In the Eastern Cape you’ll find the Wild Coast, the Valley of Desolation, the coastal cities of Port Elizabeth and East London, the visionary art of the Owl House of Nieu-Bethesda, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace in the Transkei, and more.
South Africa gateway
South Africa is a unique country. It has the most progressive Constitution in the world, with a Bill of Rights that not only guarantees its people basic human rights – to food, water, housing, social security – but also the rights to life, to gender identity, and to freedom of speech.
We’re not a rich country. We’re a deeply unequal country. But we don’t have the death penalty. We enacted marriage equality over a decade ago. Social grants are there for the old, the unemployed, the disabled, and children.
We have 11 different languages. We have a history that goes back to the beginnings of humanity. We are a society that has come through some of the worst abuses of colonialism and ignorant Western notions of race, and we’re fine.
South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own history, landscape, population, languages, economy, cities and government.
Nelson Mandela’s large and growing family tree includes three wives, six children, 17 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Africa is home to 55 countries, an ancient and complex history, modern cities, some 3,000 languages and over a billion people. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, here’s a snapshot of each country on a continent you need to know more about.
South Africa has a population of 56.5-million people – the fourth-largest population in Africa and the 25th-largest in the world. Black South Africans make up around 81% of the total, coloured people 9%, whites 8% and Indians 3%.
South Africa has 11 official languages and a multilingual population fluent in at least two. IsiZulu and isiXhosa are the largest languages, while English is spoken at home by only one in 10 people – most of them not white.
Key facts on South Africa’s currency, time, geography, population, languages, provinces, government and education.
South Africa is a climate patchwork of warm coastal subtropics, hot deserts, humid highlands, snow-topped mountains and an enclave of Mediterranean weather in the southwest.
Mixed with over a dozen African languages for over two centuries, spiced by imports from British, Dutch and Portuguese colonies, South African English has its own rich, varied and sometimes weird flavour.
Explore Africa’s cities, rivers, coasts and wild places with views from above, in a selection of gorgeous astronaut and satellite photography of the continent.
They were once dismissed as street dogs and mongrels. But as a breed they are smart, tough, athletic, loyal – and ancient. They are the Africanis, the dog of Africa.
Nearly a third of black South Africans speak isiZulu as a first language, and 20% speak isiXhosa. Three-quarters of coloured people speak Afrikaans, and 86% of Indian South Africans speak English. Sixty percent of white people speak Afrikaans, and 30% speak English.
Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were friends for six decades, from student days through their law firm, then imprisonment and exile until the final victory over apartheid.
Finance is the biggest industry in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Mining dominates in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape. KwaZulu-Natal’s major industry is manufacturing. In the Eastern Cape and Free State, it’s government services.
A comprehensive timeline of the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – revolutionary, soldier, political prisoner, president of South Africa, statesman and global icon of social justice.
South Africans migrate to where the jobs are. They move from poorer provinces to the richer ones, and from rural areas to the cities.
Before South Africa’s 1996 constitution, the country was divided into four provinces set aside for white people, and 10 “homelands”, tiny states designated for black people.
The story of HIV and Aids in South Africa is one of tragic arrogance, of a hopeful new democracy suddenly threatened from an unexpected direction, of activism and tenacity and, eventually, of one of the largest public health programmes in the world.
The home language of most people in KwaZulu-Natal is, unsurprisingly, isiZulu. In the Eastern Cape it’s isiXhosa. Around half the people of the Western Cape and Northern Cape speak Afrikaans. In Gauteng and Mpumalanga, no single language dominates.
South Africa is twice the size of France and five times as big as the UK. With an area of 1.2-million square kilometres, it dwarfs the nations of Europe – except Russia – but doesn’t stand up to the giants of Asia and the Americas.
South Africa has nine provinces, which vary in size from the small city region of Gauteng – home to more than a quarter of the population – to the great Northern Cape, by far the largest province but with the smallest population.
Charting South Africans’ life expectancy is to track the country’s modern history. In 1960, when the state was grimly implementing apartheid laws, an average newborn child was expected to have a lifespan of only 52 years – 50 years for boys. In 2015, life expectancy was 62 years.
Creative Commons is a licensing system that frees creative works for others to publish and transform. The commons drives some of the best projects on the internet, including Wikipedia and South African History Online. Here’s a selection of free and open images of South Africa.
Robert Sobukwe was one of South Africa’s greatest but forgotten heroes of the struggle for human rights and nonracialism.
South Africa has held three official censuses in its recent democratic history: in 1996, 2001 and 2011. The censuses have revealed both a growing population – from 41 million to 52 million – and a significant shift in the country’s racial profile.
This is an animation to break your heart. In any unequal society, the privileged live long lives and everyone else much shorter lives.
Download South Africa Gateway’s detailed infographic of the family and descendants of Nelson Mandela – wives, children, great-grandchildren and (so far) one great-great grandchild – in a range of sizes and formats.
In the West the peak of the Aids epidemic was in 1985. But HIV and Aids hit South Africa only in the 1990s, just as we were starting to build a new society out of the ruins of apartheid. Here, the epidemic peaked in 2006.
In South Africa’s provinces, the size of the land and the number of people living there mean very different population densities. Gauteng, small but crowded, has an average of 785 people per square kilometre. The empty but enormous Northern Cape has a population density of only three people for each square kilometre.
In 2017 South Africa was home to 56.5-million people. Black South Africans numbered 45.7-million, or 80.8% of the total. There were 5-million coloured South Africans (8.7% of the population), 4.5-million white South Africans (7.9%) and 1.4-million Indian or Asian South Africans (2.6%).
Black men have the shortest lives, and white women the longest. Find out more about the country’s population structure with this infographic charting the realities of age, race and sex in South Africa.
The population of each of South Africa’s nine provinces varies enormously. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2017 population estimates, the most populous provinces are Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the emptiest the Northern Cape and Free State.
The distribution of South Africa’s population groups reveals the country’s history. Find out more with these maps of where black, coloured, Indian and white South Africans live today, according to the 2011 census.
There’s a lot of talk of South Africa’s population being dominated by the youth. But we’re less youthful than we have been for decades. The end of apartheid, better healthcare, widespread social welfare and greater economic opportunities all mean South Africans are now able to live longer lives.
From 1960 to the late 1980s, apartheid laws kept families and communities in poor rural areas. Young men alone were allowed to move to the cities, where their labour was valuable. After the end of apartheid, from the mid-1990s, urbanisation increased rapidly.
The death rate of children is the starkest indicator of the health of a country’s society and economy. In 1974 South Africa’s mortality rate – deaths per 1,000 live births – was 88.1 for infants under a year and 125.5 for under-fives. By 2016 it had dropped to 34.2 for infants and 43.3 for under-fives.
Each of South Africa’s 11 languages has a fascinating vocabulary, with some words and phrases influenced by other languages, and many unique to that language. Learn a little South African with these animations.
Life on earth needs oxygen, right? A South African scientist has discovered the remains of giant bacteria that flourished on our planet billions of years ago – breathing sulphur.