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SA Fact File/ Factoids
 
South African facts at your fingertips … up-to-date information on the country's economy, population, geography, climate, languages, religion and more.
 
 
Key facts
 
General:
Official name: Republic of South Africa
Form of state: A federal state, comprising a national government and nine provincial governments.
Legal system: Based on Roman-Dutch law and the 1996 Constitution.
Population (mid-2011): 50.59-million
Measures: metric system
Currency: One rand (R) = 100 cents
Time: Two hours ahead of GMT
Internet domain: .za
 
Geography:
Area: 1 219 090 square kilometres
Agriculture: 81.6% of total land area
Arable land: 12.1% of total
Irrigated land: 10.15% of arable land
 
Capitals:
Pretoria (administrative)
Cape Town (legislative)
Bloemfontein (judicial)
 
Provinces:
Eastern Cape
Gauteng
KwaZulu-Natal
Mpumulanga
Northern Cape
Limpopo
North West
Free State
Western Cape
 
Economy
Currency: Rand (R)
Exchange rate: see "market indicators" above right
Real GDP growth rate (second quarter 2012): 3.2%
Ranking in terms of GDP size: 25th largest in the world [IMF]
Consumer inflation rate (May 2012): 5.7% y/y [StatsSA]

Producer inflation rate (May 2012): 6.6% y/y [StatsSA]
Prime bank overdraft lending rate (July 2012): 9%
Labour force (first quarter 2012): 17.95-million economically active [StatsSA]
Unemployment (first quarter 2012): 25.2% [StatsSA]
Sovereign credit rating (2012): Standard and Poor's: BBB+/Negative
Fitch: BBB+/Negative
Moody's: A3/Negative
GDP composition by sector (2011):
agriculture 2.5%, industry 31.6%, services 65.9%

Key industries:
Mining (world's largest producer of platinum, chromium), automobile assembly, metal- working, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilisers, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair.
Main trading partners (2011) [Sars]:

Exports – China 12.77%, US 8.64%, Japan 7.88%, Germany 6.04%, UK 4.11%, India, 3.47%, Switzerland 3.24%, Netherlands 3.05%, Zimababwe 2,52%, Mozambique 2.5%

Imports – China 14.24%, Germany 10.69%, US 7.88%, Japan 4.74%, Saudi Arabia 4.46%, India 4.03%, UK 4.02%, Iran 3,74%, Nigeria 3.13%, Italy 2.7%

 
Democracy
National legislature: Bicameral Parliament elected every five years, comprising a 400-seat National Assembly and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces.

Electoral system: List-system of proportional representation based on universal adult suffrage. Elections: National elections were held in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The next national election will take place within 90 days of 22 April 2014.

Head of state: The President is elected by the National Assembly. Under the Constitution, the President is permitted to serve a maximum of two five-year terms. The current President is Jacob Zuma, who was sworn in on 9 May 2009.

South Africa is a vigorous multiparty democracy with an independent judiciary and a free and diverse press.

Until 1994, the country was known for apartheid – white-minority rule. South Africa's remarkable ability to put centuries of racial hatred behind it in favour of reconciliation was widely considered a social miracle, inspiring similar peace efforts in Northern Ireland, Rwanda and elsewhere.

The highest law of the land is the Constitution, which came into force on 4 February 1997, and is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution's Bill of Rights protects equality, freedom of expression and association, property, housing, health care, education, access to information, and access to courts. Protecting those rights is the country's independent judiciary, subject only to the Constitution and the law.

With 13 parties in Parliament, South Africa has a vibrant political system. The African National Congress is the governing party, and strongly in the majority, though the opposition parties are robust and vocal.

 

SOUTH AFRICA'S POLITICAL PARTIES

Political party

National Assembly
seats

African National Congress

264

Democratic Alliance

67

Congress of the People

30

Inkatha Freedom Party

18

Independent Democrats

4

United Democratic Movement

4

Freedom Front Plus

4

African Christian Democratic Party

3

United Christian Democratic Party

2

Pan Africanist Congress

1

African Peoples Convention

1

Minority Front

1

Azanian People's Organisation

1

 
Geography and Climate
South Africa is a medium-sized country, with a total land area of 1 219 090 square kilometres, or roughly equivalent in size to Niger, Angola, Mali or Colombia. It is one- eighth the size of the US, about a third the size of the European Union, twice the size of France and over three times the size of Germany. It measures some 1 600km from north to south, and roughly the same from east to west.

