South Africa: An Introduction


South Africa: An Introduction



South Africa, officially known as the Republic of South Africa, is located at the southern tip of the African continent. It borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho, an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa surfaces an area of 1 219 090 km2.

According to the South African Government, South Africa’s surface falls into two categories: the interior plateau and the land between the plateau and the coast. The boundary between these two areas is called The Escarpment and is the most prominent feature of the country. The interior plateau arises out of the Karoo and Namib Desert. This part of the country is rather dry.
The other part of the country is the well known Fynbos Biome and the Garden Route.


The country has three main capitals:
Executive: Pretoria
Judicial: Bloemfontein
Legislative: Cape Town


South Africa has an estimated population of 47 million people (2001 census) and is the world’s 25th largest country. The majority of the population, which is 37.2 million, is Africans. The white population is estimated at 4.4 million, the coloured population at 4.1 million and the Indian/Asian population at 1.1 million.

According to the South African Government the population consists of the following groups:

Nguni (consisting of the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi people)
Sotho-Tswana, who include the Southern, Northern and Western Sotho (Tswana people) Tsonga

and those who have immigrated to South Africa from the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia and maintain a strong cultural identity.

A few remaining members of the Khoi and the San also live in South Africa.
According to, in the South African context the term Coloured refers to a heterogeneous group of people who possess some degree of sub-Saharan ancestry, but not enough to be considered Black under South African law. Other terms used for this culture is “Bruinmense, Kleurlinge or Bruin Afrikaners”. The idea of “Coloured” people developed partly to describe the complex position of those who were neither white nor members of groups that spoke African languages. The term Coloured is still widely used in South Africa.

According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. 1996 (Act 108 of 1996), there are 11 official languages in South Africa. These are Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
Although English is the mother tongue of only 8, 2% of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of the majority of South Africans. When coming to South Africa you would do business in English.

Most Coloureds speak Afrikaans while about 10% of Coloureds speak English as their mother tongue, However, virtually all Cape Town coloureds are bilingual, comfortably switching between “Kaapse taal” (a creolized dialect of Afrikaans spoken mostly in the Cape Flats, “suiwer Afrikaans” (formal Afrikaans, as taught at school), and English.

South Africa is famous for its sunshine. The climate in South Africa is generally temperate. The changes between summer and winter are generally subtle, but the climate can also be very unpredictable. The rainfall is also unpredictable and unreliable. The Drakensberg mountains offer limited skiing opportunities in the winter. The coldest place in South Africa is called Buffelsfontein which is in the Eastern Cape and the lowest temperature which was recorded is -18.6 degrees Celsius. The hottest temperature of 51.7 degrees Celsius was recorded in 1948 in the Northern Cape Kalahari near Upington.

Link to South African Weather Service


As stated by, South Africa is a constitutional democracy system with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary. These include the national, provincial and local levels of government which all have legislative and executive authority in their own fields. Current South African politics are dominant by the African National Congress (ANC). The president of South Africa is President Thabo Mbeki.

Legislative authority is vested in Parliament, which is situated in Cape Town and consists of two houses, the four hundred members in the National Assembly and the ninety members in the National Council of Provinces. The National Assembly is also known as the lower house and the National Council of Provinces as the upper house.

According to, members of the lower house are elected on a population basis by proportional representation; this means that half of the members are elected from national lists and the other half from provincial lists. Ten members are elected to represent each province in the National Council of Provinces, regardless of the population of the province. Elections for both chambers are held every five years. The government is formed in the lower house, and the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly is the President.

The following state institutions were created to support constitutional democracy:

The Public Protector
The Human Rights Commission
The Commission for Gender Equality
The Auditor-General
The Electoral Commission
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities

Cultural Considerations

Excerpt from Cultural Considerations by Guy Macleod

In 1994, South Africa became a democracy when all people in South Africa, irrespective of their ethnic group, culture, language or religion, participated on an equal footing to elect the first democratically elected government in the country’s history. The end of the political dominance of the majority by a minority, elitist group of white people of colonialist stock opened the doors to the massive task of levelling the playing field by removing racially-based legislation from the statute books of South Africa.

After 1994 all remaining racially based discriminatory legislation was scrapped and new legislation has steadily been introduced to ensure that past inequities and imbalances, in the workplace especially, are rapidly corrected. This legislation includes, for example:

The Labour Relations Act (LRA), 1995, which covers all employees except the National Defence Force and aims to promote orderly collective bargaining.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997, which sets out new minimum employment standards for most people employed in the private sector.
The Employment Equity Act, 1998, which aims to remove unfair discrimination by establishing fair employment practices and to implement affirmative action to advance all people that were previously discriminated against on the grounds of colour, gender and physical capability.
The Prevention and Prohibition of Unfair dismissal Act, 1999, which outlaws racism and all forms of discrimination.

Whilst the new South Africa, aided by legislation, is rapidly unfolding in the workplace, socially based attitudes and norms will take longer to adjust to the realities of a non-racial, democratic South Africa; norms and behaviour never do change quickly.

