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The legally institutionalized segregation became known as apartheid. The Freedom Charter , adopted in by the Congress Alliance , demanded a non-racial society and an end to discrimination.
On 31 May , the country became a republic following a referendum in which white voters narrowly voted in favour thereof the British-dominated Natal province rallied against the issue.
As a concession to the Westminster system , the presidency remained parliamentary appointed and virtually powerless until P. Botha 's Constitution Act of , which eliminated the office of Prime Minister and instated a near-unique "strong presidency" responsible to parliament. Pressured by other Commonwealth of Nations countries, South Africa withdrew from the organisation in , and rejoined it only in Despite opposition both within and outside the country, the government legislated for a continuation of apartheid.
The security forces cracked down on internal dissent, and violence became widespread, with anti-apartheid organisations such as the African National Congress , the Azanian People's Organisation , and the Pan-Africanist Congress carrying out guerrilla warfare  and urban sabotage. These measures were later extended to international sanctions and the divestment of holdings by foreign investors. In the late s, South Africa initiated a programme of nuclear weapons development. In the following decade, it produced six deliverable nuclear weapons.
The Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith, signed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Harry Schwarz in , enshrined the principles of peaceful transition of power and equality for all, the first of such agreements by black and white political leaders in South Africa. In the National Party government took the first step towards dismantling discrimination when it lifted the ban on the African National Congress and other political organisations.
It released Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years' serving a sentence for sabotage. A negotiation process followed. With approval from the white electorate in a referendum , the government continued negotiations to end apartheid.
South Africa held its first universal elections in , which the ANC won by an overwhelming majority. It has been in power ever since. In post-apartheid South Africa , unemployment has been extremely high as the country has struggled with many changes. While many blacks have risen to middle or upper classes, the overall unemployment rate of blacks worsened between and by official metrics, but declined significantly using expanded definitions.
In May , riots left over 60 people dead. It is about the same size as Colombia , twice the size of France , three times as big as Japan , four times the size of Italy and five times the size of the United Kingdom.
To the north the Great Karoo fades into the even drier and more arid Bushmanland, which eventually becomes the Kalahari desert in the very north-west of the country. The mid-eastern, and highest part of the plateau is known as the Highveld. The coastal belt, below the Great Escarpment, moving clockwise from the northeast, consists of the Limpopo Lowveld, which merges into the Mpumalanga Lowveld, below the Mpumalanga Drakensberg the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment.
The coastal belt below the south and south-western stretches of the Great Escarpment contains several ranges of Cape Fold Mountains which run parallel to the coast, separating the Great Escarpment from the ocean. Note the course of the Great Escarpment to the north of these mountain ranges. The Little Karoo is historically, and still, famous for its ostrich farming around the town of Oudtshoorn.
The narrow coastal strip between the most seaward Cape Fold Mountain range i. It is famous for the most extensive areas of indigenous forests in South Africa a generally forest-poor country.
The Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean climate , making it and its immediate surrounds the only portion of Africa south of the Sahara which receives most of its rainfall in winter. It is the country's legislative capital.
The coastal belt to the north of the Cape Peninsula is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and the first row of north-south running Cape Fold Mountains to the east. The most southerly portion of this coastal belt is known as the Swartland and Malmesbury Plain, which is an important wheat growing region, relying on winter rains. The region further north is known as Namaqualand ,  which becomes more and more arid as one approaches the Orange River. South Africa has a generally temperate climate , due in part to being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location in the climatically milder Southern Hemisphere and due to the average elevation rising steadily towards the north towards the equator and further inland.
Due to this varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exist. The climatic zones range from the extreme desert of the southern Namib in the farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the Mozambique border and the Indian Ocean. Winters in South Africa occur between June and August. The extreme southwest has a climate remarkably similar to that of the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers, hosting the famous fynbos biome of shrubland and thicket.
This area also produces much of the wine in South Africa. This region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around the Cape of Good Hope particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east on the south coast, rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. This area is popularly known as the Garden Route.
The Free State is particularly flat because it lies centrally on the high plateau. North of the Vaal River , the Highveld becomes better watered and does not experience subtropical extremes of heat. Winters in this region are cold, although snow is rare. The high Drakensberg mountains, which form the south-eastern escarpment of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities in winter.
