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Facts and figures about South Africa

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A Bit of History
After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.

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

Environment - international agreements:
Party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Population: 42,768,678
South Africa took a census October 1996 that showed a population of 40,583,611 (after an official adjustment for a 6.8% underenumeration based on a postenumeration survey). 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 2003 est.).

Age structure:
0-14 years: 30% (male 6,460,273; female 6,377,090)
15-64 years: 65% (male 13,807,922; female 13,970,088)
65 years and over: 5% (male 864,441; female 1,288,864) (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 20.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 5 million (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 360,000 (2001 est.)

Ethnic groups:
Black 75.2%, White 13.6%, Mixed Race 8.6%, Indian 2.6%

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

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

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

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)

National holiday: Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)

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

Chief of state:
President Thabo Mbeki (since 16 June 1999); Executive Deputy President Jacob Zuma (since 17 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government

President elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 2 June 1999 (next scheduled for sometime between May and July 2004)

Head of government: President Thabo MBEKI (since 16 June 1999); Executive Deputy President Jacob ZUMA (since 17 June 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president.
Election results: Thabo MBEKI elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - 100% (by acclamation)
Note: ANC-IFP is the governing coalition

Economy - overview:
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors. A stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world; and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centres throughout the region. However, growth has not been strong enough to lower South Africa's high unemployment rate; and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. High crime and HIV/AIDS infection rates also deter investment. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative, but pragmatic, focusing on targeting inflation and liberalising trade as means to increase job growth and household income.

Telephone system:
General assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
Domestic: consists of carrier-equipped open-wire lines, coaxial cables, microwave radio relay links, fibre-optic cable, radiotelephone communication stations, and wireless local loops; key centres are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria
International: 2 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean)

This information was compiled and updated on 1 August, 2003


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