Employment Equity

SA Parliaments information on the Employment Equity Act, 1998

To provide for employment equity; and to provide for matters incidental thereto. Recognising;

that as a result of apartheid and other discriminatory laws and practices, there are disparities in employment, occupation and income within the national labour market; and
that those disparities create such pronounced disadvantages for certain categories of people that they cannot be redressed simply by repealing discriminatory laws,

Therefore, in order to;
promote the constitutional right of equality and the exercise of true democracy;
eliminate unfair discrimination in employment;
ensure the implementation of employment equity to redress the effects of discrimination;
achieve a diverse workforce broadly representative of our people; promote economic development and efficiency in the workforce and
give effect to the obligations of the Republic as a member of the International Labour Organisation.

Prohibition of Unfair Discrimination

Elimination of unfair discrimination. Every employer must take steps to promote equal opportunity in the workplace by eliminating unfair discrimination in any employment policy or practice.

Prohibition of unfair discrimination. No person may unfairly discriminate, directly or indirectly, against an employee, in any employment policy or practice, on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language and birth.


According to the article, Economy of South Africa, South Africa is classified as a middle-income country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors. South Africa has a stock exchange (the JSE-Johannesburg Securities Exchange), that ranks among the top twenty in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. The country is ranked 57th in the world in terms of per capita GDP, corrected for purchasing power parity. South Africa is also the continent’s largest energy producer and consumer.

The development of South Africa is localised around four economic centers, namely Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg/Pretoria. The vast majority of South Africans are poor, but marginal areas are experiencing rapid growth. South Africa has one of the highest rates of various incomes in the world.

Export Cargo: Gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment.

Import Cargo: Machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments and foodstuffs.

Agricultural Products: Corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool and dairy products.


The currency used in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR) It has been said that the rand is the world’s most actively-traded emerging market currency. According to the Bloomberg Currency Scorecard, the South African Rand was the best-performing currency against the United States dollar between 2002 and 2005. Frequent used coins in South Africa are the 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2, R5 and notes are the R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.

Travellers visiting South Africa, for up to 90 days, from Australia. New Zealand, Canada, Japan, the USA and the European Union have no need for VISA’S. Traveller’s cheques are the safest way to carry money around. Visa, American Express and Diner’s Club credit cards are acceptable in most places in South Africa.

Foreign tourists visiting South Africa can have their value-added tax (VAT) refunded, provided the value of the items purchased exceeds R20.
VAT is refunded on departure at the point of exit. South Africa’s transport infrastructure – airlines, railroads, roads, luxury touring buses (coaches) and motor cars – is such that tourists can travel comfortably and quickly from their port of entry to any part of the country.

South African Currency Converter


According to studies done by Christians form 79.7 % of the South African population, according to the 2001 national census.

This is divided into the following groups:

11.1% Zion Christian
8.2% Pentecostal (Charismatic)
7.1% Catholic Methodist
6.7% Dutch Reformed
3.8% Anglican
36% Other Christian

The rest of the population is 1.5% Islam, 1.3% Hinduism, 15.1% had no religious affiliation, 2.3% is other and 1.4% is unspecified. According to research, many South African Muslims, particularly in the Western Cape, are described as coloureds.

Attitudes toward religion and religious beliefs vary widely in the country. During the twentieth century, the government of South Africa has actively encouraged specific Christian beliefs, but the country has never had an official state religion or any important government prohibition regarding religious beliefs.


Every traveller to South Africa must be in possession of a valid passport and, where necessary, a visa. The following information is from

South Africa offers extreme scenic beauty, diverse wildlife, a variety of cultures and traditions as well wonderful outdoors for sport and other adventure activities.

Tourism is South Africa’s fastest-growing industry and contributes about 7,1% of GDP. In 2005, international tourism to South Africa surged to new record levels, with 10,3% more foreigners visiting the country in 2005 than in 2004, according to Statistics in SA. Some 7,4 million people from other countries visited South Africa in 2005, compared with 6,7 million in 2004, which was a new record at the time.
Tourism continues to make a significant contribution to job creation, with employment in the tourism sector increasing to 539 017 in 2005. The fastest-growing segment of tourism in South Africa is ecological tourism (ecotourism), which includes nature photography, birdwatching, botanical studies, snorkelling, hiking and mountaineering. Community tourism is becoming increasingly popular, with tourists wanting to experience South Africa’s rural villages and townships.

Visitors who intend travelling to South Africa’s neighbouring countries and back into South Africa are advised to apply for multiple-entry visas. Passport-holders of certain countries are exempt from visa requirements. Tourists must satisfy immigration officers that they have the means to support themselves during their stay and that they are in possession of return or onward tickets. They must also have valid international health certificates.

The top 10 tourist attractions in South Africa are:

Kruger National Park
Table Mountain
Garden route
Cape Town’s Victoria and Albert Waterfront
Robben Island
Sun City
Cultural Villages
The Cradle of Humankind

For more information you can visit:


Public roads are well developed and well sign-posted with driving done on the left. Drivers must have an international driver’s license and a minimum of 5 years’ experience. This is probably the best way to see the country.