The Prince Edward Islands have colder average annual temperatures, but Sutherland has colder extremes. The deep interior of mainland South Africa has the hottest temperatures: South Africa signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 4 June , and became a party to the convention on 2 November Numerous mammals are found in the bushveld including lions , African leopards , South African cheetahs , southern white rhinos , blue wildebeest , kudus , impalas , hyenas , hippopotamuses and South African giraffes.
A significant extent of the bushveld exists in the north-east including Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve , as well as in the far north in the Waterberg Biosphere. South Africa houses many endemic species , among them the critically endangered riverine rabbit Bunolagus monticullaris in the Karoo.
Up to , more than species of fungi including lichen-forming species had been recorded. In at least some major South African ecosystems, an exceptionally high percentage of fungi are highly specific in terms of the plants with which they occur.
The most prevalent biome in South Africa is the grassland, particularly on the Highveld, where the plant cover is dominated by different grasses , low shrubs, and acacia trees , mainly camel-thorn and whitethorn.
Vegetation becomes even more sparse towards the northwest due to low rainfall. There are several species of water-storing succulents like aloes and euphorbias in the very hot and dry Namaqualand area.
The grass and thorn savannah turns slowly into a bush savannah towards the north-east of the country, with denser growth. There are significant numbers of baobab trees in this area, near the northern end of Kruger National Park. The fynbos biome, which makes up the majority of the area and plant life in the Cape floristic region , one of the six floral kingdoms, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9, of those species, making it among the richest regions on earth in terms of plant diversity.
Another uniquely South African flowering plant group is the genus Protea. There are around different species of Protea in South Africa. There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach of fire, known as montane forests. Plantations of imported tree species are predominant, particularly the non-native eucalyptus and pine. South Africa has lost a large area of natural habitat in the last four decades, primarily due to overpopulation, sprawling development patterns and deforestation during the 19th century.
South Africa is one of the worst affected countries in the world when it comes to invasion by alien species with many e. The original temperate forest found by the first European settlers was exploited ruthlessly until only small patches remained. Currently, South African hardwood trees like real yellowwood Podocarpus latifolius , stinkwood Ocotea bullata , and South African black ironwood Olea laurifolia are under government protection.
Statistics from the South African Environmental Affairs department show a record rhinos have been killed in Climate change is expected to bring considerable warming and drying to much of this already semi-arid region , with greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves , flooding and drought.
According to computer generated climate modelling produced by the South African National Biodiversity Institute  parts of southern Africa will see an increase in temperature by about one degree Celsius along the coast to more than four degrees Celsius in the already hot hinterland such as the Northern Cape in late spring and summertime by The Cape Floral Kingdom , been identified as one of the global biodiversity hotspots , it will be hit very hard by climate change.
Drought, increased intensity and frequency of fire and climbing temperatures are expected to push many rare species towards extinction. South Africa is a parliamentary republic , although unlike most such republics the President is both head of state and head of government , and depends for his tenure on the confidence of Parliament. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the Constitution , and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional.
The National Assembly , the lower house of Parliament, consists of members and is elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation. The National Council of Provinces , the upper house, consists of ninety members, with each of the nine provincial legislatures electing ten members.
After each parliamentary election, the National Assembly elects one of its members as President; hence the President serves a term of office the same as that of the Assembly, normally five years.
No President may serve more than two terms in office. The President and the Cabinet may be removed by the National Assembly by a motion of no confidence. South Africa has no legally defined capital city. The fourth chapter of the Constitution of South Africa , states that "The seat of Parliament is Cape Town, but an Act of Parliament enacted in accordance with section 76 1 and 5 may determine that the seat of Parliament is elsewhere.
Cape Town , as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria , as the seat of the President and Cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein , as the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal , is the judicial capital [ citation needed ] , while the Constitutional Court of South Africa sits in Johannesburg.
Most foreign embassies are located in Pretoria. Since , South Africa has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the "most protest-rich country in the world". The Constitution of South Africa is the supreme rule of law in the country.
The primary sources of South African law are Roman-Dutch mercantile law and personal law with English Common law , as imports of Dutch settlements and British colonialism.
It was imported before the codification of European law into the Napoleonic Code and is comparable in many ways to Scots law. This was followed in the 19th century by English law , both common and statutory. After unification in , South Africa had its own parliament which passed laws specific for South Africa, building on those previously passed for the individual member colonies.
The judicial system consists of the magistrates' courts , which hear lesser criminal cases and smaller civil cases; the High Court , which has divisions that serve as the courts of general jurisdiction for specific areas; the Supreme Court of Appeal , and the Constitutional Court , which is the highest court.
Nearly 50 murders are committed each day in South Africa. South Africa has played a key role as a mediator in African conflicts over the last decade, such as in Burundi , the Democratic Republic of Congo , the Comoros , and Zimbabwe. After apartheid ended, South Africa was readmitted to the Commonwealth of Nations. The country is a member of the Group of 77 and chaired the organisation in South African President Jacob Zuma and Chinese President Hu Jintao upgraded bilateral ties between the two countries on 24 August , when they signed the Beijing Agreement, which elevated South Africa's earlier "strategic partnership" with China to the higher level of "comprehensive strategic partnership" in both economic and political affairs, including the strengthening of exchanges between their respective ruling parties and legislatures.
South Africa is the only African country to have successfully developed nuclear weapons. It became the first country followed by Ukraine with nuclear capability to voluntarily renounce and dismantle its programme and in the process signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in Former president FW de Klerk maintained that South Africa had "never conducted a clandestine nuclear test.
Each of the nine provinces is governed by a unicameral legislature , which is elected every five years by party-list proportional representation. The legislature elects a Premier as head of government, and the Premier appoints an Executive Council as a provincial cabinet. The powers of provincial governments are limited to topics listed in the Constitution; these topics include such fields as health, education, public housing and transport.
The provinces are in turn divided into 52 districts: The district municipalities are further subdivided into local municipalities. The metropolitan municipalities, which govern the largest urban agglomerations, perform the functions of both district and local municipalities.
South Africa has a mixed economy , the second largest in Africa after Nigeria. Despite this, South Africa is still burdened by a relatively high rate of poverty and unemployment, and is also ranked in the top 10 countries in the world for income inequality ,    measured by the Gini coefficient.
Unlike most of the world's poor countries, South Africa does not have a thriving informal economy. After government policy brought down inflation, stabilised public finances, and some foreign capital was attracted, however growth was still subpar. Some of the biggest state-owned companies are Eskom, the electric power monopoly, South African Airways SAA , and Transnet, the railroad and ports monopoly.
South Africa is a popular tourist destination , and a substantial amount of revenue comes from tourism. In August , South Africa was ranked as the top African Country of the Future by FDi magazine based on the country's economic potential, labour environment, cost-effectiveness, infrastructure, business friendliness, and Foreign direct investment Strategy.
During —, the number of formal jobs decreased and informal jobs increased; overall unemployment worsened. The government's Black Economic Empowerment policies have drawn criticism from Neva Makgetla, lead economist for research and information at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, for focusing "almost exclusively on promoting individual ownership by black people which does little to address broader economic disparities, though the rich may become more diverse.
Along with many African nations, South Africa has been experiencing a " brain drain " in the past 20 years. This is believed to be potentially damaging for the regional economy,  [ not in citation given ] [ clarification needed ] and is almost certainly detrimental for the well-being of those reliant on the healthcare infrastructure.
According to several surveys   there has been a reverse in brain drain following the global financial crisis of — and expiration of foreign work contracts.
Several important scientific and technological developments have originated in South Africa. The first human-to-human heart transplant was performed by cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital in December , Max Theiler developed a vaccine against yellow fever, Allan McLeod Cormack pioneered X-ray computed tomography , and Aaron Klug developed crystallographic electron microscopy techniques.
With the exception of that of Barnard, all of these advancements were recognised with Nobel Prizes. Sydney Brenner won most recently, in , for his pioneering work in molecular biology. Mark Shuttleworth founded an early Internet security company Thawte , that was subsequently bought out by world-leader VeriSign.
