The Republic of South Africa

South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. The South African coast stretches 2,798 kilometres and borders both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of South Africa lie Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland, while the Kingdom of Lesotho is an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa is known for its diversity in cultures, languages, and religious beliefs, and eleven official languages are recognised in its constitution. English is the most commonly spoken language in official and commercial public life, however it is only the fifth most spoken home language. South Africa is ethnically diverse, with the largest Caucasian, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. Although 79.6% of the South African population is Black, this category is neither culturally nor linguistically homogeneous, as people within this classification speak a number of different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status.

Regions of South Africa

  • Geography and climate

    South Africa is located at the southernmost region of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2,500 kilometres  and across two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian).

    South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to it being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.The climate varies, from the desert of the southern Namib in the farthest northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the Mozambique border and the Indian ocean. From the east, the land quickly rises over a mountainous escarpment towards the interior plateau known as the Highveld.

    The interior of South Africa is vast and rather flat in contrast to  the eastern coastline which  is lush and well-watered with a semi tropical climate. The extreme southwest has a climate remarkably similar to that of the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers, hosting the famous Fynbos Biome. This area also produces much of the wine in South Africa. This region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows intermittently almost all year. The severity of this wind made passing around the Cape of Good Hope particularly treacherous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east on the south coast, rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing a green landscape. This area is popularly known as the Garden Route.

    To the north of Johannesburg, the altitude drops beyond the escarpment of the Highveld, and turns into the lower lying Bushveld, an area of mixed dry forest and an abundance of wildlife. East of the Highveld, beyond the eastern escarpment, the Lowveld stretches towards the Indian ocean. It has particularly high temperatures, and is also the location of extended subtropical agriculture.The high Drakensberg mountains, which form the south-eastern escarpment of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities in winter.

  • South African High Commission in London

    Tel: 020 7451 7299


    Population: 48.8 million (UN, 2008)

    Capitals: Pretoria (executive capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)

    Largest city: Johannesburg

    Area: 1.22 million sq km (470,693 sq miles)

    Major languages: 11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu

    Major religion: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs

    Monetary unit: 1 Rand = 100 cents

    Internet domain: .za

    International dialling code: +27

    Voltage 230V

    Plug type: South African three round pin plug.

    (sources:  Oxford History of the British Empire, Wikipedia, BBC,)

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