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Facts about South Africa


South Africa Geography

Location:

Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa

Coordinates:

29 00 S, 24 00 E

Area:

total: 1,219,912 sq km
land: 1,219,912 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
water: 0 sq km

Area comparative:

slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Land boundaries:

total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km

Coastline:

2,798 km

Maritime claims:

contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM

Climate:

mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Terrain:

vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m

Natural resources:

gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

Natural hazards:

prolonged droughts

Environment current issues:

lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification

Geography - note:

South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

 

Population

Population:

44,187,637
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 29.7% (male 6,603,220/female 6,525,810)
15-64 years: 65% (male 13,955,950/female 14,766,843)
65 years and over: 5.3% (male 905,870/female 1,429,944)

Median age:

24.1 years

Ethnic groups:

black 75.2%, white 13.6%, Colored 8.6%, Indian 2.6%

Religions:

Christian 68% (includes most whites and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians), indigenous beliefs and animist 28.5%

Languages:

11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu

Literacy:

Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86.4%
male: 87%
female: 85.7% (2003 est.)

 

Government

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA

Government type:

republic

Capital:

Pretoria; note - Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center

Administrative divisions:

9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Western Cape

Independence:

31 May 1910 (from UK); note - South Africa became a republic in 1961 following an October 1960 referendum

National holiday:

Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)

Constitution:

10 December 1996; this new constitution was certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, was signed by then- President MANDELA on 10 December 1996, and entered into effect on 3 February 1997; it is being implemented in phases

Legal system:

based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage:

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Thabo MBEKI; Executive Deputy President Phumzile MLAMBO-NGCUKA; note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term)

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Assembly (400 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms) and the National Council of Provinces (90 seats, 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities); note - 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

Judicial branch:

Constitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts


SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress