82 Interesting Facts About South Africa

Last updated on April 18th, 2019

7 Facts about Apartheid

46. When it all started — way back in 1913, three years after gaining its independence, the notorious Land Act was passed in South Africa before apartheid, forcing black South Africans to live only in certain areas.

47. Apartheid is made a law of the country –  with apartheid becoming a law around 1950, marriage and sexual acts between whites and people of other races were banned by the government. People were classified by color, and pass laws were brought into being, requiring people other than whites, to carry documents giving them permission to be in restricted areas.

48. Separate Development is added to the apartheid policy — in 1958, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, the then president of South Africa, included “separate development” to the apartheid policy. Black South Africans were separated from each other into 10 homelands referred to as Bantustans, which only added to the poverty in Africa.This allowed the government to verify their claim that there was no black majority in the country.

49. Apartheid is opposed — people of other races began resisting the policy of apartheid by striking, protesting, having peaceful demonstrations, political actions, and ultimately, armed conflict. A mass meeting was arranged between the ANC and the South Indian National Congress in 1952, where attendees burned their pass books.

50. The meeting was broken up by the government, and 150 people were arrested for treason. Most resistance leaders were either arrested or executed by 1961, and in 1963, Nelson Mandela, co-founder of Umkhonto we Siswe/Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the ANC, was imprisoned from 1963 until 1990. It was his imprisonment that drew the attention and help for the anti-apartheid cause from the international community.

51. The end of apartheid — in 1976 in Soweto, a black township outside of Johannesburg, thousands of black children protested against the requirement of Afrikaans in schools, causing further government restrictions, and a country-wide recession. This resulted in the international community being convinced even further, that apartheid was not bringing prosperity and peace to the nation, and the policy was denounced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1973. The president of South Africa at the time, Piet Botha, attempted to bring about certain reforms to the country’s policies, but these fell short, and he was pressurized to step down as leader of the country.

52. W. de Klerk became the new president of South Africa, and it was under his leadership that a new constitution was formed in 1994. Apartheid ended officially that year, when elections were held that resulted in a government with a non-white majority.

About South African History

53. Two Nobel prize winners, namely Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.

54. Some of the oldest and most diverse dinosaur fossils were discovered here.

55. South Africa is the second largest producer of fruit on the planet.

56. The smallest (less than 1 mm) and largest succulents (the Baobab tree) in the world are found in South Africa.

57. It is the first country in the world to succeed in turning coal into oil.

58. More than 2000 shipwrecks lie under the waters off the coastline of South Africa.

59. Professor Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant.

60. Palace of the Lost City, one of the largest themed hotels in the world, is found in South Africa.

61. Scientists have discovered that the region is an important center of human evolution.

62. South Africa has an abundance of mines in the country, with diamonds first being discovered on the banks of the Orange River between 1866 and 1867, and the first gold in the Transvaal, in late 19Th Century.

About South African culture

63. Art — art has always been a part of the South African culture, with many South African artists receiving recognition for their work all over the world.

64. Architecture — the enormous ethnic and cultural diversity can be seen in architecture all over the country. One of the most famous architects, Sir Herbert Baker, was the designer of Rhodes Memorial and St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, St John’s College in Johannesburg, and the world famous Union Buildings, in Pretoria.

The Palace of the Lost City, Sun City, North West, South Africa
The Palace of the Lost City, Sun City, North West, South Africa. Image credit – South African Tourism

65. Literature — South Africa has produced some world famous authors, including among many others, Alan Paton, Breyten Bretenbach, Olive Schreiner, Nadine Gordimer, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Andre Brink.

66. Movies — just a few of the well-known movies to come out of South Africa include The God’s must be Crazy, Funny People, District 9, and Tsotsi.

67. Music — Brenda Fassie, Ladysmith Black Mambaso, the Soweto String Quartet, Hugh Masekela, and Miriam Makeba, are some of the many talented black musicians to have come from South Africa. Jonathan Butler, Johnny Clegg, Just Jinger, and Seether, are a few more of the notable South African singers and bands.

68. Food — cuisine is just as diverse as the people in African culture. Meat is the main ingredient in the majority of meals throughout the country. Some dishes unique to the country are bunny chows, koeksusters, melktert, and of course the braai, South Africa’s equivalent of the barbecue in some other countries.

69. Wine — Wines have been produced here since 1659, and South Africa is now one of the topmost wine producers in the world.

70. Infant care — mothers, older sisters, and grandmothers, are traditionally responsible for infant care in the colored and black communities.

71. Sexual orientation — it became legal in 2006 for same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. However, even though this is now a constitutional right, it is not readily accepted socially, especially in rural areas.

72. Science and technology — several important science and technology achievements were born in South Africa, including the Yellow Fever vaccine, molecular biology, and the biggest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere.

Facts for Kids

73. The Tugela Falls are the second-highest in the world.

74. Part of the border between South Africa and Namibia is formed by the Orange River, the longest river in the country.

75. Many human remains, tools, and artifacts from more than 100,000 years ago were found in South Africa, earning it the name of “The Cradle of Humankind”.

76. Just as in Australia and the United Kingdom, South Africans also drive on the left side of the road.

77. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at Cape Point, the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula.

78. Cape Agulhas, which lies about 75 miles/120 km from Cape Town, is the southernmost point of South Africa.

79. Although conservation is considered an important issue, overpopulation and deforestation are causing the loss of many natural habitats.

80. Cave paintings dating back 75,000 years have been discovered here.

81. South Africa is teeming with wildlife including animals such as a variety of monkey species, snakes, elephants, and lions, to name but a few.

82. South African coastlines are full of marine life such as sharks and dolphins, with more than 2000 different species visiting the area at some stage during the year.

Interesting facts about South Africa: V&A Waterfront - Cape Town
V&A Waterfront – Cape Town. Image credit – South African Tourism

South Africa  – country at a glance

Official nameRepublic of South Africa
Table last updatedMay 18, 2019
Independence31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State); 31 May 1961 (republic declared); 27 April 1994 (majority rule)
Capital CityPretoria (executive)
Bloemfontein (judicial)
Cape Town (legislative)
Largest CityJohannesburg
Total area1,219,090 sq km
Population55,380,210 (July 2018 est.)
Population growth rate0.97% (2018 est.)
Official LanguageAfrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
DemonymSouth African
BordersBotswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe and it surrounds the small Kingdom of Lesotho.
CurrencySouth African rand (ZAR)
ReligionChristianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
Literacy rate94.4%
Lowest pointAtlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest pointNjesuthi 3,408 m
Mean elevation1,034 m
Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Government typeparliamentary republic
PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
Deputy PresidentDavid Mabuza
Life expectancy at birth64.1 Years (2018)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Climatemostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrainvast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Natural resourcesgold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Agricultural land79.4%
Birth rate19.9 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Death rate9.3 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Sex ratio0.98 male(s)/female (2018 est.)
National anthem"National Anthem of South Africa"
National symbolspringbok (antelope), king protea flower
National colorsred, green, blue, yellow, black, white
Industriesmining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair
Exports$94.93 billion (2017 est.)
gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Imports$89.36 billion (2017 est.)
machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs
GDP - per capita (PPP)$13,600 (2017 est.)
Time ZoneSAST (UTC+2)
Internet country code.za
Calling Code+27
Drives on theLeft
Data sources1. Central Intellligence Agency
2. Wikipedia.org