South Africa General information

The Republic of South Africa is located on the southern tip of the African continent. The country is bordered to the east by the Indian Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. Lesotho is trapped by South Africa.

Three geographic regions dominate South Africa’s landscape: the inland highlands, the mountains and the coastal region. The inland highland is characterized by a largely constant altitude and is separated from the other landforms by mountain ridges (the Great Ridge), which rise above the plains (Veld) of the high plateau and are different high and steep.

Although there are two large river systems, the limpopo and the orange, the surface of the plateau is poor in water. On the coast there are both sandy beaches and rocky coves, the hinterland is overgrown with shrubs. The mountainous region that stretches from the Cape of Good Hope along the coast to the Limpopo Valley in the northeast of the country consists of the Drakensberg, Nuweveldberg and Stromberg chains.

After the 1994 elections, South Africa was divided into nine provinces: the Western Cape (provincial capital: Cape Town), the Eastern Cape, the North Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State (Bloemfontein), North West Province (Mmabatho), Northern Province, Mpumalanga and Johannesburg.

Pretoria (seat of government). Inhabitants: 525,583 (1991)
Cape Town (seat of parliament). Inhabitants: 854.616 (1991)
Area – 1.219.080 sq km.
Population – 42,106,000 (1999)

South Africa has the most efficient economy in the southern part of the African continent. Livestock is widespread, and sugar and grains are produced in large quantities. The mainstay of the economy, however, is mining. Coal is abundant and ores such as chromium, manganese, vanadium and platinum are also mined.

The most valuable minerals in the country are gold and diamonds, with which South Africa has dominated the world market for years.

Mining and agriculture are among the largest employers and dominate South Africa’s exports. The largest industry is the manufacturing industry. Steel and heavy industry produce machinery and means of transport. In recent years, high-tech companies and the service sector have experienced a boom.

The tourism industry continues to gain in importance and ranks fourth in foreign exchange earnings after mining, agriculture and the automotive industry. Since 1994, a constant increase in visitor numbers has been recorded. In 1999, 6 million foreign visitors came to South Africa. The primary sector’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) is 12%, with a downward trend, with the secondary sector currently contributing around 30% and the tertiary sector contributing 58%.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3% in 2000. South African exports benefited from increased competitiveness due to the lower valuation of the rand. However, labor market development stagnated and the unemployment rate was 36%.

The inflation rate in 2000 was 7.7%. At the end of 1999/2000 there was a budget deficit of 2.8%. Public debt stood at 45% in the financial year 2000/2001. USA, UK, Germany, Italy and Japan are the main trading partners.

Politics-state form
Parliamentary Republic (in the Commonwealth) since 1961. New constitution since 1997. Two-Chamber Parliament: National Assembly with 360-400 members and National Council with 90 members. Head of State and Government: Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, since 1999.

1 edge = 100 cents. Currency code: R, ZAR (ISO code). Banknotes are worth 200, 100, 50, 20, and 10 R in circulation; Coins in denominations 5, 2 and 1 R and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cent.

The big cities are sometimes shaped by sharp contrasts.

While better residential areas are often spacious and well maintained, the “townships”, where most of the non-white population still lives, consist of simple houses, barracks or slum-like huts. Especially the townships, but also the inner cities of the big cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban suffer from the high crime in the country. Especially tourists are a popular victim of robbers who usually do not shy away from violence. In the event of a robbery you should definitely refrain from countering.

Driving a car
There is left-hand traffic in South Africa. No problem, because – traffic is quite manageable outside the big cities. Alone in the roundabout, there is some reason to get in and out the right way.

Somewhat unusual are the 4-way stop signs at many intersections. That means, whoever comes first, drives first, then the second, the third, etc. Who can not count here to four, soon comes to enjoy the benefits of his comprehensive insurance (Caution: the has a fairly high own contribution).

The rental car should be rented from home. The prices are for a small / medium car for 25 days from 440 to 820 euros.

When overtaking: The safe driver, if he is overtaken, goes all the way to the left or to the “lane” and lets the overtaking pass by. Then the overtaking thanked by pressing the hazard warning lights, the overtaken, however, operated briefly the flare. Tourists can be recognized by the stunned expression on their face.

South Africa – Climate

South Africa extends between the 22 and 34 degrees south latitude and thus falls within the range of subtropics.

However, temperatures are lower in many regions when compared to similarly latitude areas. On the west coast, the cold Benguela ocean current provides for moderate temperatures, in the central highlands, it is the altitude (Johannesburg is at 1753 m altitude), which even in mid-summer, the thermometer can hardly climb more than 30 degrees.