An International Driving Permit is not compulsory, however, according to the Automobile Association (AA) the international drivers licence assists foreign motorists – particularly in the event of an accident where insurance claims will be handled. It is a legal document, which endorses the licence.
British visitors who are planning to drive in South Africa should check with the AA or RAC prior to departure that they have all the correct documentation.

International Links



There are frequent direct and indirect flights by numerous major airlines from destinations throughout Europe and North America.

Approximate flight times: From Cape Town to London is 12 hours 35 minutes, from Durban is 14 hours and from Johannesburg is 11 hours 50 minutes. From Johannesburg to Los Angeles is 23 hours (no direct flight available, but this may change so check with your local travel bureau).

International airports:
Cape Town (CPT) (Cape Town International), 22km (14 miles) east of the city (travel time – 25 minutes). Airport facilities include outgoing duty-free shop, car hire, bank/bureau de change (0830-1630 Monday to Friday, 0830-1200 Saturday) and restaurant/bar (0600-0305). Inter-Cape buses meet all incoming and outgoing flights. Courtesy buses are operated by some hotels. Taxis are available, with a surcharge after 2300.

Bloemfontein (BFN) (Bloemfontein International), 10km (6 miles) east of the city (travel time – 15 minutes). Airport facilities include automatic teller machine, restaurants, car hire and conference facilities. Airport shuttle bus to the city centre (leaving from outside the airport building). Taxis are also available.

Durban (DUR) (Durban International), 16km (10 miles) south of the city (travel time – 20 minutes). Airport facilities include outgoing duty-free shop, car hire, bank/bureau de change and bar/restaurant. Airport buses and taxis are available to the city.

Johannesburg (JNB) (Johannesburg International), 24km (15 miles) northeast of the city (travel time – 35 minutes). Airport facilities include incoming and outgoing duty-free shops, post office, car hire, bank/bureau de change (24 hours), restaurant and bar (1000-2400). Bus services to Pretoria and Johannesburg are available. Buses link Kempton Park with Johannesburg. Taxis are available. Courtesy coaches are operated by some major hotels.

Port Elizabeth (PLZ) (Port Elizabeth International) is 25km (16 miles) from the city (travel time – 30 minutes). Airport facilities include Nedbank automated teller machine, conference facilities, information desk (0600-2200 Monday to Friday; 0700-2100 Saturday; 0800-2210 Sunday) restaurants and pubs, shops, a pharmacy, postal services, car hire. Airport shuttle bus to the main international hotels in Port Elizabeth. Taxis are also available.

Nelspruit (KMIA) (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport) is 22km (14 miles) from Nelspruit, 44km (28 miles) from the Numbi Entrance Gate of Kruger Park and within close vicinity of the major game lodges in the area. Recently opened, the airport facilities are created over a period of time. Transfers to private lodges can be arranged.
Local Transport

Daily flights link Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London, Kimberley, Nelspruit, Upington and Bloemfontein with other connecting flights to provincial towns. South African Airways operates on the principal routes.


Starlight Cruises offers links between major ports.


The principal intercity services are as follows: The Blue Train is a luxury express between Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town (every other day);
The Trans-Oranje between Cape Town and Durban via Kimberley and Bloemfontein (weekly); and the
Trans-Natal Express between Durban and Johannesburg (daily).
Rovos Rail offers luxury steam safaris to Mpumalanga and the Garden Route.
All long-distance trains are equipped with sleeping compartments, included in fares, and most have restaurant cars. Reservations are recommended for principal trains and all overnight journeys. There are frequent local trains in the Cape Town and Pretoria /Johannesburg urban areas. All trains have first- and second-class accommodation. Children under two years of age travel free. Children aged 2-11 pay half fare.


There is a well-maintained network of roads and motorways in populous regions. Traffic drives on the left. Fines for speeding are very heavy. It is illegal to carry petrol other than in built-in petrol tanks. Petrol stations are usually open all week 0700-1900. Some are open 24 hours.


Various operators, such as Greyhound and Translux, run intercity express links using modern air-conditioned coaches. On many of the intercity routes passengers may break their journey at any scheduled stop en route by prior arrangement at time of booking and continue on a subsequent coach at no extra cost other than for additional accommodation.


Available throughout the country, at all towns, hotels and airports, with rates for distance and time. For long-distance travel, a quotation should be sought.

Car hire

Self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars are available at most airports and in major city centres. Avis, Imperial and Budget are represented nationwide.


There are bus and suburban rail networks in all the main towns. Fares in Cape Town and Johannesburg are zonal, with payment in cash or with 10-ride pre-purchase ‘clip cards’ from kiosks. In Pretoria there are various pre-purchase ticket systems, including a cheap pass for off-peak travel only. Conventional buses and taxis face stiff competition from minibuses and combi-taxis (both legal and illegal), which are also found in other South African towns. These, although cheap and very fast, should be used with care.
For ordinary taxis, fares within the city areas are more expensive than long distances. Taxis do not cruise and must be called from a rank. Taxi drivers expect a 10% tip.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter: I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

Nelson Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom