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SA Religion, Cultures and Languages
About 68 per cent of the people of South Africa are Christians, mainly Protestant. Most Afrikaners belong to the Dutch Reformed Church, and most South African whites who speak English as their first language belong to the Anglican, Congregational, Methodist, or Roman Catholic Churches. Blacks are also members of these denominations; in addition, many of them adhere to so-called independent Churches, which combine elements of Christianity and traditional African religions. A significant minority of blacks also follow traditional beliefs. Of the non-Christian religions in South Africa Hindus comprise 1.3 per cent and Muslims 1.1 per cent. South Africa also has a Jewish community of some 67,600 people, although a number of Jews have emigrated to Israel in the past 25 years.


There are 11 official languages in South Africa: Afrikaans (6.2 million), English (3.5 million), Ndebele (588,000), Northern Sotho (3,840,000), Southern Sotho (2,704,000), Swati (1,019,000), Tsonga (1,646,000), Tswana (2,822,000), Venda (666,000), Xhosa (6,858,000), and Zulu (10,700,000). Afrikaans and English are the languages of record. The former, a variant of the Dutch language, is the first language of almost all Afrikaners and many Coloured people. English is used as the primary language by many whites and is also spoken by many Asians and blacks. To most blacks, however, a Bantu language (see Niger-Congo Languages) or Khoisan (Click) language is their first language. In addition to English, many Asians also speak a language of India. Fanagolo, a Zulu-based pidgin, is spoken by several thousand mainly as a lingua franca among mining communities. A group of Afrikaner intellectuals, concerned that Afrikaans is being marginalized in South Africa, met at Hammanskraal in May 2000, to launch the Group of 63, which seeks special constitutional protection for Afrikaans and other minority languages. Members include the South African writer Breyten Breytenbach. It is the first time since early last century that Afrikaners from such a diverse political spectrum have united on a cultural project.

The historical segregation of racial and ethnic groups in South Africa has resulted in distinct cultural developments. Within the white population English and European cultures have re-emerged as dominant influences, especially with the erosion of the Afrikaner-created apartheid system, and the end of the international isolation it caused. The historical distinction between the more religious and nationalistic Afrikaners and the more cosmopolitan English speakers is diminishing, especially among young people.

Among blacks, urban and rural cultures continue to differ. Urban black culture is multi-ethnic and increasingly draws on international influences, such as those of African-Americans. These influences have increased since the end of international sanctions against South Africa, which restricted artists from other countries from performing in South Africa. In the major urban areas the end of apartheid has brought about more interracial cultural activities. Generational differences within both the white and black populations also play a role in cultural expressions. In rural areas black cultural activities tend to emphasize the traditions of particular ethnic groups. Traditional Afrikaner culture is also strongest in rural areas. In recent years a new sense of self-pride has developed in the Coloured community and has found expression in writing, theatre, and music.  
HE Mr Geoff Doidge
Head of Mission
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