In winter, the temperatures fall – also due to the height – to the freezing point, sometimes even below. Only on the coasts is it warmer then.

Rainfall mainly occurs during the summer months, except in the western cape, which is considered a winter rainfall area.

The seasons are exactly the opposite of the European ones: when winter prevails in Germany, summer is in South Africa – and vice versa.

The South African winter (June to August) is dry and pleasantly warm, except in the Cape Town region, where it rains heavily at this time of the year and can get very cold at night.

Snow is possible in the Drakensberg. In midsummer (October to February) temperatures rise to 30 degrees Celsius, in Durban and the neighboring provinces, the humidity is high.

In the months in between there are climatic conditions throughout South Africa, which can be compared to the southern European spring and autumn.

South Africa – Fauna

South Africa is justifiably proud of its rich natural heritage, which is carefully protected in the numerous nature reserves and national parks. The country is home to more than 300 species of mammals, more than 500 species of birds, more than 100 types of reptiles and countless species of insects.

South Africa is not only home to the three largest land mammals in the world: African elephant, white rhinoceros and hippopotamus, but also the tallest (giraffe), the fastest (cheetah) and the smallest (miniature shrew).

The biodiversity is great, although some species have become extinct since the arrival of Europeans. Most big game lives in the national parks, where you have the best chance to see buffaloes, lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and rhinos.

All wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa are located in the savannah or half savannah.

There are many antelope species such as impala, kudu or springbok, as well as ostriches, flamingos and zebras. The overwhelming diversity of South African wildlife should be seen with your own eyes.

South Africa – Flora

With over 20,000 plant species – around 10% of all plants in the world – South Africa has an extremely diverse flora.

Around 8,000 species concentrate on the small western Cape region. Of the six floral kingdoms on earth, this “Fynbos” vegetation zone is located on the Cape. It is predominantly an evergreen hardwood family with mostly fine, needle-like leaves.

The fine bush is particularly rich in magnificent flowering plants, especially the magnificent proteas, of which there are already 130 different species.

If the abundance of flowering plants is overwhelming, the forest stands are totally different. Just 1 percent of the surface of South Africa is covered with forests.

These are located almost exclusively in the high-precipitation coastal strip of the Indian Ocean and in the adjacent middle altitudes of the marginal threshold mountains. Unfortunately, these are mainly plantations and imported tree species, mostly eucalyptus, pine or spruce.

The original rainforest fell victim to the depletion largely. The native forest was of little use economically, so it was ruthlessly eliminated by the farmers in South Africa’s earlier history. Only small patches of Indigenous Forest are preserved here and there. The coveted hardwoods – Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood – are today under strict environmental protection.

By far the largest part of South Africa is grassland. Especially in Highveld dominated by a vegetation of different grasses, low shrubs and isolated acacia trees, mostly camel thorn or hawthorn.

In the northwest, the vegetation is sparse due to less rainfall.

Especially in the dry hot Namaqualand you will find numerous water-storing succulents as well as aloes and euphorbias.

Finally, in the northeast, the grass and arbor savanna increasingly turns into a dense bush savannah.

The monkey bread trees or baobabs, which can be seen well in the northern part of the Kruger Park, are especially striking here.

South Africa – History

The colonization of South Africa by Europeans began in Cape Town. After the English had decided against the establishment of a colony at the Cape of Good Hope, it was the Dutch who were the first to recognize the strategic and economic importance of the Cape. On behalf of the Dutch East India Trade Company therefore the merchant Jan van Riebeeck landed on 6 April 1652 in the picturesque bay at the foot of Table Mountain.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, the settlers on the Cape continued to expand north and east. These settlements were carried by the so-called trekburs, white farmers who, in search of pastureland for their cattle, continued to penetrate inland.

Since the end of the century, it has been the Xhosa people settling in the east who opposed the trekburs.

In the urban communities the danger of confrontation grew. Here faced the striving for political self-determination citizens and a weak, corrupt and economically almost bankrupt colonial administration. The countless disputes ended up in open protest. The citizens demanded independence from the colonial administration. In Swellendam and in Graaff-Reinet, the first republics were proclaimed. Their existence, however, was short lived.

The power struggle between citizens and administration ended with the landing of British ships at the Cape and the takeover of the colony by the English kingdom in 1795.

The historical events in South Africa of the 19th century are characterized by the “Groot Trek”. More than 10,000 Boers, the so-called “Voortrekker” left in 1835 with their families the Cape Colony and moved to the north and northeast.