The country lies between 22บ and 35บ south, flanked on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean, whose waters meet at the country's – and Africa's – most southern tip, Cape Agulhas.

The coastline stretches 2 798 kilometres from a desert border in the northwest, down the icy Skeleton Coast to Cape Agulhas, then up along the green hills and wide beaches on the coast of the Indian Ocean, to a border with subtropical Mozambique in the northeast.

The low-lying coastal zone is narrow for much of that distance, soon giving way to a mountainous escarpment that separates it from the high inland plateau.

A subtropical location, moderated by ocean on three sides of the country and the altitude of the interior plateau, makes South Africa a warm and sunny country. But it's also dry, with an average annual rainfall of about 450mm, with about 21% of the country receiving less than 200mm a year. The world average is 860mm. While the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is mostly a summer-rainfall region.
 
Provinces
South Africa has nine provinces, which vary considerably in size.  The smallest is tiny and crowded Gauteng, a highly urbanised region, and the largest the vast, arid and empty Northern Cape, which takes up almost a third of South Africa's total land area.
 

PROVINCIAL LAND AREA

Province

Area

% of total

Eastern Cape

169 580 kmฒ

13.9%

Free State

129 480 kmฒ

10.6%

Gauteng

17 010 kmฒ

1.4%

KwaZulu-Natal

92 100 kmฒ

7.6%

Limpopo

123 910 kmฒ

10.2%

Mpumalanga

79 490 kmฒ

6.5%

Northern Cape

361 830 kmฒ

29.7%

North West

116 320 kmฒ

9.5%

Western Cape

129 370 kmฒ

10.6%

TOTAL

1 219 090 kmฒ

100%

 

POPULATION BY PROVINCE
MID-YEAR POPULATION ESTIMATES 2011

Province

Population

% of total

Eastern Cape

6 829 958

13.5%

Free State

2 759 644

5.46%

Gauteng

11 328 203

22.39%

KwaZulu-Natal

10 819 130

21.39%

Limpopo

5 554 657

10.98%

Mpumalanga

3 657 181

7.23%

Northern Cape

1 096 731

2.17%

North West

3 253 390

6.43%

Western Cape

5 287 863

10.45%

TOTAL

49 991 300

100%

 
Population
South Africa is a nation of diversity, with 50.58-million people and a variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs.  According to Statistics South Africa's mid-2011 estimates, the country's population stands at 50 586 757 people.  Africans are in the majority at 40 206 275, making up 79.5% of the total population.  The white population is estimated at 4 565 825 (9%), the coloured population at 4 539 790 (9%) and the Indian/Asian population at 1 274 867 (2.5%). Females make up about 52% of the population, and males 48%.
 

MID-YEAR POPULATION ESTIMATES 2011

Population group

Number

% of total

African

40 206 275

79.5%

White

4 565 825

9%

Coloured

4 539 790

9%

Indian/Asian

1 274 867

2.5%

TOTAL

50 586 757

100%

 
Languages

South Africa is a multilingual country. The country's democratic Constitution, which came into effect on 4 February 1997, recognises 11 official languages, to which it guarantees equal status. These are:

  • Afrikaans
  • English
  • isiNdebele
  • isiXhosa
  • isiZulu
  • Sesotho sa Leboa
  • Sesotho
  • Setswana
  • siSwati
  • Tshivenda
  • Xitsonga
Besides the official languages, scores of others – African, European, Asian and more – are spoken in South Africa, as the country lies at the crossroads of southern Africa.

According to the 2001 census, isiZulu is the most common home language is, spoken by nearly a quarter of the population. It is followed by isiXhosa at 17.6%, Afrikaans at 13.3%, Sepedi at 9.4%, and Setswana and English each at 8.2%.

Sesotho is the mother tongue of 7.9% of South Africans, while the remaining four official languages are spoken at home by less than 5% of the population each.

Most South Africans are multilingual, able to speak more than one language. English- and Afrikaans-speaking people tend not to have much ability in indigenous languages, but are fairly fluent in each other's language. Most South Africans speak English, which is fairly ubiquitous in official and commercial public life. The country's other lingua franca is isiZulu.

SOUTH AFRICAN LANGUAGES 2001

Language

Number of speakers*

% of total

Afrikaans

5 983 420

13.35%

English

3 673 206

8.2%

IsiNdebele

711 825

1.59%

IsiXhosa

7 907 149

17.64%

IsiZulu

10 677 315

23.82%

Sesotho sa Leboa

4 208 974

9.39%

Sesotho

3 555 192

7.93%

Setswana

3 677 010

8.2%

SiSwati

1 194 433

2.66%

Tshivenda

1 021 761

2.28%

Xitsonga

1 992 201

4.44%

Other

217 291

0.48%

TOTAL

44 819 777

100%

 
Religions
According to the 2001 census the overwhelming majority of South Africans, or 79.8%, are Christian. The independent African Zion Christian churches predominate, being the faith of 15.3% of the total population, and 19.2% of all Christians.

Roughly 15% of the population has no religion, and 1.4% is undetermined about their faith. Islam is the religion of 1.5% of South Africans, Hinduism that of 1.2%, African traditional belief 0.3%, Judaism 0.2% and other beliefs 0.6%.

In terms of population groups, Christianity is most common among white and coloured South Africans, being the faith of 86.8% of the people in both groups. It's slightly less dominant among black South Africans, among whom it falls in line with the national average, being the religion of 79.9% of black people. Roughly a quarter (24.4%) of the Indian population is Christian.

The predominant form of Christianity among black South Africans is the independent and indigenous Zion Christian faith, the religion of 23.7% of black Christians. Black people also have the highest rate of unbelief, with 17.5% saying they have no religion, and 1.3% being undetermined. Most white South African Christians (42.8%) belong to the Reformed churches, such as the Dutch Reformed Church. Some 9.2% of white Christians are Methodist, 7.8% Pentecostal or Charismatic, 7.7% Apostolic and 7.6% Catholic. White people have the second-highest rate of unbelief, with 8.8% saying they have no religion and 2% being undetermined. Judaism is most common in this community, being the religion of 1.4% of white South Africans.

Predominant churches among coloured Christians are Apostolic (18.6%), Pentecostal or Charismatic (14.2%), Anglican (10.4%) and Catholic (10.2%). Of the other religions, Islam predominates, being the faith of 7.4% of all coloured South Africans. Only 3.8% of the coloured population says they have no religion, and 1.3% are undetermined.

Hinduism is the most common religion (47.3%) in the Indian/Asian population group, followed by Islam (24.7%) and Christianity (24.2%). There is a fairly even spread of churches among Indian and Asian Christians. This group is most certain of their faith, with only 2.3% reporting that they have no religion, and 0.94% being undecided.
 

RELIGIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA

Religion

Number

% of total

Christianity

35 750 641

79.8%

Islam

654 064

1.5%

Hinduism

551 668

1.2%

Judaism

75 549

0.2%

Other beliefs

283 815

0.6%

No religion

6 767 165

15%

Undetermined

610 974

1.4%

TOTAL

44 819 774

100%

 
Education
At about 7% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 20% of total state expenditure, South Africa has one of the highest rates of public investment in education in the world.

School life spans 13 years or grades, from grade 0, otherwise known as grade R or "reception year", through to grade 12 or "matric" – the year of matriculation.

Under the South African Schools Act of 1996, education is compulsory for all South Africans from the age of seven (grade 1) to age 15, or the completion of grade 9.

According to the latest available statistics, South Africa had 12 644 208 pupils and students (also known as "learners") enrolled in all sectors of the education system, attending 30 586 educational institutions and served by 439 394 teachers and lecturers in 2010.

The breakdown of schools includes 25 850 ordinary schools and 4 736 other education institutions – namely, special schools, early childhood development (ECD) sites and special schools.

Of the total enrolled pupils, 11 810 224 (93.4%) were in public schools and 449 875 (3.6%) were in independent schools.

Of the pupils in other institutions, 279 476 (2.2%) were in ECD centres, and 104 633 (0.8%) were in special schools.

The total of 25 850 ordinary schools comprised 14 456 primary schools, with 5 992 863 pupils and 187 520 teachers; 6 231 secondary schools, with 3 831 937 pupils and 142 181 teachers; and 5 163 combined and intermediate schools, with 2 445 473 pupils and 88 408 teachers.

South Africa has a vibrant higher education sector, with nearly 900 000 students enrolled in the country's 23 state-funded tertiary institutions: 11 universities, six universities of technology, and six comprehensive institutions.

There are currently around 450 registered private FET colleges, which cover training provided from Grades 10 to 12, including career-oriented education and training.
 
 
HE Mr Geoff Doidge
Head of Mission
 
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