Despite government efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in biotechnology, IT and other high technology fields, no other notable groundbreaking companies have been founded in South Africa. It is the expressed objective of the government to transition the economy to be more reliant on high technology, based on the realisation that South Africa cannot compete with Far Eastern economies in manufacturing, nor can the republic rely on its mineral wealth in perpetuity.
South Africa has cultivated a burgeoning astronomy community. Two distinctive features of the South African water sector are the policy of free basic water and the existence of water boards, which are bulk water supply agencies that operate pipelines and sell water from reservoirs to municipalities. These features have led to significant problems concerning the financial sustainability of service providers, leading to a lack of attention to maintenance.
Water-saving measures were in effect that required each citizen to use less than 50 litres a day. South Africa is a nation of about 55 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and religions. The last census was held in , with a more recent intercensal national survey conducted in Statistics South Africa asks people to describe themselves in the census in terms of five racial population groups.
South Africa hosts a sizeable refugee and asylum seeker population. According to the World Refugee Survey , published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, this population numbered approximately , in South Africa has 11 official languages: In this regard it is fourth only to Bolivia , India , and Zimbabwe in number. While all the languages are formally equal, some languages are spoken more than others.
According to the census, the three most spoken first languages are Zulu Many of the unofficial languages of the San and Khoikhoi people contain regional dialects stretching northwards into Namibia and Botswana, and elsewhere.
These people, who are a physically distinct population from other Africans, have their own cultural identity based on their hunter-gatherer societies. They have been marginalised to a great extent, and the remainder of their languages are in danger of becoming extinct.
French is spoken in South Africa by migrants from Francophone Africa. According to the census, Christians accounted for Christian category includes Zion Christian Muslims accounted for 1. African initiated churches formed the largest of the Christian groups. It was believed that many of the persons who claimed no affiliation with any organised religion adhered to traditional African religion. These healers use a combination of ancestral spiritual beliefs and a belief in the spiritual and medicinal properties of local fauna and flora, commonly known as muti , to facilitate healing in clients.
Many peoples have syncretic religious practices combining Christian and indigenous influences. South African Muslims comprise mainly those who are described as Coloureds and those who are described as Indians. They have been joined by black or white South African converts as well as others from other parts of Africa.
South Africa is also home to a substantial Jewish population , descended from European Jews who arrived as a minority among other European settlers. This population peaked in the s at ,, though only around 67, remain today, the rest having emigrated.
Even so, these numbers make the Jewish community in South Africa the twelfth largest in the world. The South African black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives.
It is among these people that cultural traditions survive most strongly; as blacks have become increasingly urbanised and Westernised , aspects of traditional culture have declined.
Members of the middle class, who are predominantly white but whose ranks include growing numbers of black, coloured and Indian people,  have lifestyles similar in many respects to that of people found in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. South African art includes the oldest art objects in the world, which were discovered in a South African cave, and dated from 75, years ago.
New forms of art evolved in the mines and townships: The Dutch-influenced folk art of the Afrikaner Trekboers and the urban white artists earnestly following changing European traditions from the s onwards also contributed to this eclectic mix, which continues to evolve today.
South African literature emerged from a unique social and political history. One of the first well known novels written by a black author in an African language was Solomon Thekiso Plaatje 's Mhudi , written in During the s, Drum magazine became a hotbed of political satire, fiction, and essays, giving a voice to urban black culture. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature, in When awarding the prize, the Swedish Academy stated that Coetzee "in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider".
Breyten Breytenbach was jailed for his involvement with the guerrilla movement against apartheid. While South Africa's many broadcasters and publications reflect the diversity of the population as a whole, the most commonly used language is English.
However, all ten other official languages are represented to some extent or another. There is great diversity in South African music. Black musicians have developed a unique style called Kwaito , that is said to have taken over radio, television, and magazines. More famous traditional musicians include Ladysmith Black Mambazo , while the Soweto String Quartet performs classic music with an African flavour. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr , the punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar and the singer-songwriter Jeremy Loops.
South African popular musicians that have found international success include Johnny Clegg , as well as Seether. Although few South African film productions are known outside South Africa itself, many foreign films have been produced about South Africa. Arguably, the most high-profile film portraying South Africa in recent years was District 9. South African culture is diverse; foods from many cultures are enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine.
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