties. Despite the increase in crime in the nation, the second parliamentary elections held in June 1999 were peaceful and generally fair. In the 3 June elections, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) won 266 of 400 parliamentary seats (63%), just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. Thabo Mbeki was sworn in as South Africa’s second democratically elected president at a glittering inauguration ceremony, which saw Nelson Mandela step down after steering the country away from apartheid rule and oppression. However, the one-sided vote in favor of ANC was itself troubling. Critiques noted that the dominance of the ANC had the coloring of a de facto one party state.

The dominance of the ANC was clearly illustrated in the 14 April 2004 elections. The African National Congress (ANC) of President Thabo Mbeki, which had been in power since the end of the apartheid system in 1994, was reelected with an increased majority. The ANC obtained 69.7% of votes cast on the national ballot winning 279 seats, theoretically allowing them to change the constitution—though they pledged not to. Only about 56% of eligible voters took part in the election. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, also obtained an increased percentage on the national ballot; 12.4% or 50 seats in the national assembly. The New National Party, a descendant of the ruling party of the apartheid era, lost most of their support, dropping from 6.9% in 1999 to 1.7%. In the 1994 elections it received 20.4% of the votes. Many of their supporters were unhappy with the party’s alliance with the ANC. The Independent Democrats surprised many observers by obtaining more votes than the New National Party, becoming the fifth-largest party. The Inkatha Freedom Party which obtained 7.0% (28 seats) of the vote lost some support even in its stronghold province of Kwazulu-Natal. The United Democratic Movement also lost support winning only 2.3% of the vote. Several other smaller parties also contested in these elections. Overall the elections were deemed free and fair. The next presidential election was due April 2009 and the next parliamentary elections were due in 2009, as well.

The first four years of Mbeki in office were marked by an active foreign policy and controversy over his AIDS policy. Along with Botswana, South Africa sent peacekeeping forces to Lesotho in 1999 to quell rioting and civil unrest following the 1998 elections there. Subsequently, the government played host to the belligerents of Africa’s “first world war” in the Great Lakes region, helping them reach power sharing and peace agreements in December 2002 and April 2003. In addition to sending peacekeeping troops to the DROC, South Africa also took the lead in providing peace-keepers for Burundi in early 2003 following peace negotiations by Nelson Mandela in that country. Mbeki has been one of four African heads of state to champion the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a continent-wide initiative that promises accountable governance in exchange for donor resources and technical assistance. South Africa hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in August 2002.

However strong this record, it has been tarnished by Mbeki’s feeble response to the flawed March 2002 elections in Zimbabwe, and by his de-linking of HIV—the virus that the world scientific community says causes AIDS—from the disease itself. His government’s reluctance to introduce anti-retroviral therapy widely and affordably has damaged his credibility at home and abroad. Given HIV prevalence rates of 23% among adults 15–49 years old, Mbeki was roundly booed at the world AIDS summit in Durban in July 2000.

Although South Africa’s economy is highly developed, the exclusionary nature of apartheid and distortions caused in part by the country’s international isolation until the 1990s left major weaknesses. As of 2005 the economy was in a process of transition as the government seeks to address the inequities of apartheid, stimulate growth, and create jobs. South Africa is increasingly becoming integrated into the international system, and foreign investment has increased dramatically. Still, the economic disparities between population groups are expected to persist for many years, remaining an area of priority for the government.


The terms of a new constitution adopted in February 1997 were hammered out prior to the 27–29 April 1994 election. There is a 400-seat National Assembly chosen by proportional representation (200 nationally and 200 from regional lists). Following the implementation of the new constitution on 3 February 1997, the former senate was disbanded and replaced by the National Council of Provinces with essentially no change in membership and party affiliations—although the new institution’s responsibilities have been changed somewhat by the new constitution. Of 90 members, 10 come from each province or region and selected by each provincial assembly. The members serve as both a legislature and a constituent assembly. They also elect the president and deputy presidents. Elections for the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces were last held 2 June 1999 with the next to be held by 2 August 2004. The president names a cabinet, divided proportionally between parties that have gained at least 5% of the vote.

The next presidential elections were scheduled for sometime between May and July 2004.

Although the degree of autonomy and the level of power given to the regions remains contentious with the IFP’s longstanding grievance about the way power is devalued to the regions, the nine provinces have assemblies based on the total number of votes cast in the general election. Thus, the number of members each provincial legislature has depends on the number of votes cast divided by 50,000. The executive branch of the provincial governments is, like the legislatures, allocated proportionally.


The early division in the South African party system was between those who promoted Afrikaner nationalism and those Afrikaans-speaking and English-speaking persons who worked together toward goals on which both sides could agree. When General Louis Botha formed the first cabinet in 1910, he combined the moderate Afrikaners and English into the South African National Party, which confronted an English-speaking opposition. Soon afterward, however, General J.B.M. Hertzog formed the National Party (NP), dedicated to placing the interests of South Africa above those of the British Empire and to developing the Afrikaner group until it was as powerful as were English South Africans.

Hard-pressed by Hertzog’s NP in 1920, General Jan Christiaan Smuts, who succeeded Botha, fused the South African National Party with the English-speaking Unionists, establishing the alignment of the English-speaking, except those in the Labour Party (LP), with moderate Afrikaners. The LP allied itself with Hertzog, who achieved office in 1924. Together they carried through the so-called civilized labor policy, designed to safeguard a wide area in the economy for white labor.

Economic crisis during the Depression forced a new alignment of parties that brought Hertzog and Smuts into coalition in 1933 and fusion in the United Party (UP) in 1934. Daniel F. Malan broke with Hertzog in 1934 to form the “purified” NP, dedicated to a more exclusive and radical Afrikaner nationalism than Hertzog had ever preached.

When World War II broke out, Hertzog wished to remain neutral. Smuts swung the House of Assembly in support of the Allies and became prime minister with the support of all English-speaking South Africans and a substantial group of moderate Afrikaners in the UP. Malan won the 1948 election, the first whose campaign was waged chiefly on the racial issue. The sharpest division between the two parties arose from NP efforts to remove the Coloureds from the common voting roll.

The basic division in the party system was between the NP, which favored the policy of apartheid, or totally separate development of the different races, and the UP, which favored social and residential segregation but economic integration. The members of the NP were mainly Afrikaans-speaking and those of the UP were English-speaking, but each party had a considerable number of members of the other language group. Beginning in 1950, the Nationalists implemented their program of apartheid. Between 1953 and 1987, the NP won nine successive parliamentary elections under four party leaders: Malan (in 1953); Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (1958, 1961, 1966); Balthazar Johannes Vorster (1970, 1974, 1977); and Pieter W. Botha (1981–87). Vorster, who succeeded Verwoerd as prime minister after the assassination of Verwoerd in 1966, left the office in 1978 to become president. In the following year, however, he was forced to resign because of a political scandal involving the misappropriation of government funds to finance clandestine political and propaganda activities in the United States, Norway, and other Western countries. The Nationalists’ program met with little effective opposition from the UP, which formally disbanded in 1977. In that year, leaders of the UP and its splinter group, the Democratic Party, which had formed in 1973, established the New Republic Party (NRP), with support from English-speaking voters in Natal and the Eastern Cape. The NRP endorsed continuing white rule, but with a softening of apartheid. In the same year, another merger produced the Progressive Federal Party (PFP), which drew its main backing from English-speaking voters in urban areas and stood for universal suffrage within a federal system, with guarantees of minority rights. In the 1987 elections, the NP increased its representation from 116 (in 1981) to 123 seats. The PFP fell from 26 to 19 seats; the NRP lost 4 of its 5 seats. In 1989, the last national race-based parliamentary elections, the NP suffered a setback, winning just 48% of the vote and 93 seats. The PFP dissolved itself in favor of the Democratic Party, which took 33 seats.

The Conservative Party (CP) opposed any form of power sharing with nonwhites. It was led by a former cabinet minister, Andries Treurnicht. The CP became the official opposition party after winning 23 seats in the 1987 elections and 39 in 1989.

Several Coloured and Indian parties participated in the August 1984 elections for the houses of Parliament created for their respective ethnic groups. The Labour Party, a Coloured party headed by the Rev. Allan Hendrickse, won 76 of the 80 directly elected seats; it opposed the new constitution, advocated repeal of all discriminatory measures, and said that it was campaigning on behalf of all nonwhites but was vague on the question of whether it would accept a unitary state governed on the principle of one-person, one-vote. All five Indian parties participating in the elections favored protection of minority rights and rejected government in a unitary state on the basis of one-person, one-vote. The National People’s Party won 18 and Solidarity 17 of the 40 directly elected seats; the two parties formed a governing alliance in January 1986.

In 1985, the government repealed a law that had prohibited people of different racial groups from belonging to the same political party.

Several extraparliamentary organizations of Africans and Asians have formed on a national basis. The African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Indian Congress have cooperated with each other and have sought to cooperate with white liberal organizations. Banned in 1960, the ANC turned from its earlier tradition of nonviolence toward sabotage and other terrorist acts. In 1987, the government offered to legalize the group if it renounced violence. In 1987 and onward, talks were held outside the country between the ANC and diverse groups of white South Africans.

Notable among the more militant African groups was the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), which broke away from the ANC in 1959 and was banned in 1960. The ANC and PAC had been recognized by the UN General Assembly as “the authentic representatives” of the people of South Africa. During the 1970s, a loose coalition of African student groups known as the Black Consciousness Movement developed under the leadership of Steven Biko. The United Democratic Front (UDF) was founded in 1983, claiming at its peak to be a multiracial alliance of nearly seven hundred groups representing nearly two million people. It dissolved itself in August 1991, after having continued resistance to apartheid while the ANC was in exile. Considerable ferment occurred among political parties in the run-up to the 1994 elections. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) headed by Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, at first had a cozy relationship with the NP, but that dissolved once the NP began negotiating in earnest with the ANC. Not until just days before the elections in 1994 did the IFP agree to run candidates. It captured over 10% of the national vote and managed to win the election for the provincial government in Natal. The Freedom Front (FF) became the electoral vehicle for Gen. Constand Viljoen, former head of the Defense Force. He contested the results (2.2% of the vote, nine seats) despite resistance from the CP and other right-wing bodies. The FF sought to work within the system to achieve the creation of an autonomous Afrikaner state.

In February 1993 the ANC allowed minority parties to participate in the government for five years after the end of apartheid. Also in February 1993 the first nonwhites entered the cabinet, thus broadening the base of the NP.

The 1994 elections resulted in an overwhelming victory for the ANC, headed by Nelson Mandela, as did the 1995 local elections. The new government included six ministers from the NP and the IFP.

Any political party that wins 20% or more of the National Assembly votes in a general election is entitled to name a deputy executive president; any party that wins 20 or more seats in the National Assembly is entitled to become a member of the governing coalition. As of 1997 the ANC, the IFP, and the NP constituted a Government of National Unity.

In the second post-apartheid parliamentary elections in 1999, the ANC won handsomely, taking 266 of 400 parliamentary seats (66%), just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. The remaining seats went to 12 other parties as follows: Democratic Party (DP) 38; Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 34; New National Party (NNP) 28; United Democratic Movement (UDM) 14; African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 6; Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 3; United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) 3; Vryheidsfront/Freedom Front (VF/FF) 3; Federal Alliance (FA) 2; Minority Front (MF) 1; Afrikaner Eenheids Beweging (AEB) 1; and Azanian People’s Organization (Azapo) 1.

In the third post-apartheid parliamentary elections in 2004, the ANC won decisively, taking 279 of 400 parliamentary seats (69.7%), more than the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution. The remaining seats went to 11 other parties as follows: Democratic Alliance (DA) 50; Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 28; United Democratic Movement (UDM) 9; Independent Democrats (ID) 7; New National Party (NNP) 7; African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 6; Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 3; United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) 3; Vryheidsfront/Freedom Front (VF/FF) 4; Minority Front (MF) 2; Azanian People’s Organization (Azapo) 2. The next parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place in 2009.


Historically, the four provinces—Cape, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State—dealt chiefly with local matters, such as hospitals, roads, municipal government, and educational matters that can be classified as general affairs (applying to all population groups). The provinces receive annual subsidies from the national government. Elected provincial councils were abolished in 1986 and replaced by regional services councils, with representation by local authorities. Executive power in each province is exercised by an administrator and executive committee appointed by the state president and responsible to the national government.

Under the 1984 constitution, local government was to be assigned to the three parliamentary houses, as applicable, or, in regard to general affairs, to the Department of Constitutional Development and Planning. However, residents in each (segregated) residential area, including blacks, elected primary local authorities, who rendered certain services as well as represented their constituents at the provincial level. As far as local government and administration for whites were concerned, elected municipal councils were retained. The local affairs of blacks living in the six black homelands within the Republic of South Africa were administered by the respective homeland governments.

Under the post-1994 election arrangements, nine provincial governments were established (Northern Province, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, and North-West). Their legislatures were determined (in size and party representation) by proportional representation. The actual distribution of governmental powers and responsibilities has to be worked out by the constituent assembly.

A transitional local government arrangement prevails. The 1995 local election results were as follows: ANC, 76.66%; NP, 18.58%; FF, 2.36%. The remaining few parties, including the Inkatha Freedom Party, split the remainder of the votes. There were 5.3 million valid votes cast and 12.7 million registered voters.


South Africa has a unified judicial system. The Supreme Court has a supreme appellate division and provincial and local divisions with both original and appellate jurisdictions. The Court of Appeals, with its seat in Bloemfontein, the judicial capital, normally consists of the chief justice and a variable number of appellate judges. Special superior courts may be constituted to try security cases, and there were, in 1986, 309 magistrates’ offices vested with certain judicial as well as administrative powers. Judges are appointed by the state president. There were no nonwhite judges as of 1987.

The common law of the Republic of South Africa is Roman-Dutch law, which has evolved from the uncodified law of the Netherlands as it existed when the Cape of Good Hope was ceded to Great Britain. It has been influenced by English common law in procedures more than in substantive matters. Trial by jury was abolished in 1969.

Black tribal chiefs and headmen have limited jurisdiction to hear cases in traditional courts. There are appeals courts, divorce courts, and children’s courts for blacks. In self-governing black homelands, lower courts have been established by the legislative assemblies.

The judiciary has moved in the direction of more independence from the other branches with instances of alleged political interference with courts on the decline. Prospects have considerably improved for nonwhite law school graduates to receive “Articles of Clerkship” which qualify them for admission to the bar.

A new constitution went into effect partially in February 1997, with complete implementation scheduled for 1999. The 1994 interim constitution provided for an independent judiciary and the authorities respect this provision in practice. There is also a constitutional court as highest court for constitutional issues. It provides for due process, including the right to a fair, public trial, legal counsel, and the right to appeal.


In 2005 South Africa had 55,750 active military personnel, with 60,000 reservists. The Army had 36,000 troops, with over 168 main battle tanks, 176 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,200 armored infantry fighting vehicles and 1,467 artillery pieces. The total strength of the Navy was 4,500 personnel, in addition to 2,000 civilian prsonnel. Major naval units included three tactical submarines, four corvettes, 34 patrol/coastal craft and nine mine warfare vessels. The Air Force, with 9,250 personnel, had an estimated 50 to 130 combat capable aircraft, that included 26 fighters and 12 fighter ground attack aircraft. Other aircraft included 12 assault helicopters. There is also a medical corps of 6,000. South Africa provided troops to UN peacekeeping efforts in three African countries. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $3.4 billion.


