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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #45 of 54: Somalia | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #47 of 54: Sudan »

August 13, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #46 of 54: South Africa

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
Flag of South Africa

Formal Name: Republic of South Africa.

Term for Nationals: South Africans.

Administrative Capital: Pretoria. Population: 1,590,000.

Legislative Capital: Cape Town. Population: 2,993,000.

Judicial Capital: Bloemfontein. Population: 364,000.

Independence Achieved: May 31, 1910, from Britain.

Major Cities: Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.


South Africa is located in South Africa. Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans bound it. South Africa occupies 471, 010 square miles. It has nearly 3000 kilometers of coastline. The average elevation is 1200 meters. Drakensberg Mountain is the highest point in South Africa at 3, 300 meters. Climate is variable with overall warm temperate climate. Dry and sunny winters (April to October) and summer rains (November-March). Year round rainfall in the southwest, average rainfall is 484 millimeters.


South Africa’s population is estimated at 45,025,000. Estimated urban population is 60%, rural 40%. The major urban areas are: Cape Town, 2.9 million; Johannesburg 2 million; Durban, 1.3 million; Pretoria, 1.5 million; Port Elizabeth, 1 million. 76% of the population is estimated as black Africans-Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ndebele), Sotho-Tswana, Venda, Tsonga-Shagaan, Khoisan; and 13% whites-Afrikaners, British and other Europeans; 11% Asians and others. Estimated 3 million foreign workers.


Eleven official languages are recognized in South Africa: isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, English, sePedi, seSotho, seTswana, xiTsonga, siSwati, tshiVendi, and isiNdebele.


80% of the population is Christians, mostly Protestants. The rest traditional African beliefs, Hindu, and Muslim.


There is compulsory primary education for all pupils. Adult literacy is estimated at 86.4%.


South Africa’s economy is capitalist with strong government role in the economy. Emphasizes are on agriculture, manufacturing and mining and tourism. GDP estimate: $432 billion; Per Capita GDP: $10, 000. Monetary Unit: Rand. (ZAR)


South Africa is composed of a mix of Africans, Europeans and Asians. In 1948, Europeans, particularly the Dutch who settled in South Africa beginning in 1652, initiated the apartheid system of government that excluded non-Europeans from participation in government. A protracted struggle to share power ensued, and in 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from 27-year prison, and subsequently became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. A national truth and reconciliation commission investigated human rights abuses during the apartheid era, and essentially forgave all the practitioners of apartheid their crimes. Whereas the government is now in democratically elected hands, the economy is still dominated by the minority European population. Efforts are currently made to facilitate Africans participation in the economy.


South Africa is a federation consisting of a central government, and nine provincial governments. The central government has a bicameral legislature, a president elected to serve five years, and an independent judiciary. With the fall of apartheid government South Africa has been ruled by the ANC, African National Congress. President Nelson Mandela successfully transferred power to Thabo Mbeki, the current president.


The original people of South Africa were the Khoisan and Bushmen. Bantus from West Africa gradually moved into South Africa.
The modern history of South Africa began when the Portuguese established the Cape of Good Hope during the last decade of the fourteen hundreds.

In 1652 the Dutch took over the Cape and used it as a stopping station as they traded with the Asian countries. The Dutch encouraged Dutchmen to settle in the Cape area and plant fruits and vegetables that could be sold to sailors as they passed by, and a substantial European population sprang up. These were mainly farmers and displaced the Africans, mainly Khoisan, around them and took their lands.

The Dutch were soon joined by other Europeans, such as French Huguenots (Protestants) fleeing from the Catholic Church’s repression of Protestants. The expanding Dutch men and other whites confronted the more aggressive Bantus who, unlike the peaceful Hottentots, were not easily pushed out from their lands. Many wars were fought by these whites and Africans, initially with the Xhosa, then Zulus, Swazi etc.

After defeating the Netherland, the British replace her as the naval power of the world. They came calling in 1797 and annexed the Cape Colony in 1805.

The Dutch moved further inland, and thus began what they call the great trek. As they moved inland and formed new colonies they fought with African tribes.

When gold and diamond was discovered in the new Dutch colonies of Transvaal and Orange Free State, the British, again, came calling. Where there is food, vultures are attracted to.

The Dutch, who by now called themselves Afrikaners, tried to resist and the result was the first Boer war, 1880-1881. Power always prevails, so the British defeated them. Where there is wealth there must be power struggle to decide who has access to that wealth. There was another Boer war in 1899-1902, again, the British won but made concessions that permitted the whites to have self rule.

With self rule, the Dutch began implementing their idea of self rule, apartheid. After the end of the First World War, Germany was defeated and her South West African colony was given to British South Africa. The Afrikaners moved into the mandate territory and continued their racialist practices there.

At the end of the Second World War, the Afrikaner Nationalist Party obtained independence from Britain and showed the world what their real intentions were: full blown separation of the races.

The inevitable consequence of apartheid was struggle for the dignity of the black races, so the African National Congress changed from being a talk shop to a fighting army. The struggle lasted long but in 1990 the Afrikaans read the writing on the wall and released Nelson Mantilla from 27 years in prison and negotiated a settlement whereby Mandela became the president and essentially did not dismantle the apartheid economy.

The ANC is in charge of South Africa’s government. Mandela handed power to Mbeki who, by all accounts, is an efficient public manger. (Although his views on the etiology of HIV-AIDS seem far out.)

South Africa is divided into ten provinces, roughly reflecting the major ethnic groups of the country. At the central level is a legislature, a strong president and an independent judiciary.

There is truly democracy in South Africa. However, so far, only one party has ruled post independent South Africa. The true test of democracy is whether the ANC would hand over power to another party were it to be defeated in an election? We shall see.

In the meantime, South Africa’s economy is running smoothly. However, it should be noted that South Africa’s economy is really not an African economy; it is a first world economy. We shall see what happens in the long run when Africans begin to play key roles in the economy, whether the country would degenerate into corruption as is the case in most of black Africa? We shall see.

Posted by Administrator at August 13, 2006 10:18 AM


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