Officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It has 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. With close to 53 million people, is the world’s 24th-most populous nation. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world and is comparable in size to Colombia. Mafadi in the Drakensberg at 3,450 m (11,320 ft) is the highest peak in South Africa. The interior of South Africa consists of a vast, in most places, almost flat, plateau with an altitude of between 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and 2,100 m (6,900 ft), highest in the east, sloping gently downwards towards the west and north, and slightly less so to the south and south-west. This plateau is surrounded by the Great Escarpment whose eastern, and highest stretch is known as the Drakensberg.
South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location in the climatically milder southern hemisphere and due to the average elevation rising steadily towards the north (towards the equator) and further inland.
South Africa is a parliamentary republic, although unlike most such republics the President is both head of state and head of government, and depends for his tenure on the confidence of Parliament. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the Constitution, and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional. The National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, consists of 400 members and is elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation. The National Council of Provinces, the upper house, consists of ninety members, with each of the nine provincial legislatures electing ten members. After each parliamentary election, the National Assembly elects one of its members as President; hence the President serves a term of office the same as that of the Assembly, normally five years. No President may serve more than two terms in office. The President appoints a Deputy President and Ministers, who form the Cabinet which consists of Departments and Ministries. The President and the Cabinet may be removed by the National Assembly by a motion of no confidence. South Africa has no legally defined capital city.
South Africa is a multi-ethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution’s recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fourth most-spoken first language. South African art includes the oldest art objects in the world, which were discovered in a South African cave, and dated from 75,000 years ago. The scattered tribes of Khoisan peoples moving into South Africa from around 10000 BC had their own fluent art styles seen today in a multitude of cave paintings. Nadine Gordimer became the first South African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. South Africa is one of Africa’s major media centers. While South Africa’s many broadcasters and publications reflect the diversity of the population as a whole, the most commonly used language is English. South African culture is diverse; foods from many cultures are enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine. In addition to food, music and dance feature prominently. South Africa’s most popular sports are soccer, rugby and cricket. Other sports with significant support are swimming, athletics, golf, boxing, tennis and netball. Although soccer commands the greatest following among the youth, other sports like basketball, surfing and skateboarding are increasingly popular.
Education in South Africa is governed by two national departments, namely the department of Basic Education (DBE), which is responsible for primary and secondary schools, and the department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which is responsible for tertiary education and vocational training. Prior to 2009, these two departments were represented in a single Department of Education.The DBE department deals with public schools, private schools (also referred to by the department as independent schools), early childhood development (ECD) centers, and special needs schools. The public schools and private schools are collectively known as ordinary schools, and comprise roughly 97% of schools in South Africa.
The economy of South Africa is the second largest in Africa, behind Nigeria, it accounts for 24% of its gross domestic product in terms of purchasing power parity, and is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, and is considered to be a newly industrialized country. Its economy is the second largest in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world. South Africa has a comparative advantage in the production of agriculture, mining and manufacturing products relating to these sectors.
South Africa is a popular tourist destination, with around 860 000 arrivals per month (March 2008) of which around 210 000 are from outside the African continent. Revenue adding up to between 1% and 3% of GDP is generated by the tourism industry. Among the main attractions are the diverse and picturesque culture, the game reserves and the highly regarded wines.
South Africa – Inspiring New Ways