South Africa became a charter member of the United Nations on 7 November 1945 and has technically remained a member continuously, despite past disputes and international sanctions over apartheid and the country’s unwillingness to place its League of Nations mandate, Namibia, under UN international trusteeship. Namibia gained independence in 1990. South Africa is part of ECA and several nonregional specialized UN agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, IAEA, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNIDO, ILO, and the WHO. The nation is also a member of the ACP Group, WTO, the African Development Bank, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the Commonwealth of Nations, G-24. G-77, the Southern African Custom Union, and the Southern African Development Community. South Africa served as the African Union’s first president from July 2003 to July 2004.

The nation was diplomatically isolated from other states on the African continent after Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe were constituted as black-ruled countries during 1975–80, leaving South Africa as the continent’s only white-minority regime. South African teams were excluded from international competition, such as the Olympic Games (from 1960). Following changes in South Africa’s political situation, the country was reinstated to international competition by the International Olympic Committee.

South Africa has supported peace negotiations in a variety of African nation conflicts, including UN missions and operations in Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Liberia (est. 2003), Burundi (est. 2004), and the DROC (est. 1999). The nation is part of the Nonaligned Movement and a member of the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group).

In environmental cooperation, South Africa is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


The opening of the political process to all South Africans and the election of a new multiracial government in 1994 marked a turning point in South Africa’s economic history. With a modest agriculture sector (though known for excellent fruits and wine), fabulous mineral wealth (gold accounts for over one-third of exports), a diverse manufacturing sector (centered in metals and engineering, and especially steel-related products), and growing financial services and tourism sectors, South Africa’s influence extends well beyond its borders. It has a mixed economy, with substantial government intervention and a number of state-owned enterprises existing jointly with a strong private sector. A chief characteristic of the private sector is the high concentration of ownership by a small group of integrated conglomerate structures.

Real economic growth in the GDP fell from 1.1% in 1991 to about 0.5% in 1998 and rose to 2.7% in 2001. Between 2001 and 2005 GDP increased steadily from 2.7% in 2001 to 5.0% in 2005. Still, analysts estimate that the economy must grow at between 5 and 10% if South Africa is going to overcome unemployment rates estimated at 26.2% in 2004. Although the white minority enjoys living standards equal to those in the rest of the industrialized world, most of the remaining 85% of the population has Third World living standards. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains the major obstacle to achieving economic growth, and, with 5.3 million people living with the disease in 2003 and over 370,000 deaths caused by it, social upheaval only adds to the crisis. High unemployment, rigid labor laws, low skill levels, crime, and corruption hamper economic progress. Emigration has also emerged as one of South Africa’s challenges, as those South Africans who are highly skilled find better markets for their skills abroad, especially in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

Foreign direct investment in 2003 remained below levels targeted by the government; plans were made to build a knowledge and technology-based economy to attract investment. Structural economic changes and policies geared to lower inflation helped temper the effects on the South African economy of the global economic downturn that began in 2001. A rise in interest rates and a strong rand contributed to a fall in inflation in 2003, but so did an accounting error by the government, which caused many borrowers to pay more in interest on loans than they would have had the correct economic statistics been reported by the government. Business activity and consumer confidence subsequently fell. Nonetheless, the GDP in 2005 grew by 5%.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $527.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $11,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 4.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.4% of GDP, industry 31.6%, and services 65.1%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $436 million or about $10 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $625 million or about $14 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.4% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in South Africa totaled $99.16 billion or about $2,165 per capita based on a GDP of $165.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%. It was estimated that in 2000 about 50% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


As of 2005, South Africa’s economically active population was estimated at 15.23 million. As of 2003, the services sector accounted for 65.1% of the labor force, with agriculture at 10.3%, and industry at 24.5%. Undefined occupations accounted for the remainder. In 2005, South Africa’s unemployment rate was estimated at 25.2%.

In 2003, unions had a total membership of about 3.3 million or 42% of the workforce in the formal economy. The Labor Relations Act provides protection to workers. The government does not interfere with collective bargaining. The constitution provides for the rights to unionize and strike, both of which are reinforced by the Labor Relations Act of 1995. In industries and trades where employers and employees are not organized, the Minister of Labor, acting on the advice of the government-appointed wage board, may prescribe compulsory wages and conditions of employment.

As of 2005, the standard workweek was 45 hours. In addition, the law also authorized four months of maternity leave for women and time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Some collective agreements provide for three weeks’ annual leave, and many industries work a five-day week. Employers must provide satisfactory working conditions and accident-prevention measures. Enforcement of safe working conditions is irregular although the government is making attempts to improve the means of enforcement. The National Economic Forum, a tripartite structure representing labor, business, and government, is involved in nurturing job creation and job training.

There is no legally mandated national minimum wage, rather negotiations between labor and management set minimum wage standards industry by industry. In addition, the Minister of Labor can set wages by sector. As of July 2005, the rate for farm workers in urban areas was about $141 per month and $117 per month in rural areas. However, compliance rates depended upon the province and in that same year ranged from 65–90%. Employment of minors under 15 is illegal. Child labor laws are enforced in the formal economy, but in the agricultural and informal sectors, child labor is widespread. The Ministry of Welfare does allow exceptions to the child labor laws in some sectors of the economy, such as in the performing arts.


