These South African facts include information on the history of South Africa, statistics on South Africa and the most impressive points of South Africa’s tourism, mixed in with some fun and interesting facts about South Africa that may surprise you. Test yourself on how many of these South African facts you know.
A South African fish migration is so huge it can be seen from space.
Between May and July every year millions of small silver fish travel in vast shoals from the cold waters off South Africa’s Cape Point up to the coastlines of the northern Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal. This annual event is called the Sardine Run. The shoals are so big – 15km long, 3.5km wide and up to 40m deep – they can be seen by satellite. In their wake come hundreds of birds, sharks, whales, dolphins, all eager to
South Africa has three capital cities
Cape Town (Legislative), Pretoria (Administrative) and Bloemfontein (Judicial). There are nine provinces in total: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, ZwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Each has its own government.
Bones found in South Africa help support the theory that modern humans originated in Africa.
Fossilised bones from hominids (part of the human evolutionary chain) dating back between 4.5 and 2.5 million years were found in limestone caves some 50km northwest of Johannesburg. In the Sterkfontein Caves, now part of what is known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’, there was also evidence that humans used stone tools two million years ago and made fire 1.8 million years ago.
The world’s largest visible crateris in South Africa.
Around 2,030 million years ago a meteor the size of a mountain (about 10km across) fell to earth in South Africa’s Free State making a crater 300km across; it is the oldest crater made by either a comet or meteorite and reportedly the site of the largest energy release in history. In 2015, scientists claimed to have found a bigger crater (around 400km wide) underground in the Austrlian outback, although it is not visible on the earth’s
Nelson Mandela is known by six different names in South Africa.
At birth, he was named Rolihlahla Mandela. On his first day of school, his teacher gave him the name Nelson, following the custom back in the 1920s to give all children English names as English colonials ‘couldn’t’ pronounce African names. When he was 16 he was given the name of Dalibhunga (‘creator or founder of the council’) during a traditional rites of passage ceremony. South Africans commonly call him Madiba, which is the name of the Thembu clan to which he belongs, or simply Tata or Khulu, the Xhosa words for ‘father’ and ‘grandfather’.
The aboriginal people of South Africa are the San and the Khoi.
The hunter-gather Sans and pastoral Khoi together become known as the KhoiSan and lived in what is now the Western Cape around 300AD. Zulu and Xhosa tribes established large kingdoms in the region in the 15th century.
The Dutch and the British fought over South Africa.
The first Europeans settlers were Dutch traders on the Europe-Far East spice route who founded Cape Colony (now Cape Town) in 1652. The British seized Cape Colony in 1795 and a few years later the Dutch farmers (boers) fled north to claim lands and establish the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, the British fought two wars with the Boers and one with the Zulus for control of the region. British victories resulted in the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. South Africa became a ‘sovereign independent state’ and part of the British Commonwealth in 1934. After it became a republic in 1961, South Africa’s official name became the Republic of South Africa.
The South African flag was used for the first time on Freedom Day 1994.
The V-shape, which flows into a single horizontal band, symbolises the coming together of the different elements in South African society and moving ahead in unity.
There are 11 official languages, each with equal status, in South Africa:
isiZulu (the most commonly spoken), Afrikaans, isiXhosa (2nd most common), siSwati, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Sepedi, isiNdebele, Setswana, Tshivenda, and English, which is the language of business, politics and the media. There is also numerous other, non-official languages. Most Africans speak more than one language.
South Africa, in 2006, was the first African country and the fifth country in the world to recognise same sex marriage.
While the rest of the African continent is fiercely homophobic (in June 2015 homosexuality was illegal in 34 out of 55 African states), South Africa is a world leader in gay rights. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was outlawed in 1996, gays have been entitled to serve openly in the military since 1998 and same sex couples can marry, adopt children and have equal access to IVF and surrogacy. However, in rural areas LGBT people still face discrimination and personal attacks.
South Africa hosts the world’s largest bicycle race.
The 35,000 riders taking part in the109-km Cape Town Cycle Tour race across Cape Town’s south peninsula and along the spectacular, mountainous coastal road called Chapman’s Peak Drive.