At the end of the eighteenth century, loose tribes formed larger communities throughout southern Africa. This process was by no means peaceful, but was the result of protracted wars. The development of the kingdom of the Zulus also fell into this period. Through a barely imaginable level of cruelty and violence, the notorious Zulu warrior Shaka gained supremacy over various Zulu clans. Systematically, he continued to expand his sphere of influence. Shaka’s warriors invaded the Zulu villages and burned them down. Women and children were impaled, young men were conscripted, the chiefs were tortured and forced to loyalty.

After the Voortrekkers had negotiated in vain with the Zulus for settlement and pasture land and were exposed to several catastrophic robberies, they formed in 1838 again to the decisive battle. On December 16, 464 Boers, commanded by Andries Pretorius, won over 10,000 Zulu warriors.

The Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama reached the bay of today’s Durban Christmas 1497. He called it “Rio de Natal”, Christmas river. Since then, the bay has been visited by seafarers and merchants, but only in 1823 did a proper settlement develop here: “Port Natal”. In 1835 the place was named Durban, after the then Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin Durban. Life in the small port town was marked by uncertainty. The Zulus regarded Natal as their tribal territory and tolerated the white settlers only because the city was of use to them as a trading center.

In 1844, Natal became a British crown colony.

The Anglo-Zulu war continued and ended – after numerous other lossy fights – in 1887 with the victory of the English.

After the Voortrekkers were defeated in Natal in 1842 by the British, the Great Trek continued northeastward, eventually ending up in the areas south and north of the Vaal River. In the north initially the independent Transvaal, which was later converted into the South African Republic.

In the meantime, the Cape Colony had continued to expand, and in 1848 the entire land between Vaal and Orange was declared British territory.

On February 23, 1854, the Treaty of Bloemfontein was closed, which led to the founding of the Orange Free State.

The policy of consistent racial segregation was initiated after the founding of the South African Union in 1910 by a set of laws, all of which further curtailed the rights of the black majority population. The Mines and Works Act of 1911, for example, required blacks to do only lesser jobs, thus guaranteeing the availability of cheap labor. The Native Land Act of 1913 declared 7.3% of South Africa’s area to be black reservations and forbade them to purchase land outside of these areas.

Since there was no opportunity for political protest due to the lack of voting rights and a general strike ban for non-whites, the African National Congress (ANC) and other resistance movements were founded. They were all poorly organized and less effective at first. The white governments could therefore continue their policy of segregation more or less undisturbed.

After World War II, conflicts worsened and there were numerous wildcat strikes by black workers. The unsettled Whites then helped the right-wing conservative National Party under Dr. Ing. D. F. Malan, who had guaranteed drastic measures against the “black danger”, to an overwhelming electoral victory. Malan coined the term “apartheid” and initiated the consistent implementation of this disastrous policy.

Frederik Willem de Klerk rang the end of apartheid in February 1990, just a few months after taking office, and spoke out in favor of a democratic South Africa. The ban on the ANC (African National Congress) was lifted. A few days later, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment on the prison island Robben Iceland. In secret negotiations between the ANC and the government, they had previously agreed to renounce violence in the future and work together for a peaceful transition and a new constitution.

In April 1994, the first free elections were held in South Africa. As expected, the ANC won an overwhelming election victory.

As the first black president of the new South Africa Nelson Mandela entered on May 10, 1994, the successor to Frederik Willem de Klerk. De Klerk, whose National Party won around 20% of the vote in the 1994 elections, became second vice president of the South African interim government. First Vice President was Thabo Mbeki, today Chairman of the ANC and President of the Republic of South Africa.

South Africa – wining and dining

Local specialties are z. B. Sosaties (a kind of shashlik), Bobotie (chopped with curry), Bredies (stew with meat, tomatoes and other vegetables), Crayfish (crayfish) and Biltong (dried meat).

There are excellent local wines, also sherry is pressed in the country. Liquor stores selling liquor are open Mon-Fri 09.00-18.00 and Sat 09.00-13.00. Meanwhile, alcohol is also available in supermarkets. To greet you give your hand. With private visits the usual courtesy forms are expected. Casual clothing is appropriate, elegant clothing is appropriate for special occasions. In the cinema and theater smoking is prohibited.

10% is usual if the tip is not included in the price. Doormen, waiters and room service personnel, porters and taxi drivers are expected to tip; in the hotel bills no service charge is included.

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