Over 80% of the total land area is available for farming, but only 13% is cultivated. Many areas suffer from erratic rainfall and soil erosion; cultivated land is not expected to exceed 15% in the future because of these adversities. Only 9.5% of cultivated land was irrigated in 2003. The worst drought of the 20th century in southern Africa resulted in near to total crop failure in 1991–92. Many farmers subsequently abandoned the countryside for urban areas. After many years of dry weather, South Africa had abundant rainfall in the 1995/96 growing season. Except for rice, tea, coffee, and cocoa, the country is typically self-sufficient in essential food production. The average annual growth rate of agricultural output was 0.6% during 1990–2000. During 2002–04, crop production was up another 0.6% compared with 1999–2001. Agriculture contributed an estimated 4% to GDP in 2003.

The principal crop is corn (“mealies”), which is grown mainly on the plateau of the Orange Free State and Transvaal. Some 27% of the sown area is planted in corn; output totaled 9,737,000 tons in 2004. Wheat can be grown only in winter; production of wheat totaled 1,761,000 tons in 2004. An indigenous sorghum (“Kaffir corn”) is used to make beer and is also an important source of protein. Less important, but planted in considerable quantities, are the other winter cereals—barley, oats, and rye. Potato production totaled 1,574,000 tons in 2004.

Sugarcane, indigenous to the Natal coastal belt, was grown before World War II (1939–45) in quantities sufficient to export. Increasing domestic demand after the war absorbed the total output, but with a rise in production and an expansion of the capacity of sugar mills, South Africa became a large sugar exporter. Sugarcane production totaled 19,095,000 tons in 2004. Deciduous and citrus fruits, some of them exported, are also profitable. Vegetables, peanuts, sunflower seeds, groundnuts, soy beans, coffee, ginger, tobacco, cotton, and various types of fodder plants are used domestically. In 2004, 1,683,000 tons of grapes were produced. Wine is an important product; production in 2004 was estimated at over 91 million liters.


Until the end of the 19th century, cattle were kept mainly for draft purposes and bred for strength and endurance; meat and fat needs were provided by sheep. The cattle gave little milk and yielded poor-quality meat, while the sheep gave only fat mutton and no wool. The introduction of foreign breeds and crossbreeding gradually improved the stock, providing excellent meat, wool of fairly good quality, and good milk yields. The country’s sheep breeds consist mainly of Merino for wool and Dorpes for mutton. Cattle breeds include the introduced Hereford and Aberdeen Angus as well as the indigenous Afrikaner. Dairy cows are mostly Fresian, forming a well-developed dairy industry.

The livestock in 2005 included 25.3 million sheep; 13.7 million head of cattle; 6.4 million goats; 1.6 million hogs; and 121 million chickens. Output of fresh cow’s milk in 2005 was 2.5 million tons; eggs, 340,000 tons; cheese, 41,600 tons; and wool (greasy), 44,100 tons. Meat production in 2005 included (in tons): beef, 643,000; pork, 122,000; mutton and lamb, 122,000; and poultry, 925,000. South Africa does not produce enough meat to satisfy domestic demand and typically imports live animals from Namibia and meat from Botswana.

Exports of meat in 2004 amounted to $74.9 million. Exports of raw hides, skins, and leather in 2004 were valued at $98.9 million; wool (greasy), $72.7 million.


After Morocco, South Africa is Africa’s most important fishing nation. The Fisheries Development Corp., established in 1944, has helped modernize equipment, secure better conditions of life for fishermen, and stimulate the catching and canning of fish. The commercial fishing fleet is operated mainly from Cape Town harbor. In 2003, South Africa’s fishing fleet increased by 27 vessels of 100 gross tons or larger.

The total catch for 2003 was 862,574 tons, according to the FAO. The value of fish exports was estimated at $393.5 million that year. More than 90% of the catch is taken from the productive cold waters off the west coast. Shoal fishing by purse-seine accounts for most of the volume. Hake accounts for 70% of all deep-sea landings. Anchovy, pilchard, mackerel, round herring, snoek, abalone, kingklip, rock lobster, oysters, and mussels are other important species. One-third of the hake catch and nearly all of the abalone are exported. Anchovy, pilchard, and round herring are processed into fishmeal, fish oil, and canned fish.

Rock lobster is caught mainly along the western and southern Cape coasts; about 2,594 tons of rock lobster were caught in 2003, with much of it processed into frozen lobster tails for export. About 75% of the lobster catch is exported. South Africa ceased whaling in 1976 and is a member of the International Whaling Commission.

Oyster farming at Knysna began decades ago. Interest in mariculture has grown in recent years and permits have been granted for farming abalone, prawns, red-bait, and mud crab.

Besides commercial fishing, there are thousands of anglers who fish for recreation from the shore and small craft. There are size restrictions and limits for sport fishing. A total ban has been placed on the catching of four species: the great white shark, Natal basse, and the potato and brindle bass.


