Where in the world can so much variety be expected? South Africa offers you magnificent natural beauty in so many different forms.
Throughout its History, South Africa has been a geographic designation rather than a reflection of a national reality. The result is that today the Republic of South Africa has one of the most complex and diversified population mixes in the world, a rich mosaic of distinctive minorities. This is underscored by the fact that not one of South Africa’s major languages is spoken by a majority of all The People.
The four major ethnic divisions among black people are the Nguni, Sotho, Shangaan-Tsonga and Venda. Together the Nguni and Sotho account for the largest percentage of the total black population.
White people trace their origins to the Dutch East India Company settlement at the Cape in 1652 and the British settlements of the 1700’s. The main language groups are English and Afrikaans. English speakers are descendants of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Australian, American and Canadian. They have contributed to the establishment of exclusive clubs, African paintings by artists such as Baines and Bowler, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, Scottish music and Welsh song. The Afrikaans language was developed locally from Dutch roots and its speakers are known for their pioneering spirit, desire for independence, adaptability and hospitality. The Afrikaaner community is unity-conscious, strongly bound to its culture, nation, country, language, religion, institutions and organizations.
The Griquas, largely of Hottentot (Khoi-Khoi) ancestry, have developed a culture of their own, characterized linguistically by a broken form of Dutch-Afrikaans with a peculiar yet dignified power of expression. Their religion, love of sacred song and choirs are their chief cultural features.
The Cape Malays are descendants of the early Muslim people brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company. Despite bondage and isolation, they have remained faithful to Islam, still manifest in all their traditional ceremonies, feasts, weddings, funerals and pilgrimages to Mecca.
The first Indians came to South Africa in l860 as indentured laborers of the Natal colonial government for Natal’s sugar plantations. For many decades, it was assumed that the Indians should eventually be repatriated. It was only in 1961, after South Africa became a republic, that this notion was abandoned and the Indian community was allowed to stay as a permanent part of the South African population.
The Republic of South Africa lies at the southern tip of the African continent between latitudes 22 and 35 south, flanked by the Indian Ocean on the east coast and the Atlantic on the west, and bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. Washed by the cold Benguala current on the west coast and the warm Mozambique Agulhas current on the east, the country has a coastline of 1,832 miles.
The nine provinces – Gauteng (Capital – Johannesburg), KwaZulu-Natal (Capital – Pietersburg), North West (Capital – Mmbatho), Mpumalanga (Capital – Nelspruit), Free State (Capital – Bloemfontein), Northern Cape (Capital- Kimberley), Western Cape (Capital – Cape Town), Eastern Cape (Capital – Bisho), cover a total of 1,227,200 km (472, 359 square miles). Comparatively, South Africa is slightly less than twice the size of Texas.
About 49 million people – Blacks 79.6%, Whites 9.1%, Asians/Indian 2.5%. This heterogeneous composition embodies a unique diversity of cultures, religions, languages and lifestyles.
Two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, one hour ahead of Central European Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, USA.
The climate is generally sunny and temperate, with average number of sunshine hours each day among the highest in the world. Winters are mild and clear, although occasional snowfalls occur on the higher mountain ranges of the Eastern and Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, causing brief cold spells in the surrounding areas.
More than 40% of South Africa lies nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, which exerts a significant influence on temperatures and rainfall in the interior of the country. The Western Cape Province enjoys a Mediterranean-type climate (dry summer and winter rainfall, mostly in the form of short afternoon thunderstorms). As the country lies in the southern hemisphere, seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere.