South Africa

{tab South Africa}

Facts & figures

Full name: Republic of South Africa

Population: 50.7 million (UN, 2012)

Capitals: Pretoria (executive capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)

Largest city: Johannesburg

Area: 1.22 million sq km (470,693 sq miles)

Major languages: 11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu

Major religion: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs

Life expectancy: 53 years (men), 54 years (women)

Monetary unit: 1 Rand = 100 cents

Main exports: Gold, diamonds, metals and minerals, cars, machinery

GNI per capita: US $6,960 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .za

International dialling code: +27

{tab Map}


{tab Leader}


President: Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma trod a rocky road to the presidency

The leader of the ruling African National Congress party, Jacob Zuma, was officially chosen as the country's president by the newly-elected parliament in May 2009.

{tab Travel}

Visa & travel advice

Passport valid for no less than 30 days after the expiry of intended visit

Your passport must have a blank visa page

A vaccination certificate, if required by the Act

Proof of sufficient funds to cover the living expenses during the sojourn in the Republic in the form of:

Recent bank statement (3 months);

Salary advises (3 months);

Travellers’ cheques.

Applicants travelling by air must be in possession of a return or onward ticket.

Statement and/or documentation confirming purpose and duration of visit

Documentation detailing the purpose of the visit and institutions or persons in the Republic involved, if any

Proof of fixed employment or other commitments thereof

This three (3) month period may be extended by a District or Regional Office of the Department of Home Affairs for an additional three months providing an application for an extension is made thirty (30) days prior to the expiry of the original permit. The approval of such application is at the discretion of the Regional/District representative of the Department of Home Affairs.

United Kingdom passport holders, who are seasonal visitors (more than six (6) months) to South Africa, may apply for a Retired Person's Permit. If approved, this permit may be granted for up to four (4) years.

Once admitted to South Africa, United Kingdom passport holders are advised to pay attention to the expiry date given to them on that Temporary Residence Permit (on the green control sticker). Failure to comply may lead to prosecution and/or a fine in terms of Section 49 and Section 50 of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002.

  • Best period

South Africa is a country of many climates, and the weather varies according to an area’s proximity to coasts or elevated lands. Generally speaking, the winter season in Gauteng lasts from June to September; summer lasts from October to May. In Cape Town, summer begins later, usually around November or December. Heavy rains arrive during the summertime in Johannesburg, and temperatures can fluctuate in the winter between autumnal and freezing. Cape Town, on the other hand, enjoys a Mediterranean climate with winter rains and dry summers. Keep an eye on the forecasts a week before you leave, and pack appropriately.

If you’re looking to enjoy food, music, or other arts in group settings, then checking out a calendar of festivals is an excellent way to plan an itinerary. South Africa Tourism has an interactive list of festivals; those of note include the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, in March, the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, in the summer, and the Oppikoppi Bushveld music festival in the province of North West, in August.

  • Safety

The U.S. Department of State’s consular website has a great deal of information about safety and security in South Africa. It can’t be repeated often enough: be sensible when you travel. Crime rates vary between cities and townships in South Africa. Be alert and aware about your surroundings. We don’t recommend walking at night in downtown areas: you might be targeted as a tourist and mugged.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to South Africa or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research.


{tab History}

The history of South Africa has been dominated by the communication and conflict of several diverse ethnic groups. The aboriginal Khoikhoi people have lived in the region for millennia. Most of the population, however, trace their history to immigration since. Indigenous Africans in South Africa are descendants of immigrants from further north in Africa who first entered what are now the confines of the country roughly one thousand seven hundred years ago. White South Africans are descendants of later European settlers, mainly from the Netherlands and Britain. The Coloureds are descended at least in part from all of these groups, as well as from slaves from Madagascar, East Africa and the then East Indies. There are many South Africans of Indian and Chinese origin, descendants of labourers who arrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The history of South Africa is taken here more broadly to cover the history not only of the current South African state but of other polities in the region, including those of the Khoisan, the several Bantu kingdoms in the region before colonisation, the rule of the Dutch in the Cape and the subsequent rule of the British there and in Natal, and the Boer republics, including the Orange Free State and the South African Republic. South Africa was under an official system of racial segregation and white minority rule from 1948 known as Apartheid, until its first egalitarian elections on 27 April 1994, when the ruling African National Congress came to dominate the politics of the country.

{tab Arts & Culture}

  • Music :

The South African music scene includes both popular (jive) and folk forms. Pop styles are based on four major sources, Zulu isicathamiya singing and harmonic mbaqanga.

Christian missions provided the first organised musical training in the country, bringing to light many of the modern country's earliest musicians, including Enoch Sontonga, who wrote the national anthem Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. By the end of the nineteenth century, South African cities like Cape Town were large enough to attract foreign musicians, especially American ragtime players. African American spirituals were popularised in the 1890s by Orpheus McAdoo's Jubilee Singers.

  • Literature

South African literature is the literature of South Africa, which has 11 national languages: Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Pedi, Tswana, Venda, SiSwati, Tsonga, and Ndebele.

  • Film industry

The cinema of South Africa refers to the films and film industry of the nation of South Africa. Although few local productions are known outside South Africa itself, many foreign films have been produced about South Africa (usually involving race relations). One exception was the film The Gods Must Be Crazy in 1980, set in the Kalahari. This is about how life in a traditional community of Bushmen is changed when a Coke bottle, thrown out of an aeroplane, suddenly lands from the sky. The late Jamie Uys, who wrote and directed The Gods Must Be Crazy, also had success overseas in the 1970s with his films Funny People and Funny People II, similar to the TV series Candid Camera in the US. Leon Schuster's You Must Be Joking! films are in the same genre, and hugely popular among South Africans.

  • Famous monuments

Afrikaans Language Monument


Capture site of Winston Churchill


Castle of Good Hope


  • Architecture history

The southern African sub-continent is the home of a rich and varied architectural tradition. Not only does this include a wide range of indigenous built environments but the influx of white immigrants, from 1652 onwards, also ensured that many of the styles emerging in Europe, America and Asia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries found reflection in local buildings. In spite of these apparently disparate roots however, South African architecture has, nonetheless, achieved a wider homogeneity, being united by a common concern towards climate and materials, and an ability, on the part of local builders, to adapt, adopt and reinterpret the building forms and textures of other cultures. In the process they have also given them new meaning in terms of local values and building customs. This has given rise to numerous cases of cross-cultural pollination. The trims of Victorian colonial buildings, for example, have been reinterpreted by local artists and incorporated into their traditional decorative patterns; the rural use of exterior space has influenced the growth of an urban verandah, porch and patio tradition; and the European medieval "longhouse", imported to the Cape by early white settlers, adapted to local conditions and spread throughout the region to become a house form common to black and white farmers alike.


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