South Africa is sparsely wooded, with a wooded and forested area of about 8.9 million hectares (22 million acres), or about 7.3% of the land area. Cutting in indigenous forests is strictly controlled. Commercial forestry covers 1.2 million hectares (31 million acres), with pine and commercial softwoods, eucalyptus, and wattle the principal timbers produced. South Africa is an important producer of wattle and wattle extract, used in the tanning of leather. The timber cut was 33,159,000 cu m (1.17 billion cu ft) in 2004, with 37% used as fuel wood. Sawn wood production was 2,171,000 cu m (76.6 billion cu ft) in 2004; wood-based panels, 1,021,000 cu m (36 million cu ft); wood pulp, 2,075,000 tons; and paper and paperboard, 2,566,000 tons. Domestic timber production satisfies 90% of domestic needs. Wood is imported for furniture manufacture, railroad ties, and high-quality paper.


Since the late 19th century, South Africa’s economy has been based on the production and export of minerals, which, in turn, have contributed significantly to the country’s industrial development. One of the largest and most diverse mineral producers, In 2003, South Africa was the largest producer and exporter of chromium and vanadium, as well as the leading producer of alumino-silicates (andalusite) gold, gem diamonds, ferrochromium, platinum (88% of world reserve base of platinum-group metals, or PGMs), and manganese (80% of world reserve base of ore). South Africa was also the second-largest producer of zirconium and titanium minerals, as well as a major producer of cobalt, copper, iron ore, lead, nickel, silver, uranium, zinc, aggregate and sand, asbestos, dimension stone, fluorspar, lime, limestone, phosphate rock, sulfur, and vermiculite. South Africa was self-sufficient in the vast majority of its mineral needs, the bulk of which were produced in the northern half of the country. South Africa was among the top five countries in terms of reserves, ranking first in reserves of andalusite, chromite, gold, manganese, PGMs, and vanadium. De Beers, the South African mining giant, accounted for 94% of the country’s diamond production and controlled 80% of the world’s uncut diamond trade.

In 2003, the mining industry accounted for 7.1% of South Africa’s $466.4 billion gross domestic product (GDP). Primary mineral exports in 2003 accounted for 34% of the South Africa’s merchandise trade, or $11.5 billion. The leading export earners in 2003 were in descending order: gold, PGMs coal, ferroalloys (ferrochromium, ferromanganese, ferrosilicon, and ferrovanadium), diamonds, and aluminum. The production of iron, steel, chemicals, and fertilizers ranked among the country’s top industries.

The 2003 output of PGMs (platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, and others) was 266,150 kg. Production came almost exclusively from mines in the Bushveld Complex, north of Pretoria. Anglo American Platinum Corp. Ltd. (Anglo Platinum), in 2003 was the world’s largest PGM producer.

Primary gold output in 2003 was 372,767 kg, down from 398,300 in 2002. South Africa’s gold output in 2003 accounted for about 15% of world production, compared to around 11% of world output by Australia and the United States, and 8% from China.

Iron ore and concentrate output (by metal content) in 2003 was 38.086 million tons (preliminary). Kumba Resources Ltd. in 2003 continued its expansion of the Sishen iron ore mine’s capacity, which was to increase to 30 million tons annually by 2003, and 38 million tons per year by 2007. The Sishen Mine was previously owned by Iscor, South Africa’s largest crude steel producer.

Chromium output in 2003 (gross weight) was 7.406 million tons (preliminary), compared to 6.436 million tons in 2002. Mined copper output in 2003 was 89,501 metric tons (preliminary), down from 129,589 metric tons in 2002. The country’s total copper reserve base (metal content) was 13 million tons. Antimony production in 2003 (by gross weight) was put at 9,000 metric tons (preliminary). Proven and probable reserves of antimony amounted to 1.5 million tons, and mineral resources exclusive of reserves totaled 8.6 million tons. The country’s total antimony reserve base was 250,000 tons.

Output of manganese ore and concentrate (primarily metallurgical-grade, but also chemical) was 3.501 million tons (gross weight) in 2003 (preliminary), up from 3.322 million tons in 2002. Total proven reserves were 12.8 million tons (44.61% manganese, 7.30% iron), and measured, indicated, and inferred resources were 237 million tons (41.24% manganese, 7.98% iron). The country’s total manganese reserve base was four billion tons.

Preliminary production outputs for the other principal metals in 2003 were: vanadium, 15,000 metric tons (with a reserve base of 12 million tons); titanium (ilmenite and rutile concentrates), 2.15 million tons (with a reserve base of 146 million tons); zirconium concentrate (baddeleyite and zircon), 300,000 tons (a reserve base of 14.3 million tons); and mined nickel (metal content), 40,842 metric tons (a reserve base of 11.8 million tons). South Africa also produced cobalt, lead, silver, uranium, and zinc.

Preliminary output of natural gem and industrial diamonds in 2003 were put at 5,144,000 carats and 7.540 million carats, respectively. Approximately 94% of South Africa’s diamond production in 2003 came from mines owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. The country’s total diamond reserve base was 1,127 million carats. Alluvial diamonds were discovered along the Orange River in 1867, and surface diamonds, at Kimberley, in 1870.

Preliminary output of other industrial minerals in 2003 included: chrysotile asbestos, 6,218 metric tons; vermiculite, 183,802 metric tons; and limestone and dolomite, 15.980 million tons. South Africa also produced aluminosilicates (andalusite, with a reserve base of 50.8 million tons), barite, calcite, hydraulic cement, clays (attapulgite, bentonite, fire clay, raw and calcined flint clay, and kaolin), feldspar, fluorspar (acid-grade and metallurgical-grade, with a total reserve base of 36 million tons), tiger’s eye (semiprecious gem), gypsum, industrial or glass sand (silica), lime, crude magnesite, mica, nitrogen, perlite, phosphate rock (a reserve base of 2.5 billion tons), natural mineral pigments (ochers and oxides), salt, natural sodium sulfate, dimension stone (granite, norite, and slate), crushed and broken stone (quartzite and shale), aggregate and sand, sulfur, talc and pyrophyllite (wonderstone), and brick clay.

The South African minerals industry operated on a free-enterprise, market-driven basis. Government involvement was primarily confined to ownership of the national electric power supply and the national oil and gas exploration company. Mineral land holdings and production has historically been controlled either by the government or by private entities. However, under the new Minerals and Petroleum Resources Act, existing mineral rights will revert to the South African government, unless companies act within a five year period to convert “old order” exploration and mining rights into “new” rights under terms specified in the new legislation. Since 1994, the minerals industry has undergone a major corporate restructuring, or “unbundling,” aimed at simplifying a complex system of interlocking ownership, at establishing separate core-commodity-focused profit centers, and at diversifying and rationalizing nonperforming assets.

The well-developed railway and port infrastructure was built mainly to transport mineral products, and minerals continued to constitute a major part of the nation’s freight. Domestic and foreign investors have committed more than $10 billion to develop and expand new mining and value-added mineral processing capacity by 2007. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the able-bodied skilled and semiskilled work force in the country was of concern to investors. There was also increased attention to environmental issues.


South Africa is the second-largest energy producer on the African continent, surpassed only by Algeria, and is the continent’s largest consumer of energy.

Coal is the primary energy source produced and consumed in South Africa. The country’s recoverable coal reserves are the seventh-largest in the world, which in 2002 were estimated at 54.6 billion short tons. In 2002, South Africa produced an estimated 245.3 million short tons, with domestic consumption estimated at 171.6 million short tons and exports estimated at 73.7 million short tons, for that year.

South Africa has only small proven reserves of oil. As of 1 January 2005, the country’s proven oil reserves were estimated at 15.7 million barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. In 2003, oil production was estimated at 194,000 barrels per day, of which 165,000 barrels per day were synthetic. The country’s crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, was estimated at 519,547 barrels per day. Demand for oil in 2003 was estimated at 469,000 barrels per day, with net oil imports estimated at 274,000 barrels per day, for that same year.

South Africa’s proven reserves of natural gas, as of 1 January 2005, were estimated at 1 billion cu ft, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Domestic consumption of natural gas and natural gas imports were each estimated by the South African Department of Minerals and Energy at 1.3 trillion cu ft in 2003.

The bulk of South Africa’s electric power generating capacity is based upon conventional thermal fuels. In 2002, the country’s electric generating capacity was 40.481 million kW, of which thermal capacity amounted to 38.020 million kW, followed by nuclear at 1.800 million kW and hydropower at 0.661 million kW. Electric generation totaled in 2002 totaled 205.673 billion kWh of which 92.9% was from fossil fuels, 5.8% from nuclear power, and the remainder from hydropower and other renewable sources. South Africa’s demand for electricity in 2002, came to 192.199 billion kWh.

South Africa’s synthetic fuels industry is highly developed and is backed by offshore condensate and natural gas production in Mossel Bay, and a plentiful supply of coal. The South African Coal, Oil, and Gas Corporation (Sasol) is the world’s leader in oil-from-coal technology. SASOL operates two coal gasification plants in Secunda and one in Sasalburg. SASOL has a capacity to produce 150,000 barrels per day, mostly to the gasoline market. South Africa’s other leading synthetic fuel producer is the Petroleum Oil and Gas Corporation of South Africa (PetroSA) with capacity of 50,000 barrels per day.


The manufacturing sector has evolved over the past 70 years, beginning with light consumer industry in the 1920s and expanding into heavy industry with the creation of ISCOR (Iron and Steel Corporation of South Africa) in 1928. Industry is localized in Gauteng, Western Cape, the Durban-Pinetown area of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Port Elizabeth-Uitenhage area of Eastern Cape.

The largest industrial sector is the metal products and engineering sector dominated by ISCOR, now privatized. South Africa is the world’s largest gold, platinum, manganese, chromium, vanadium, alumino-sillicates, and titanium producer; and the second-largest of vermiculite and zirconium; third for fluorspar; fourth for antimony; and fifth for zinc, coal, lead, and uranium. The steel industry feeds a substantial motor vehicle sector, which experienced a 14% increase in production from 2000 to 2001. Companies like Columbus Stainless Steel and Billiton’s Hillside Aluminum Smelter produce processed industrial minerals, instead of just primary commodities. A dip in gold prices during the late 1990s threatened the gold mines, but only temporarily. The mining industry contributes more than 50% to exports, and some estimates go up to 70%.

