Republic of South Africashow11 other official languages[1]
FlagCoat of arms
Motto: ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke” (ǀXam)
Unity in diversity
Anthem: “National anthem of South AfricaDuration: 2 minutes and 3 seconds.2:03
Show globeShow map of South AfricaShow all
CapitalPretoria (executive)[2]Cape Town (legislative)[2]Bloemfontein (judicial)[2]
Largest cityJohannesburg[3]
Official languages12 languages[4][5]AfrikaansEnglishNdebeleSepediSesothoSetswanaSouth African Sign LanguageSwaziTshivendaXhosaXitsongaZulushowLanguages with special status[6]
Ethnic groups (2022[7])81.4% Black8.2% Coloured7.3% White2.7% Indian or Asian
Religion (2016)[8]78.0% Christianity58.3% Protestantism19.7% other Christian10.9% no religion4.4% traditional faiths1.7% Islam1.0% Hinduism2.7% other1.4% undetermined
Demonym(s)South African
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency
• PresidentCyril Ramaphosa
• Deputy PresidentPaul Mashatile
• Chairperson of the National CouncilRefilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane
• Speaker of the National AssemblyThoko Didiza
• Chief JusticeRaymond Zondo
LegislatureParliament
• Upper houseNational Council
• Lower houseNational Assembly
Independence from the United Kingdom
• Union31 May 1910
• Statute of Westminster11 December 1931
• Republic31 May 1961
• Current constitution4 February 1997
Area
• Total1,221,037 km2 (471,445 sq mi) (24th)
• Water (%)0.380
Population
• 2022 census62,027,503[9] (23rd)
• Density50.8/km2 (131.6/sq mi) (169th)
GDP (PPP)2024 estimate
• TotalIncrease $1.026 trillion[10] (32nd)
• Per capitaIncrease $16,630[11] (95th)
GDP (nominal)2024 estimate
• TotalDecrease $401.470 billion[12] (38th)
• Per capitaDecrease $6,430[13] (98th)
Gini (2014)Positive decrease 63.0[14]
very high
HDI (2022)Increase 0.717[15]
high (110th)
CurrencySouth African rand (ZAR)
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Date formatShort formats:yyyy/mm/dd[16]yyyy-mm-dd[17]
Driving sideleft
Calling code+27
ISO 3166 codeZA
Internet TLD.za

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA or R.S.A.), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans;[18][19][20] to the north by the neighbouring countries of NamibiaBotswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini. It also completely enclaves Lesotho.[21] It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World, and the second-most populous country located entirely south of the equator, after Tanzania. South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot, with unique biomes, plant and animal life. With over 62 million people, the country is the world’s 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of 1,221,037 square kilometres (471,445 square miles). Pretoria is the administrative capital, while Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital. Bloemfontein has traditionally been regarded as the judicial capital.[22] The Constitutional Court, the country’s highest court, is located in Johannesburg.

About 80% of the population are Black South Africans.[7] The remaining population consists of Africa’s largest communities of European (White South Africans), Asian (Indian South Africans and Chinese South Africans), and multiracial (Coloured South Africans) ancestry. South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultureslanguages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the Constitution‘s recognition of 12 official languages, the fourth-highest number in the world.[20] According to the 2011 census, the two most spoken first languages are Zulu (22.7%) and Xhosa (16.0%).[23] The next two are of European origin; Afrikaans (13.5%), developed from Dutch, serves as the first language of most Coloured and White South Africans, while English (9.6%) reflects the legacy of British colonialism and is commonly used in public and commercial life.

Regular elections have been held for almost a century in the country. However, the vast majority of Black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to claim more rights from the dominant white minority, which played a large role in the country’s recent history and politics. The National Party imposed apartheid in 1948, institutionalising previous racial segregation. After a largely non-violent struggle by the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid activists both inside and outside the country, the repeal of discriminatory laws began in the mid-1980s. Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have held political representation in the country’s liberal democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the “rainbow nation” to describe the country’s multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid.[24] According to the 2023 V-Dem Democracy indices, South Africa is ranked the 51st electoral democracy worldwide and the 3rd electoral democracy in Africa.[25]

South Africa is a middle power in international affairs; it maintains significant regional influence and is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and the G20.[26][27] It is a developing country, ranking 110th on the Human Development Index, the 7th highest on the continent. South Africa is the only African nation to legislate same-sex marriage.[28] It has been classified by the World Bank as a newly industrialised country and has the largest and most industrialised, technologically advanced economy in Africa overall,[29] as well as the 38th-largest economy in the world.[30][31] South Africa has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Since the end of apartheid, government accountability and quality of life have substantially improved.[32] However, crime, poverty, and inequality remain widespread, with about 40% of the total population being unemployed as of 2021,[33] while some 60% of the population lived below the poverty line and a quarter lived below $2.15 a day.[34][35][36] Having the highest Gini coefficient of 63.0, South Africa is considered to be one of, if not the most, unequal countries in the world.[37][38]

Etymology

See also: List of official names of South Africa

The name “South Africa” is derived from the country’s geographic location at the southern tip of Africa. Upon formation, the country was named the Union of South Africa in English and Unie van Zuid-Afrika in Dutch, reflecting its origin from the unification of four British colonies. Since 1961, the long formal name in English has been the “Republic of South Africa” and Republiek van Suid-Afrika in Afrikaans. The country has an official name in 12 official languages.[39][40]

Mzansi, derived from the Xhosa noun uMzantsi meaning “south”, is a colloquial name for South Africa,[41][42] while some Pan-Africanist political parties prefer the term “Azania“.[43]

History

Main article: History of South Africa

Prehistoric archaeology

Front of Maropeng at the Cradle of Humankind