Other than Swaziland, South Africa is the only African state to produce pulp and paper. The clothing and textiles sector and the electronics sector were experiencing strong growth in 2002, as was the construction sector, which employed 260,000 people. The chemical sector centers on sizeable fertilizer production and the Modderfontein explosives factory. The sector is also home to the synthetic fuels production industry which, with three plants in operation that produce oil and petrochemicals from coal, serves 40% of the nation’s motor fuels demand. There are four oil refineries in South Africa, with a total production capacity 469,000 barrels per day.


Among South Africa’s earliest research ventures was the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, established by the British Admiralty in 1820. Societies of leading engineers, architects, chemists, metallurgists, and geologists were organized in the 1890s, and the South African Association for the Advancement of Science was established in 1902. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (founded in 1945) has 13 research divisions. The Atomic Energy Corporation established an experimental nuclear reactor in 1965 and has since directed the government’s nuclear program. In 1970, it was announced that its researchers had devised a new uranium-enrichment process, subsequently developed by the national Uranium Enrichment Corp. The Scientific Advisory Council to the Minister of National Education (established in 1962) promotes the application of scientific knowledge and recommends national science policies and programs.

The Hartebeestheek Radio Astronomy Observatory’s 26-meterdiameter antenna was originally constructed to serve as a tracking station for NASA’s Deep Space Network. In Johannesburg are located a geological museum, the Adler Museum of the History of Medicine, and the James Hall Museum of Transport. Botanical and zoological gardens are located, respectively, in Durban and Pretoria. South Africa has 30 universities and colleges offering courses in basic and applied sciences. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 29% of college and university enrollments.

In 2002, expenditures for research and development (R&D) totaled $3.1 billion, or 0.68% of GDP. In 1998 (the latest year for which the following data is available), the business sector accounted for the largest portion of R&D spending at 49.4%, followed by the government at 33%. Higher education accounted for 10%, with foreign sources at 7%. In 2002, there were 192 scientists and engineers, and 74 technicians per million people that were actively engaged in R&D. High technology exports in that same year were valued at $740 million, or 5% of the country’s manufactured exports.


South Africa has largely dismantled its old economic system that involved extensive government involvement in the domestic economy through state-owned enterprises. Approximately 90% of the population and consumer market surrounds the cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, and Port Elizabeth.

Retail establishments are extremely diverse, ranging from local convenience stores and specialty shops to department stores, supermarkets, and chain stores. There are some wholesale outlet stores as well and hypermarkets are beginning to find a place in some suburban areas. In rural areas, merchants sponsor cooperative stores. Nearly 90% of consumer goods are domestically sourced. The number of franchises continues to grow, with about 300 firms represented as of 2002. The government maintains price controls on petroleum products and certain food products. There

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 31,635.9 34,543.1 -2,907.2
Areas nes 3,844.2 1,129.0 2,715.2
United Kingdom 3,197.5 3,000.8 196.7
Japan 3,147.7 2,434.0 713.7
Gemany 2,439.8 5,128.5 -2,688.7
Netherlands 1,508.7 466.5 1,042.2
Belgium 985.4 715.2 270.2
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 913.1 180.0 733.1
Australia 889.1 797.8 91.3
Zimbabwe 858.6 347.8 510.8
Spain 830.8 376.5 454.3
(…) data not available or not significant.

are many advertising agencies, with the five largest accounting for 70% of all advertising billings.

Business hours for most offices and shops are from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, and from 8:30 am until 1:00 pm on Saturday. Banks are usually open from 9 am to 3:30 pm weekdays, and from 8:30 to 11 am on Saturdays.


Gold, diamonds and other metals and minerals are the most valuable export commodities. Exports of gold, platinum, coal, and iron account for approximately 17% of commodity exports. The share of gold as a percentage of total merchandise exports fell from 51.4% in 1980 to 13% in 2000. In 1995, processed primary product exports exceeded those of gold for the first time. The top four exports in 2004 are as follows: metals and metal products ($6.3 billion), gold ($5.6 billion), diamonds ($2.9 billion), and machinery and transport equipment ($2.6 billion). The United States and South Africa established bilateral trade agreements in the late 1990s. Main destinations of exports in 2004 were as follows: United States (10.1%), United Kingdom (9.1%), Japan (8.8%), and Germany (7%).


Gold invariably represents the great majority of the country’s international reserves, but decreased demand for gold lowered world prices in the 1990s, slowing financial flows. The current account balance improved at the end of 2000 due to increased merchandise export earnings, which rose by 15%. This can be attributed in part to the depreciation of the rand, which strengthened the competitiveness of South African manufactures. Petroleum imports rose that year as well.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of South Africa’s exports was $51.587 billion while imports totaled $52.059 billion resulting in a trade deficit of

Current Account -1,456.0
   Balance on goods 3,701.0
     Imports -35,002.0
     Exports 38,703.0
   Balance on services -952.0
   Balance on income -3,386.0
   Current transfers -818.0
Capital Account 2.0
Financial Account 6,289.0
   Direct investment abroad -721.0
   Direct investment in South Africa 820.0
   Portfolio investment assets -132.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 893.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets 3,216.0
   Other investment liabilities 2,214.0
Net Errors and Omissions 2,927.0
Reserves and Related Items -7,762.0
(…) data not available or not significant.

$472 million. However, between 2001 and 2003 South Africa registered a healthy and positive trade balance.


Source: encyclopedia

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